Posts Tagged ‘AbeBooks’

Comparison Shopping for the Unaffordable

Friday, 1 April 2011

To address a small issue in the history of economic thought, I wanted to consult a copy of the first edition of The Theory of Games and Economic Behavior, by John von Neumann and Oskar Morgenstern. I didn't find it reliably quoted on-line, nor did I find it listed in the on-line library catalogue for USD nor in that for UCSD. So I thought that perhaps I'd buy a copy.

I consulted the Used and Out-of-Print listings of AddAll, and quickly concluded that, no, perhaps I won't buy a copy. [detail of screen-capture, showing price of $4959.29] The lowest price that I found was four thousand, nine hundred and fifty-nine dollars, and twenty-nine cents.

I'm not sure who would pay that much, but the next lowest seller wants seven thousand, five hundred and ninety-one dollars, and ninety-three cents.

Another remarkable thing is the range of prices being asked for just that next seller. [detail of screen-capture, showing range of prices] Through Biblio.com and through Biblio.co.uk, the price would be that $7591.93. From that same seller, but through Find-a-Book (listed by AddAll as ilabdatabase.com), the price would be $7614.96. And through AbeBooks (whom I encourage you to avoid in any case), the book would be $7867.54, still from that same seller. There's a $275.61 range here, determined by which intermediate service one uses.

Now, even as I was writing this entry, some of these prices were changing; that's because the seller is based in London, and the exchange rate has been in flux. And that suggests that part of the price range may be explained by different methods being used to calculate a rate of exchange. $275.61 may not seem a trivial sum, but it's only about 3.63% of $7591.93.

Book Dis·Service

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

I want to discourage my readers from doing business through AbeBooks.com, which operates as a listing service of books for sale from a multitude of merchants.

A friend recently ordered a book from one of these merchants through Abe. The merchant responded by declaring that the book had been sold to another buyer, but then relisting the copy with other services, at a higher price. In other words, he or she, upon receiving an order, decided not only not to honor the advertised price, but to lie about the situation.

My friend then contacted AbeBooks.com to complain, explaining exactly what the seller had done. Abe responded with irrelevant boiler-plate about items that were no longer available. (The seller, for his or her part, responded with the irrelevant claim that he or she did not make money by hoarding books.)

When my friend again contacted Abe, the response was to deny that the book had been relisted. They repeated this denial to me. As my friend had made it explicit that the relisting had been with an alternate service, and had offered evidence, Abe's response was at best with reckless disregard for the truth, if not simply a lie. In the wake of having it reïterated that the listing was with other service and that evidence can be provided, AbeBooks.com has retreated into silence.

As I told AbeBooks.com

If you do not ensure honorable practice, then you are at best redundant amongst listing services.
So far, for example, my experiences with Alibris have been fine, and there are other services as well. If one finds a book listed with AbeBooks.com, there's a good chance that the very same seller lists the very same item through some other service as well. (I recommend using AddAll at the outset of a book search.)

Up-Date (2010:07/29): Yester-day, Abe broke their silence to declare that there was nothing that they could do about such a relisting. In fact, what they could have done is to de·list the seller. Evidently AbeBooks is amongst those very many firms who treat it as an acceptable form of lying to misrepresent a choice as a necessity.

Abe did offer my friend a coupon for a 10% discount on a future order. My friend couldn't, with this coupon, secure a copy of the same book at the same net price as it had been listed — it's perhaps worth noting that the seller's price increase had been more than 99%. And Abe was simply tossing to my friend the same sort of promotional coupon that other buyers are given anyway.