What kind of marketing strategy is this?

I noticed that used copies of my latest book The Great Paradox of Science are available on eBay at about $10 higher than the list price set by the publisher and about $15 higher that the discounted price set by major retailers.

Since my book is readily available, why would anyone try to sell a used copy at a higher price than a new one?

I have never used eBay. Is there some weird marketing strategy that people use on that platform that I am unaware of?


  1. billseymour says

    Maybe they think it’ll become a classic that appreciates in value. 😎

    (I have a copy of the first printing and it’s not for sale.)

  2. says

    There are people who gamble that they can eventually arbitrage discount bin books for a higher price. With covfefe-table art photography books it is not uncommon to see the book come out at $100 and immediately there are listings for $500-$1000 for “like new”‘copies. I actually have listed a few of my out of print collectibles at ridiculous prices -- but only if I have a spare copy. The arbitrageurs usually don’t have a copy; they are gambling they can find one on Ebay quickly and if they can’t you’ll get an “I am sorry I have to cancel your order because the copy we had turns out to have water damage and we can’t sell you that in good conscience.”

    My last book went straight to remainder and for a while copies were $1.50 on ebay until it seems the ebay supply ran out and then the prices jumped way up.

    I have been meaning to post about it but … politics got in the way -- there’s a fascinating subcommunity that makes a good living arbitraging ebay and amazon. Suppose they see someone on amazon is selling (let’s say) angle grinder cutoff disks for $10/pack, which is really low. It ought to be more like $20/pack. So I create an ebay listing with a promoted keyword offering the $19.95/pack price (plus $5 shipping). If someone searches for cutoff disks they get my listing (which costs me $.10) and if they buy I get $24.95, buy the $10/pack using amazon prime (free shipping!) and pocket $14.95 on the transaction. If an arbitrageur has 10,000 such listings and they make a reasonable number odlf sales per day, they’re doing quite well.

    There was also an arbitrageur who was paying employees at a big box store to set aside a couple dozen new Playstations when they came out, which were then listed on amazon and ebay for a massive markup. And of course ticket scalpers do the same thing. It’s capitalism, baby! Buy low sell high and if you wind up with a garage full of unsold playstations you can always drop your price to retail normal and flush your inventory.

  3. jenorafeuer says

    If it weren’t for the fact that the extra amount is only $10/$15, I’d consider ‘money laundering’ as a possibility. People have certainly found copies of things like robot-generated e-books for sale at ridiculous prices where the only possible explanation was ‘a way to send a lot of money in small enough chunks with an apparently legitimate trail’.

    For something like this, though, it’s more likely just ‘seeing who’s stupid enough to buy it without doing the research first’. I mean, putting an item up for auction doesn’t actually cost them anything, If somebody’s willing to pay that much, it’s straight profit for the person doing the selling, with no risk ahead of time.

  4. cartomancer says

    There is also a phenomenon known as the “anchoring effect”. If someone doesn’t know how much an item normally goes for then they usually use the first price they see as their base price, and judge further offerings compared to that. So it might be sellers trying to hoodwink buyers into thinking that the normal price is actually a good deal.

    Or it might be that the sellers are in different regions where the book is comparatively more expensive, or where the currency is strong against the dollar.

  5. says

    I was once looking for a book on ebay. It was one of those expensive, high gloss costume books that I simply wanted, and that were a bit above my student budget. So I bid on it. I bid up to 70% of the original price, and in the end, the book that was still in print and perfectly available in stores went for 5 times the original price…

  6. sonofrojblake says

    Thanks mjr for that explanation. I’ve seen my books (nothing above £20 new, all available print on demand) on amazon “nearly new” for up to £183. Baffling. Even with your explanation, I can’t see how it’s worth their time even listing it.

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