Monday, March 04, 2019

How are there 20 copies of my new book through other booksellers and why are they so highly priced

(This is about my book PROBLEMS WITH A POINT: exploring Math and computer science
by Gasarch and Kruskal, here. This post is NOT a plug.)

I often see weird pricing on amazon but don't have enough inside information to explain it. This time I have seen some weird pricing on amazon but DO have enough information to be truly baffled.

My book is on amazon. You can buy it

Softcover new: $38.00

Hardcover new: $68.00

Okay, that all makes sense.

OR you can buy it from some other source.

There are 10 copies of the softcover, they claim new,  ranging from $38.00 to $57.00.

There are 2 copies of the softcover, they claim used (how used could it be?), $49 and $53

There are 9 copies of the hardcover, they claim new, ranging from $68.00 to $91.00

There are 2 copies of the hardcover, they claim used, $84.00 and $88.00

This raises two questions

1) I have a copy, Clyde got a copy, and two copy's were send to reviewers. Neither Clyde nor I have sold our copy. So how did 20 or so copies get out there?

2) Why do they cost MORE than list price.

I've asked around and got some answers, but I INVITE you to give more possible answers. If your answer is not just speculation (e.g., `I used to be in the black market  book business and here's the real scoop') then that would be great; however, I will take specuation


1) Clyde and I haven't gotten our free copies yet. Hijacked?  Here's hoping the hijackers read it and enjoyed it before posting it. However, this theory is unlikely since I inquired with World Scientific (our publisher) and found out we'll be getting our free copies in 2 weeks. So this theory will either be confirmed or denied in 2 weeks. I would bet against OR those are some really bad hijackers.

2) Complete ripoff. You pay the money and get NOTHING. I think this was more likely in the early days of amazon (or e-bay or....) but now things are pretty well monitored. I have sold books on amazon and am very impressed with how foolproof it is. Still --- could be.

3) Someone hacked my computer. Really? Where did they get the orange covers? Why would they bother? This is not Harry Potter. Plus I asked our staff and NO this could not happen.

4) Some of the shipment dates are fairly far in the future, so they plan to get an order, then
order the book, and have it send to the buyer, at a profit. Seems like too much sugar for a satoshi, BUT could be profitable if its a bot and its automated to do this with lots of books.

5) My publisher also send the book to other sellers. That does not explain the higher prices.


1) They are counting on people assuming that other sellers are cheaper without checking. Would people do that? People still fall for the Nigerian billionaire scam, so maybe yes.

2) The seller themselves, which is possibly an army of bots, didn't bother checking but priced it
similar to other books. This is plausible since $38.00 is fairly cheap, so looking at similar books may get you a higher price.

Any speculation is welcome so long as it does not involve space aliens or astrology.


  1. This is a complex in-public money laundering scheme. By pricing the copies above what the Amazon prices are, they greatly decrease the chances of some random person actually ordering the book from them.

    1. Good idea. Could also be a scheme to improve ratings, in addition to laundering money.

    2. I once saw (a few years ago, WAY after video tapes were a thing) a copy of the video tape for the movie Network on sale for about $1000. I've also seen obscure books, not colletables, for $1000. Those I thought were money laundering. but my book for about 20 bucks over list? Seems like an inefficient way to money launder. Unless bots?

  2. Different selling shops might work with different taxes/customs? On you cost by default 39.50/74.30 euros, which is quite more. Also, it doesn't sell any used copies, so whoever stole your book and didn't like it, lives in the US!

    ps. Typo: "found our" -> "found out"

  3. I think that a variation on 4 is a likely explanation: The seller sends it as a gift from Amazon to the buyer and pockets the difference. (My wife saw this recently on an item sold through eBay. In that case, the eBay description didn't quite match the item delivered by Amazon so she was able to get the refund on eBay and then return it to Amazon.)

  4. Have you seen Michael Nielsen's post about the results of ths interaction betweee two pricing algorithms?