Thursday, September 6, 2007

A Simple Question or Two

Okay, I’m familiar, from watching friends’ books get published, with the fact you can often buy “used” copies on Amazon even before the book is formally available. I assume these are usually review copies the reviewers have dumped on the market.

I haven’t tried working out the economics of this. Do reviewers make the majority of their income from selling their review copies? Perhaps someone can enlighten me on this. (Perhaps my pal David Thayer, who receives review copies by the cartload.)

In any case, I’m not puzzled that Shock and Awe, which is now available on Amazon (subtle hint), should be accompanied by a bunch of offers to buy copies from other sources, in mint conditions, at lower prices. But why would anyone be offering to sell on Amazon for above Amazon’s price? Amazon is selling the book for £9.89. Two people want to sell it for about £8.90—so far so good. But the rest of the offers are all around £11.99. What’s the point of that? Are there people who go onto Amazon but refuse to buy books from Amazon but still buy books through Amazon? Is there a special Executive Edition of the book out there that plays a tune when you open it?

A little over a week ago, Faye Booth updated the ever-expanding list of online retailers handling her forthcoming Cover the Mirrors (subtle hint). She raised an eyebrow at the fact the book was being handled by Computer Manuals.

Being a nosey parker (which I discovered from reading Edward Charles’ In the Shadow of Lady Jane, actually means being a nosey gamekeeper—who knew?), I checked to see if Computer Manuals was also handling Shock and Awe, or if they’d somehow decided that Cover the Mirrors was a new programming language.

Indeed, when I searched on Isaak, I found that they were selling my book (three cheers for them!). There it was, listed right between Russian Space Suits: Soviet/Russian Space-Suit History by Isaak Abramov and A. Ingemar Skoog, and The Compleat Angler by Isaak Walton. Shock and Awe: £10.94. Computer Manuals seems to sell a complete range of fiction, including self-published novels from the United States.

But someone called Computer Manuals is listed twice on Amazon as wanting to sell copies for £11.99…

Is this a shell game? A tax dodge? A system by which terrorist communicate commands to their distant cells?

The book business is really odd.


Tim Stretton said...

There is a wonderful facility on which allows you to "create a want", as they put it.

Some months ago I created a want for my self-published books, and am amazed at the prices some retailers charge: $94 for a 224-page paperback is the record. Since these books are print-on-demand they don't even exist when they are offered for sale. What is being advertised is a purely notional inventory.

Also well worth a look is, which compares prices across genuine retailers (although "Smite the Waters", MNW paperback, September 2007 ?)

Faye L. said...

I sometimes wonder if some of these marketplace sellers add their listings via some sort of automated means, thus skipping out the bit where an intelligent being looks at Amazon's price and realises it's lower than theirs. Or perhaps I'm trying to make sense where none exists.

Tim Stretton said...

Allow me to be the first to report a sighting of S&A in the wild - two copies in Waterstones of Chichester. The shelf looked as if an adjacent book had been removed, so maybe there were once three (or maybe it was John Irving who sold one...)

Sam Taylor said...

I vote that it's a terrorist command cell :)

David Isaak said...


"Create a want"? The Dalai Lama would not approve.

Thanks for the Chichester sighting!

David Isaak said...

Hi, Faye

You could be right--some sort of web robot would explain a lot.

I'm also leaning toward the entries by being made trained cats. In the early 1800s, the said that someone with poor penmanship "writes like a cat." I'm guessing felines are a little inaccurate at keyboarding, too.

David Isaak said...

Sam--should we notify Homeland Security?

Jake said...

I second sam's vote. There's really no other realistic explanation.