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Why would anyone sell a book for a penny?


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Our next book club selection is St. George and the Dragon and the Quest for the Holy Grail.

 

http://www.amazon.com/George-Dragon-Quest-Holy-Grail/dp/0939516071/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1285785357&sr=1-1

 

There are just a ton of copies for $0.01. Wouldn't it be worth more than that to someone to have to go to the trouble of packaging, printing postage, mailing or even taking it to the p.o.?

 

The answer is obviously not and yet I don't think I'd bother. Unless there is something I don't know, it would take more $ to make it worth my bother. So, what don't I know?

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They don't spend $3.99 on the shipping. That's the stipend they get from Amazon. So, essentially, they get a "handling" fee. If they're dealing in enough volume, it works out to be profitable.

 

BTW, for many used items lately, I've found betterworldbooks.com to be a better choice for me than Amazon. I might pay more individually for some books, but since I'm not paying to ship (or ship individually, as is the case with most Amazon used purchases), I end up saving money.

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Several things. Shipping costs=profits for many books on Amazon. If they are selling other things, they are already going to the post office so it doesn't cost them more than the paper they wrap the book in and actual shipping.

 

It gets the sellers rating and volume up. People rarely complain about a penny book.

 

It keeps their inventory moving. People who sell, get books from everywhere and can end up with 5 or 6 copies of the same book. Some people have a system, that if they have had a book listed for x number of months, they penny it out just to get rid of the inventory.

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So, is it worth it to buy these penny books or is there a catch? I've seen a lot of good books for 1 penny but was always afraid to buy.

 

Sure, they are fine. Sometimes a little more used than others, but still very readable. Just realize you are actually paying 3.99 plus .01, so you are paying $4. If a book is $8 new (thinking kids books) and you use the educator discount at B&N, you would pay $6.20 (plus tax) for a new one. Sometimes that is worth it....sometimes not. Just make sure to figure out what you want and what you are willing to pay. (B&N will order books for you if they don't have them in the store)

 

Anytime you buy used you risk getting a musty, written in, ripped up book. Almost every book I have bought has been fine, but there have been just enough over the years that I primarily buy new now (or at a second hand store that I can see the copy first).

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You make about $1.60, assuming you re-use shipping supplies or wrap in brown paper bags, and assuming the book is under a pound to ship and you use media mail. Not much, but volume is the key. (I don't remember how much Amazon takes, but the percentage part is obviously minimal.) It's easy to sell on Amazon, and you'd never make that much at a yard sale, even if you could get someone to buy the book. Anything out of the house + bringing money in can be good, and while homeschoolin' mommas don't have a lot of time, there are retired people, disabled people, etc. who can earn a bit of extra cash this way.

 

Penny books are often in good shape - just be careful to read the condition description and choose one that's well-described. Don't just go by the rating; actually read the description. You might have to choose a 25 cent one to get one that you can be sure is good - so $4.25, which is still cheaper than new, and delivered to your house.

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Wait just a hairy minute! Sellers get a 3.99 shipping rebate? So, I guess that's why that fairly slim little volume is 3.99 when I really wouldn't think it cost that much to ship.

 

I like the idea of betterworldbooks but have never tried it. I only heard about it a few days ago and didnt' even think of it when I made my purchase today. I looked it up and would have save .02. Still, the idea . . .

 

Thanks, now I know what I didnt' know!

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Wait just a hairy minute! Sellers get a 3.99 shipping rebate? So, I guess that's why that fairly slim little volume is 3.99 when I really wouldn't think it cost that much to ship.

 

Right - and it's also 3.99 when the darn thing takes way more $ to ship - the shipping allowance is not based on the weight of the book. Sellers have to allow for this when they price their items, so heavier items may be priced a wee bit higher to help with the shipping shortfall.

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Am I missing something here? If a book is posted at a penny, plus 3.99 shipping for a total of 4.00 -- but -- Amazon lists several fees, doesn't it come to something like this for example:

 

0.01 (book) x .15 (Amazon fee) = 0.00

0.01 (book) - 0.35 (Amazon fee) = -0.34

-0.34 (book) - 1.99 (Amazon fee) = -2.33

-2.33 (book) + 3.99 (Amazon shipping allowance) = 1.66

 

So, you've *made* 1.66 -- but -- you still have to mail the book. Regardless of the 3.99 allowance, you're still left with 1.66 and you still have to mail it. IF the book mails at the one pound media mail rate of 2.38, then:

 

1.66 (earned amount) - 2.38 (media mail postage) = -0.72

 

Looks to me like you paid 0.72 to sell the book.:confused:

 

And this doesn't include packing materials and gasoline for the trip to the post office, etc.

 

I agree with the OP - it doesn't make sense . . .

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This. It never costs 3.99 to ship.

 

Amazon subtracts $1.35 (keeps it for themselves) from the shipping charged per book to customers. Alibris does the same thing. Alibris used to take it directly out of postage, but now they call it a "variable closing fee". We lose money on shipping due to the reduced amount we are paid, our actual cost of postage + delivery confirmation, plus the cost of shipping materials (mylar covers, tape, Jiffy bags, bubble wrap).

 

Amazon also keeps 15% of the book price sold by their pro merchant account booksellers, along with a $40 monthly fee.

Edited by RoughCollie
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Am I missing something here? If a book is posted at a penny, plus 3.99 shipping for a total of 4.00 -- but -- Amazon lists several fees, doesn't it come to something like this for example:

 

0.01 (book) x .15 (Amazon fee) = 0.00

0.01 (book) - 0.35 (Amazon fee) = -0.34

-0.34 (book) - 1.99 (Amazon fee) = -2.33

-2.33 (book) + 3.99 (Amazon shipping allowance) = 1.66

 

So, you've *made* 1.66 -- but -- you still have to mail the book. Regardless of the 3.99 allowance, you're still left with 1.66 and you still have to mail it. IF the book mails at the one pound media mail rate of 2.38, then:

 

1.66 (earned amount) - 2.38 (media mail postage) = -0.72

 

Looks to me like you paid 0.72 to sell the book.:confused:

 

And this doesn't include packing materials and gasoline for the trip to the post office, etc.

 

I agree with the OP - it doesn't make sense . . .

 

This is very close. There is a 15% commission, a $1.35 variable closing fee, and a 99¢ per-transaction fee. If you are a pro-merchant, you pay a flat $39.99 each month, but then you don't have to pay the 99¢ fee for each item. These sellers are probably pro-merchants selling at high volume, and buying their shipping supplies in bulk... and probably still only make a few cents on each book.

 

I just don't see how it's worth it. Sure, it's nice to get a good rating, but most buyers won't bother to go back and leave pos. feedback.

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These sellers are probably pro-merchants selling at high volume, and buying their shipping supplies in bulk... and probably still only make a few cents on each book.

 

We sell a very high number of books each year, and have been in business at that level for over a decade. I do not see how anyone makes money by selling books for a penny, unless they are paperbacks (postage cost is lower) and enough of their orders are for more than one book to the same buyer to make a difference.

 

I buy personal books (ie., not for resale) from penny sellers whenever I get the opportunity, as long as they have a high (over 95%) feedback rating, and plenty of it. I haven't had any problems.

 

Some other booksellers I know think that the penny sellers make money by not sending the books to a certain number of customers (say 5%). When the customer complains they refund the penny, not the postage. They minimize their shipping costs as much as possible, too. The booksellers had worked up figures showing that this scam-method did make a profit if the volume of sales was high enough, and it was the only way they could figure out how a penny seller could make a profit.

Edited by RoughCollie
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Some other booksellers I know think that the penny sellers make money by not sending the books to a certain number of customers (say 5%). When the customer complains they refund the penny, not the postage. They minimize their shipping costs as much as possible, too. The booksellers had worked up figures showing that this scam-method did make a profit if the volume of sales was high enough, and it was the only way they could figure out how a penny seller could make a profit.

 

:angry:

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:angry:

 

Yeah, no kidding. The booksellers who came up with this idea as a way for penny books to make a profit said that enough customers don't complain when they don't get the book or a refund, and if they do, they get the refund.

 

This theory takes into account that the penny seller is banking on a certain % of customers not doing anything about it ... the ones who complain get the refunds, and if they squeak loudly enough, that includes postage. The booksellers who proposed the theory were not talking about Amazon penny books, but about books sold for that price on another large site.

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This link shows the breakdown of Amazon fees.

 

A "professional" pays:

 

$39.99/month for an unlimited number of sales.

15% of listed price for each book ("referral fee")

$1.35 per book ("closing fee")

 

An "individual" pays the same referral and closing fees, but also pays $.99/book sold.

 

 

We used to sell lots of books on Amazon and we made pretty good money doing it but they must have changed their rates since then. Now Amazon chnarges the customer $3.99 for shipping and you get a $2.99 shipping credit. You also have to pay a .99 fee, plus a precentage of sales and a referral :confused: fee. If you are not very careful it can end up costing you money to sell books especially if you consider the cost of shipping materials and gas.

 

For Instance if you sell a book for .01, You get a $2.99 shipping credit but you have to pay Amazon .99 plus 10 percent plus referal fee (.99 + 1/10th of a percent) plus referral charge and you still have to package and ship. So you are already out a dollar plus the referral fee plus packaging and shipping. So let's say that you charge is $3 and your fee are about $1.5. That leaves $1.5 to wrapped and ship your package. If you can do this frequently enough, you may be able to make some money.

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Amazon subtracts $1.35 (keeps it for themselves) from the shipping charged per book to customers. Alibris does the same thing. Alibris used to take it directly out of postage, but now they call it a "variable closing fee". We lose money on shipping due to the reduced amount we are paid, our actual cost of postage + delivery confirmation, plus the cost of shipping materials (mylar covers, tape, Jiffy bags, bubble wrap).

 

Amazon also keeps 15% of the book price sold by their pro merchant account booksellers, along with a $40 monthly fee.

 

So does this mean selling books on Amazon is a losing proposition?

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So does this mean selling books on Amazon is a losing proposition?

 

For big companies who can get their postage for less, etc. it must not be a losing proposition.

 

For people like us, I don't think we could sell for .01 and make money.

 

But amazon will buy books outright. Ds has made money selling college textbooks that way and I'm going to try it soon. You get the books out of the house that way, too, and don't have to have a great storage system and find books when they do sell. They give you credit.

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So does this mean selling books on Amazon is a losing proposition?

 

It depends on the book and on the seller. Some books are not worth selling because their market value is too low to cover costs plus a reasonable profit, or because no one wants to buy the book.

 

We have a profit-making business, and we work hard at not having books in our inventory that are not worth selling. The for-profit businessperson must know the market well, and be prepared to meet its changes and challenges.

 

There is a difference between a business and a person who sells books for personal reasons, like to offset the cost of buying homeschooling materials. That person just needs to make sure that they set a fair price for the book (so it will sell), and that the price minus selling costs yields them an amount with which they are satisfied. Selling costs would include whatever fees Amazon charges, packaging and postage.

 

Some people need money, so they are happy to make any profit at all, without regard to how much time they spend selling books on line. In this case, their need for money is greater than the value of their time. Some people calculate the value of their time and determine whether it is worth it to sell books. In that case, the person's time is more valuable to them than their need for money.

Edited by RoughCollie
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So, is it worth it to buy these penny books or is there a catch? I've seen a lot of good books for 1 penny but was always afraid to buy.

 

I have bought over a dozen penny books and they were all in more than acceptable shape. Some even looked brand new.

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So does this mean selling books on Amazon is a losing proposition?

 

Not at all. We've been talking about penny books. Many, many books sell for much more than that. So whether you make money depends on how much you have invested in the book. Even if it's a textbook you paid $100 for new, sometimes you can get as much as $80 for it, which doesn't give you a profit but assuming you've used the book and are finished with it, it may still be worth selling to recoup some of your initial investment. Even if you're taking a loss, and even with the fees and such, you're still bringing money into the household and something you no longer need is going out to someone who can use it. And you don't even have to leave the house to do it, if you know how to click-and-ship media mail.

 

As someone who sells a textbook here and there, I can take the time to fully describe the condition of the book I'm offering, and because of that the buyer has more confidence in me than in a larger company who doesn't have the time to give specifics, thus I can actually charge a higher price than the big guys.

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