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Saturday March 17th 2012 (2 years ago)
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Expensive books

Published: Saturday March 17th 2012 (2 years ago)
Updated: Saturday March 17th 2012, 9:37AM
by Martin Joergensen

I buy a lot of used books and save a lot of money. But while most used books are really inexpensive, a few are ridiculously expensive!

As you might know I'm an avid book consumer and buy a lot of fly-fishing books. My my wife is starting to remark when book packages arrive at our doorstep, and complains that I haven't got the space for them.

Of course that does not keep me from ordering more. My wish list at Amazon is steadily growing and I regularly spend an hour on Coch-y-Bonddhu's web site browsing through Paul Morgan's excellent selection of new, used and bargain books.

But sometimes I stumble over books that are just ridiculously expensive – even used ones, or in fact often used ones. New books are mostly the cover price or less. I do realize that the high prices reflect the quality of the books and their availability, or lack of same, coupled with their popularity.
A few months back I reviewed Phillip Wiegand's great book Fishing Season /reviews/books/fishing-season (and I'm currently reading Fishing Sense also by Phillip and also and excellent book). But that's not the issue here. While researching him I found his book “The River Behind the Hill: A Celebration of Australian Fly Fishing“, which looked really nice. First I inquired the publisher and Phillip about acquiring a copy directly from them, but no luck. The book was out of print and sold out.
So I turned to the used book sources, and found that the book sold used for no less than 140 £ or close to 220 USD! Whoa! When I spend that kind of money on books I usually get 10 or even 15 books. That was beyond my budget for one book.

I put the book on my Amazon wish list, which I keep mostly as a notebook for books I want, and didn't think further of it. But a week or two later a UK dealer listed the book for “only” 30 £ or about 45 USD, which is still expensive, but considering the original prices somewhat a find. The book was only available for UK domestic customers, so I contacted the dealer who was willing to change it so that I could order from Denmark.
The next day the book was gone from his listing!
I thought that some one else had snatched it right under my nose, and mailed the dealer a thank you note for re-listing the book internationally, but complained that some one else had bought it.
No, he wrote back. The reason that it disappeared was that he couldn't find it! He would contact me when it surfaced. I contacted him a month or so later, but the book never reappeared.
It's still on my wish list, but it's worth noticing that the two used copies of Phillips book now list for 195 £ each! That's a hefty 300 USD!

That happens to be the price level for another book that I have had my eyes on for many years. I remember meeting Gary Borger at a fly show many moons ago, when “Presentation” had just come out, and should have bought myself a signed copy back then. But I was a lot poorer in those days than I am now, and remember finding the book very expensive.
As I said... It now goes for close to 300 USD used and can be hard to find. Looking for the book through Amazon US shows a few used copies as low as 190 USD, but that is still way more than I want to pay for a used book! Odd by the way that the listings differ between the US and UK versions of the site... I just checked the above mentioned Wiegand book on Amazon US and noticed that the price was only 175 USD for the least expensive copy, but for US domestic delivery only.

300 USD each!


But even these two books seem cheap compared to the most expensive used books to be found. For fun I search for fly-fishing books on Amazon and sorted them by price. And lo and behold! In the top of the list was a 2002-edition of “Fly Fishing the Henry's Fork” by Mike Lawson and Gary LaFontaine. A used paperback is listed for £2,299.34! Yes, that amounts to about 3600 USD or almost 2800 Euros! For a paperback! I wonder what pills that dealer is eating, or whatever happened to this book, which has a cover price of about 10 £ or 12 USD.
You can find other books in the 2000 £ range, but prices soon “plummet” to 3-4-500 £ and are typical for numbered, signed, bound or collector's items of large format showcase books. Not that it makes them inexpensive, but it does make more sense.

But I'll stay on a whole other level when I shop. I go for “bang for the buck” books, and typically have my eyes on books in the 5-10-20 USD range where I get so much for my money.
I'm afraid my darling wife will still have much to complain about in the future...

Part of the blog chain "Books"