Published Mar 17. 2012 - 10 years ago
Updated or edited Oct 8. 2020

Expensive books

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 Weigall's great book 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 Weigall 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...

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I sell on Amazon and...

I sell on Amazon and I know it is not 'market manipulation' when it comes to rare, unique, out of print books. Since I have books on everything from making fly rods to tying, to best places to fly fish in the Americas. When you see an outrageously priced book, it may be one of a couple things: the seller offering is a dropshipper and does not have the book in stock or the price is what is called a price holder meaning the seller had the book at one time and is on the lookout through book sources to buy the book for their inventory again. They don't want to sell the book at that price, but when they relist they don't have to add all the info again. Also, may dropshippers will offer something at a higher price then contact a seller who has the book if the dropshipper happens to sell it to directly ship to their customer. Why anyone would buy from a dropshipper or a company using price holding, I'll never know, but it happens.

Martin Hi! I have f...

Martin Hi! I have found the US including North Americas Amazon Outlet to be the most expensive with books always being unavailable at the time of asking, but mysteriously appearing a few days to a week later at a very obviously inflated price having never appeared on the for sale index applicable to that specific seller. American fly fishing items across the board seem to increase in value immediately Europe or the United Kingdom is mentioned in the UK importers mearly change the US $ sign to pounds or Euro's then add the taxes applicable to that country which doubles the cost of the item for no effort on behalf of the dealer and defintely No cost to him/her either but, makes them a grand profit without stroking a bat. Bless the poor souls. A recent article on one of the tying sites clearly points out the fact that US fly takle firms are ripping European and British fly fishers of at every turn.
Tight Lines and thank you for the effort you put into this site and the Wealth of Information the site makes available to everyone for free.

Martin Joergensen's picture

John, I think you...


I think your are right about price settings. It's pretty obvious that they use whatever is listed as a target price - at least for the more expensive books. You often see several books listed from different dealers at some odd prices, but within a few cents of each other.

I had the exact same suspicion about the inexpensive copy! But I choose to believe in the good in people, and hope it was honestly lost. At least I haven't seen it reappear at a higher price...


There is obviously s...

There is obviously some market manipulation going on here. I have seen this inflation with many titles. Perhaps this is a way to affect used price algorithms, many of which use Amazon as a reference. I doubt they ever get their asking price, but it may help with similar copies or other titles by the same authors. I also wonder if your missing title disappeared after he rechecked the price before selling it to you.


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