ATTENTION: You are viewing a page formatted for mobile devices; to view the full web page, click HERE.

Main Area and Open Discussion > General Software Discussion

Good bye. (originally About buying books, etc., especially at amazon's)

(1/5) > >>

This is probably no news for most fellow posters here, but perhaps it's worthwile to remember, before buying the wrong edition or at the wrong price.


Look at the attached pdf please; you see a common phenomenon at amazon's, which is some crooks trying to sell books which are NOT out of print, to "idiots", i.e. customers not searching deeply enough, at two times the original price, be it for really used book, or for brand-new books declared as "used", in order to sidestep national book price binding legislation.

I did the search in amazon, with full title, in order to make a concise screenshot of just these two offerings one after the other, so you will not "fall" for this scheme here.

But ordinarily, you search otherwise, and amazon will present you with lists of books, and then those offerings, official price for new book, and some deluded offer for the same book, will NOT necessarily follow each other, but other books often will be in-between.

(The example is from the German amazon site, but I have seen this phenomenon on the USA/GB/F amazon sites, too.) (And see below point V.)


When the book really is out of print, there are two alternatives: Too few buyers, or many buyers. In the latter case, why would you pay twice or thrice the price for the former edition, when the new edition is highly probably imminent? In the former case, well, it might be cheap, then buy, but if some sellers think they can make a big benefit, why not photocopy the book from your library (if really you need it in full and permanently), which is perfectly legal in such cases. (Of course, this doesn't apply to "photographic monographies" and other coffee table books.)


amazon itself is not really honest in its prices: They often say, you will safe x p.c. from original price, when in fact that price is only slightly higher than their price, or in other words, they invent some "original" price which even the original source does not ask for. This being said, in spite of their lying about the original price and your savings percentage, often has got highly interesting prices, but not for European customers (and downloads "to" Europe are forbidden, i.e. not available without U.S. credit cards, street addresses, and so on), whilst amazon in Europe, most of the time, is not of real interest, since some dealer or another will send it out for less, often for much less than what or .fr ask for it.


This (III) is particularly true with offerings from both dealers and individuals on the amazon platform: The same out-of-print book on amazon will often be several times more expensive on amazon, than on "competing" marketplaces, the quotation marks being the explanation for this phenomenon, or in simpler words, other marketplaces ain't quite real competitors for amazon anymore, and thus... This being said, never buy on amazon too quickly: First, try individual sellers, by a regular google search, or, for books, alternative platforms.


Speaking of google, there is another, big disadvantage related to point I above: When you don't search from within amazon, but when you search for a book in google, and then are redirected to amazon (which you will invariably be, as if other booksellers didn't even exist anymore), in many instance, this "amazon hit by google" will be the alternative, totally overpriced offering, and without any indication of, let alone a link, to the "real" one, the one for the new book at a regular price; in fact, my google search for the book in the pdf went straight to the overpriced "used" book offering (alone), and this not having been the first time, I thought it was time I shared some advice to not fall into frequent amazon traps.


Similar with ancient editions. In 99 p.c. of all cases somebody wants to buy some book, he's after the current, most recent edition, some very rare exceptions proving this rule. Now, these google links to amazon will NOT cater for this need, but in many instances, they showed me the amazon page for some ancient edition of that book, and whilst in theory, such amazon pages would have a line, near the top, saying, "from this book, there is a more recent edition available; would you like to go the relevant page?" or something like that, I can confirm I've seen this line in some cases, but in the majority of such cases I did NOT see that line, so when in amazon, you'll have to search again for that same book, and look at the hits with a sharp eye, and you never know for sure:

When it says, it's from 2012: For a monography, that's quite recent, and in most cases, that's the (unique) edition you're looking for; but for a textbook, in 2014, that might even be TWO editions too old, not just one, an intermediary edition having been published in 2013, and the current one being from April, 2014. Similar for monographies: If what google shows you in amazon, is from 2004, there could be very well be some "revised and enlarged" edition from 2009, so be careful in amazon, and especially "coming" from google.


Similar to the previous problem: Many alternative sellers in the amazon marketplace hide the fact they are selling outdated editions. It's ok they present previous or even ancient editions on the page of the current edition, but then, in the short description text you'll seen when you click their offer, only some honest sellers indicate their offer is for such an outdated edition, whilst the majority of them simply don't fee obliged to mention this very important fact, and that's why, by buying books from amazon marketplace, you'll get into lots of trouble, on many occasions, especially since the two biggest booksellers on that marketplace on both give a dime for informing their customers about these flaws of their offerings, and they both have been doing this this perfectly illegal way systematically and for years now, without amazon (which is in perfect knowledge of these ongoings) doing anything about this abuse of its customer base, just as in ancient times ebay allowed crook sellers to administer retaliation evaluations on buyers who dared giving those crooks a bad evaluation for having had them.


ebay learned from the negative effects of this on turnover, and even on amazon, with their refund-no-questions-asked system, it's the buyers who today treat (especially individual) sellers not well: If ever you're sufficiently criminally-minded, it's up to you to "buy" some coffee table book on amazon, tear out the pages you're after, then send it back as "defective", and amazon will refund you, the seller being ripped-off at 100 p.c. (and there are very expensive coffee table books on amazon...) Thus, my last point is about the risks of SELLING on amazon, and it's even worse for the seller: Many books are just between 10 and 20$, so registered mail is not justified, and what to do if the buyer just pretends he didn't get the book? And of course, amazon is much too expensive for the seller... but then, e.g., in France, is even more expensive, but that's another matter.

Anyway, in one sentence: On amazon, don't ever be sure that price and edition are the correct ones before having checked and re-checked (especially elsewhere).

EDIT: As you can see in the screenshot, it's the same book, but with the title slightly changed/rearranged, and that's how many of such "double entries" in the amazon db are created, notwithstanding the identical ISBN (!), but you've got such double entries even with identical title lines, and then with some irrelevant add-ons there, which seem to have been added on purpose, in order to create the "twin", to which google will then mislead buyers... (And yes, the ISBN thing should prevent all this...) (And of course, "neu" = "new" and "gebraucht" = "used".)

This is old time style: In my Internet browser's toolbar, I have a button that goes straight to my Amazon account's Wishlist. Whenever I come across a book that I would like to have, I click that button. Once in a while I will go through the list and spend some time surfing for other vendors. I used to just click "Buy" at Amazon's, but last year they more than doubled the "Handling & Shipment"-rates, so I have stopped buying at Amazon's. The last book I purchased overseas would cost me $17.50 (plus the book) to have shipped to me from  Amazon USA. The same book at was less than $5 for handling and shipping!


Thank you, Peter, for your thorough review. Just like Google, Amazon is a huge business, and therefore without conscience, or forms of "neighbourly love" - yeah, apropos, English The Corporate Language cannot translate Nächstenliebe properly...

Curt, you're right, googling for book titles is old style, thank you for the hint; I use FF, and there should be some other add-in for the "amazon button".

Also, thank you for completing my list with your remarks about shipping costs from = U.S. to Europe, and which is another reason I'm so fond of the German inter-university-library lending system (cost per book: 1,50€, about 2,15$: I'm sure this is the best such system in Europe).

Of course, there would be the question to WHICH amazon those buttons would take you, and if then the amazon search line would be focussed. In fact, in my macro system,  I have direct "buttons" (menus with shortcuts) to, but the problem is, I have been too lazy to then script a mouse click into the search line (direct focus to website elements is a big flaw in AHK), so I must click manually, whilst in google and almost anywhere else, the search line is focussed automatically; of course, I don't go over the google page, but by direct one-key to the browser search line, but I acknowledge my current system, for amazon, isn't ideal, especially since after that (very quick) first amazon page, I then have to "surf" to other amazon pages anyway.

This being said, there is that above-described risk of getting, by google, to "bad" amazon pages, and I'm not sure using "buy from amazon buttons" will overcome that problem; as said, even from within amazon, you sometimes get "bad" pages...

"Nächstenliebe", well, I find wrong translations, too, from altruism to charity, but there is a problem. I know exactly what you mean, i.e. a minimum of loyalty, of "deliberate thrustworthyness beyond what the law imposes on you", of "deliberate interest in the real interest of the customer" (vs. alleged interest which at the end of the day is the interest of the seller/marketplace), of "solidarity with the other party's interests", but "Nächstenliebe" is rarely used these times, in German, and exclusively with regards to real and wrong charity, i.e. with regards to voluntary work with homeless people or elderly in institutions and such, and also, wrongly, with regards to charity "galas" where rich people give to charity - hence the problems of today's dictionaries: Their lack of applying translations just mirror the fact that this term has almost vanished from the German language, except for this receded use, and most of the time you'll hear this word, it'll be with respect to "Mother Teresa" anyway (i.e. improper use if you know about the background and details of her work...)

This being said, 90 p.c. of the time, I use the different amazon sites for my bibliography needs, before then searching the inter-library system anyway, and not for buying; I have to say that without to that exceptionally good system, i.e. in (most?) other countries, this would probably be quite different.

I missed another aspect of the amazon world: E-books and their prices.

sideline: The German book market in general.

In Germany, both book and e-book prices are bound by law, which means that the respective publisher sets the price, then everybody, for "new" books/e-books at least (see above for "new" vs. "really used" vs. "allegedly used"), must neither call for higher (! see the pdf, and the alleged "used" state in there), nor for lower prices. This means, for the German book market, that the big players, i.e. amazon, but also the big "chains" (which also sell by internet, but which mainly are present in the best parts of the big cities) will make tremendous benefits, on the detriment of the "nice little bookstore", which today are gone for the most of them: In those German cities I know, more than 80 p.c. of them have closed.

Why is this so? There's a very precise reason to it: The big players, amazon et al, get about 60 to 65 p.c. off that "bound" price from the respective publishers, whilst the "little bookstore" just gets 30 to 35 p.c. off that same price (and most of the time, it's not more like 29 p.c. instead of 32 or more), either from the publisher or from some intermediate which in turn gets the full 65 p.c. from the publisher...

So why are there intermediates, to begin with? Those, which are called "Barsortiment(er)" (()=plural), store any book from big publishers, and deliver them, to the bookstore, the next day, whilst from the publisher (= same price for the bookstore), that would take anything from some days to 6 weeks (= publishers kicking away bookstores this way, in spite of the fact it would have been in the publisher's interest to deliver directly!) - of course, the "customer experience" is quite different between "next day" and "somewhere in the future".

The attentive reader will have become aware of my saying, "store any book from big publishers": bingo! And this means many bookstore will tell you, "this book doesn't exist", whenever you ask them for a book from some little publisher, since they do not want to command it from them, and the intermediates refuse to stock them for immediate delivery (notwithstanding the fact the little publisher is "willing" to give them their 65 p.c. off final price).

Of course, the German government tells people lots of rubbish about this (as for any subject there is), in the line of "the bound price preserve the little bookstore", which is a big lie in light of the above: It would HAVE been true if not just the end/customer price was bound, but if the purchase price was identical for every reseller was identical, too, and so, as with many other things, German legislation is just bound to play the play of the big players, little bookstores being the victims of this policy as well as every reader in Germany... ;-)

Now for those e-book prices:

From the U.S., you know that a book might cost 30$, with the e-book costing about 9$, this price difference being much smaller for textbooks, though, but then, it's perhaps 30$ vs. 18$. As said above, e-books are not available for European customers.

Now in Germany (similar in France), when the book is 30.95€, the e-book is 28.95 euro, or 29.45€, and that applies to almost any e-book sold in Germany, being it a translation, or be it written in German (so there are no "hidden costs" to be "covered", it's just plain greed).

And this means that in Europe, you should always have a look at, and search for the English version of the e-book, the latter often being available on Continental amazon sites, too, perhaps at slightly higher prices but which in any case are not as cheap as on (the TVA on books in Germany is currently 7 p.c., on e-books it's been 19 p.c., but I think they changed that, or are willing to do so? Anyway, that doesn't explain a price difference of merely 5 or 7 p.c. to the bound book).

Which arises an additional question: Are there alternative U.S. e-book sources, priced as, but from thich the e-books are available to European customers? (Of course, we then don't speak of the Kindle format here, but who cares? With all due respect, I looked at Kindle's, and was far from delighted!) But this alternative availability to Europe could be prevented for legal reasons, i.e. U.S. publishers sell the "Oversea's right" to their Irish-tax-free subsidiary, and which then is the sole proprietor of those European rights, incl. e-book rights, and they are free to sell at some price they deem suitable for European "customers". (Just compare Adobe sw prices in Europe with their respective U.S. counterparts.)

I spoke about "importing goods" in some other thread, some weeks ago, and there's a base problem, but which seems to be connected to such "rights for different territories" considerations:

There currently is no U.S. reseller who's got a daily (or, in the beginning, weekly) container shipped to Europe, and with prices 10 p.c. above the U.S. price plus taxes (neither there is for electronics goods and such, so we pay twice the price here, sometimes thrice the price).

And, to say it all, even sharing transportations costs from the U.S. to Europe, once a month, for some fellow customer group, would only be realistic within a big country like Germany, since even within Europe, from one country to the next, D to DK, B to F, A to CH, will cost another fortune in additional transportation costs: The whole "European Union" is just there in order to ripp off hundreds of millions of "innocent" people not seeing that once in while, they could stop this never-ending outrage from which citizens don't have but big disadvantages... DK at least having been smart enough to preserve its money... and they don't exclusively vote for perverted cynics up there neither: kudos to DK for preserving your common sense! (Whilst German electorate is an abomination.)

Ok, this thread was meant to be about hints to better buy pc books, sw and electronics... but from the above, you will have understood why I so much praise the German inter-university book lending system: Any book I get from there is a book I wasn't totally ripped off for. (And btw, in the Scandinavian countries, book prices are even more obscene than on the Continent.)

For amazon, i look for used books that are basically just the cost of shipping.
There are tons of books where there are so many used copies that they fall into this category.

There are also a lot of books (usually academic ones) that fall into a different category -- where they are very expensive, but where an occasional used copy will pop up for pennies, if you are willing to be patient and wait a few months.  This can make the difference between a $200 used copy and a $2 used copy.  The trick is catching that low priced copy before someone else grabs it.  For that, I swear by the camelcamelcamel addon for amazon, that i have written about here.

For amazon, i look for used books that are basically just the cost of shipping.-mouser (June 16, 2014, 10:10 AM)
--- End quote ---

-I too used to do this when Amazon's handling + shipping fee was much lower than now - from my office chair I can see a handful of shells full of books from Amazon.  However, the method really doesn't work when the book is a dime but the shipping is $17.50 - and the seller never has more than the one reasonably priced book, that I want.


The Internet prices on ebooks is nothing but greedy fraud.
Internet ebook customers, unite!


[0] Message Index

[#] Next page

Go to full version