I bought software and a cat-shaped laser thingy (“cat scan” – get it?) that scans all my books. I set the scanner to collect book prices from Borders, Barnes and Noble, or Amazon (US, UK, Canada and Australia). Almost all prices came from individual sellers listed on Amazon. (If there was no bar code or ISBN number I looked the book up on the web, either abebooks or biblio.com.) INTERESTING. Sometimes a book will scan to show a value of $100 or more. I could almost always find the same book, same edition, in the same condition on the web elsewhere for much, much less, sometimes as low as $3. WHAT DOES THIS MEAN? It means that a number of people look for a book no farther than Amazon and that many sellers who sell books on Amazon have figured this out. It’s much less work to sell one book for $100 to a person who is in a hurry and dazzled by the high price than sell and mail 50 copies to 50 people at $3 a book.
What can I do with these numbers? I have no desire to sell my books on line or anywhere else. However, if a book or play is being offered for $150 then odds are that the book must be interesting in some way. Can I use these fanciful numbers to identify really interesting books.
Theory: A high price for an obscure book might possibly be an indication that there is something special about the book. My plan: I intend to test the theory by reading my books in descending order of value as indicated by the price scan – skipping those I have already read, of course – starting with playscripts. Will I find an insanely great, overlooked, intellectual treasure trove – or just a bunch of overpriced crap? The first list to be posted here by the end of the week.
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