Holy cow! Minimum shipping costs for many used books on amazon are $4.49! I was all set to buy 15 books (total cost of the books $24) when the S&H costs were a whopping $52, more extortionate than usual. Don’t you love it how Amazon conveniently hides the shipping costs of its books until the final screen (and you get it itemized only if you open up one of those cumbersome popup windows).
All the more reason to buy at local bookstores and to favor independently-sold ebooks. I would mention Powell’s as well, except their selection and prices generally suck. Half.com shipping costs are $3.25 (hardback) and 2.79$ (PB) and they have more transparent prices.
Update: I can’t figure out what’s going on; some of the used books are still $3.49 or $3.99; some are $4.49; some are $4.99. Amazon really needs to itemize all this in a clear fashion. The problem boils down to honesty; they are doing everything possible to prevent you from knowing the true cost of your purchase.
Update 2 . After two unsuccessful emails asking amazon.com to explain the pricing discrepency, I tried price shopping on ISBN.nu and eventually did all my shopping on half.com. With Amazon, I was going to buy 15 books for $79. On half.com, I was able to buy 12 of the books and 7 other ones (that’s 19 total) for $77. Sticker prices were slightly cheaper, and default postage varied from $2.99 to $3.49; also, if I found more than one book from a single seller, postage for the second book would be $1.49 (that’s $3.00 lower postage costs than on amazon per book!). This actually happened fairly often because many of the booksellers listing on half.com are the same as on amazon.com. The key to saving money on half.com is to buy books in chunks of 10 t0 20 (to maximize multiple buys from the same bookseller).
Half.com doesn’t seem to have anywhere near the breadth of amazon.com, but it has a lot of old books under $5.
In many cases, buying from amazon is still a good deal, but when buying used from amazon.com marketplace, it might be better to buy things individually to know exactly what you’re paying.
I just finished a long detailed article about the aftermarket book sales problem and ebooks, which I’ll be posting soon.
For the truly bored, click on more, and you’ll find the titles I bought.
The Edge of Time Loula G. Erdman (Hardcover, 1981)
(young adult novel about 2 newlyweds coming to Texas to claim homestead land).
Another Part of the House Winston Estes (Hardcover, 1970)
( Depression era coming of age novel in small Texas town)
The Time It Never Rained Elmer Kelton (Paperback, 1999)
(well-regarded book in Western genre).
Rebecca Daphne Du Maurier (Paperback, 1997)
(listening in car; positively exhilirating; it gives me chills!)
Overhead in a Balloon Mavis Gallant (Paperback, Reprint, 1988)
(random ss collection by Gallant, the cheapest of her books).
The Quick and the Dead Joy Williams (Hardcover, 2000)
(popular in my graduate writing program; this is supposed to be her most mature work)
The Pugilist at Rest Thom Jones (Paperback, Reissue, 1994)
Cold Snap Thom Jones (Hardcover, 1995)
(read lots of Jones in lit mags, buying more for my collection than to actually read it).
We Can Still Be Friends Kelly Cherry (Hardcover, 2003)
(reviewed earlier minor work for Dalkey’s Review of Contemp Fiction; this supposed to be richer, fuller).
The Collected Stories of Richard Yates Richard Yates (Hardcover, 2001)
(writer recommended by Michelle Richmond and others)
The Ordways William Humphrey (Paperback, 1977)
Home from the Hill William Humphrey (Hardcover, 1958)
(Humphrey writes family dramas/comedies with a Texas Twang).
Tales of the South Pacific James A. Michener (Paperback, Reissue, 1989)
(many have assured me that this Michener book is actually worth reading).
Chromos Felipe Alfau (Paperback, Reprint, 1991)
(one of my all time faves).
The Voice of the Moon Ed Emery, Ermanno Cavazzoni (Paperback, 1990)
(already read and reviewed 15 years ago for a Dalkey Archives journal. This was hilarious and nutty).
This Stubborn Soil William A. Owens (Paperback, Reprint, 1989)
(literary coming of age during Great Depression)
Painted Dresses Shelby Hearon (Paperback, 1992)
Armadillo in the Grass Shelby Hearon (Hardcover, 1983)
(Hearon is an artsy writer whose novels happen to take place in Texas).