Odd vintage computer sellers

Zane Healy healyzh at avanthar.com
Sat Jan 4 13:59:35 CST 2020

> On Jan 3, 2020, at 7:39 PM, Jack Blake via cctalk <cctalk at classiccmp.org> wrote:
>> I've been after a manual for months. There is one up on eBay for $520, it's been there for months.  A few weeks ago the seller sent out an offer to anyone watching, with an offer of $399, I sent a counter offer of $99.  I just bought a copy that turned up yesterday for $20.
>> Zane
> I see the same thing all the time on Amazon and various other used booksellers, it's a malfunction of using an automated pricing system.  My uncle has spent years importing college textbooks and explained it to me about fifteen years ago, the system is fairly simplistic and sets prices automatically based on other seller's prices.  The sellers have no idea what anything is worth, so they trust the automated system rather than the buyer.  One person comes in and prices an old manual at some randomized, arbitrary amount in the hundreds of dollars (or a computer in the thousands), and the entire market adjusts to selling at that price without any human interaction.  The systems then ignore the lowball prices set by sellers who run smaller businesses and need to move inventory or sellers who understand the actual value of the item.
> This leads to situations where an old paperback about an obsolete programming language gets priced at $455 and a half dozen other sellers under-cut it by pennies.
> If you want to see how this same sort of thing affects various other markets, look into high speed trading firms.

I frequently buy old Photography books.  That’s where things can get seriously out of whack, it isn’t uncommon to see books going for over $100.  Amazon and ABE Books definitely are at the root of a lot of the pricing lunacy.  It’s an interesting observation on automated pricing, I’d not considered that.  Another part of the problem is the wider your potential customer base, the more likely you are to find someone willing to pay crazy prices.  

There is one book I want, at one point it was at $1000, sadly I missed it when it was reprinted a few years ago.  It’s actually dropped to the point where copies are in the $85-500 range.  So over time, some prices do become more realistic, and I’ll likely pick up a copy soon.


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