Amazon.com's many bots feud over book-prices

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24 Responses to “Amazon.com's many bots feud over book-prices”

  1. Keith Tyler says:

    The real punchline is that at the same time, Amazon is trying to AOL-ify its vendors, jacking up their margin, meanwhile the environment their site has engendered makes them a *worse* marketplace for their vendors.

  2. Phrases like “tattooed hipster” irritate me, and I am neither. I guess I am “cranky.” Oh well.

  3. nixiebunny says:

    I recently tried to buy an obscure type of solid state drive on Amazon for my University job. I looked up a good price, then gave the requisition form to my buyer. He started to place the order, but the price had gone up by $40 in that hour. Maybe these folks never heard of buyers needing requisitions with accurate prices on them?

    I eventually placed the order with a non-Amazon vendor, since the Amazon affiliate bots seem determined to shoot themselves in the metal foot.

  4. MichaelWalsh says:

    ” Pretty soon they were offering my book below the retail price, and trying to make up the difference on “shipping and handling”.”

    Not likely since Amazon sets the shipping fees that Marketplace vendors have to abide by.

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      A hardcover book is $3.99 for S and H. 10 to 15 cents for the envelope, ~$2.50 for media mail postage. > $1 profit on the S and H.

      • travtastic says:

        For most of the lower-priced items, that’s actually where all of the profit comes from.

        • Antinous / Moderator says:

          I’ve never quite figured out how I can buy hardcover books for $1 on eBay.  And yet, there are a hell of a lot them for sale.

          • travtastic says:

             I’m pretty sure you’d have to charge $1.87 shipping minimum to break even on a $1 book (after eBay & Paypal fees, 1lb Media shipping, and you stole the book and the envelope).

            There’s some kind of bulk mail discount through USPS, but I’m not sure how it works and it can’t be all that much. I’m sort of inclined to believe it’s really elaborate money laundering.

      • Peter says:

         Amazon charges $1.35 transaction fee in addition to a 15% commission on the sale price of the book. The transaction fee makes it almost impossible to profit off of the shipping reimbursement. If a book is light and skinny enough to ship First Class Package you can maybe clear a dollar on shipping and handling but in virtually all cases the combined cost of shipping and the transaction fee eats up the whole of the shipping reimbursement.

        If you’re in the business of selling textbooks, which most high volume Amazon marketplace sellers are, then a great deal of the profit made on shipping smaller items is needed to offset the frequent expedited orders for large textbooks. In those cases you lose about $3.50 per item on the cost of shipping.

        For large enough sellers who ship around 200+ media mail items a day, there is the possibility of arranging for pre-sorted media mail to lower the per item shipping cost enough to clear a small profit on the shipping reimbursement, though most of that will go to the labor, software, and possible infrastructure costs of dealing with pre-sorted mail (the postal service might make you drop off your presorted packages yourself rather than coming out to pick them up).

    • travtastic says:

      For a seller like say, me, that’s true. But if you ever check out the Featured Merchants sub-section under New, there’s definitely leeway in S&H pricing for the Big Sellers.

    • No, Vendors can set the shipping to whatever they want in the options section.

  5. I’d come across the auto-written “books” before, they have nonsensical titles and are quite amusing. These might be the same scam, or a similar one:

    http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=ntt_athr_dp_sr_1?_encoding=UTF8&sort=relevancerank&search-alias=books&ie=UTF8&field-author=Timoteus%20Elmo 

    • thezarray says:

      I’m glad I found out what was up. I came across something like that and I thought it was some badly translated and marketed work. (based only on the amazon page info)

  6. LinkMan says:

    The best Amazon seller bot feud story I’ve seen was the $23 million fruit fly book that was previously on BoingBoing.

  7. Dave Pease says:

    put a self-published two-book set on Amazon in December, $16.95 each new.  for about a week someone had a used copy available for $999.95.  perhaps this is the i’ll-buy-a-bunch-of-lottery-tickets bot at work.

    • Grebmar says:

      I had the same thing happen with a book I self-pubbed on lulu.com – it was selling for around a thousand dollars, but now they’re only asking 27.00 – still three times the cover price, but for a first edition of my first book, quite a steal.

  8. Andy Alexis says:

    Bots also cross over vendors:  my old time string band CD on CDBaby was crossed over onto Amazon by a bot and sold for 3 times the prices: $35 plus.  They, of course, bought it on CDBaby and had it shipped to the Amazon customer.
    I of course set up an Amazon marketplace account to get around that.

  9. bengee says:

    The Amazon pricing algorithms are getting especially interesting now that Amazon offers buyback of their books.  One imagines that the total liability that Amazon has, if everyone decided to sell them their entire catalog of books back to them, would be larger than Amazon’s actual operating budget.

    Of course it’s possible that they have a warehouse full of laid off used books salespeople constantly jiving to set the prices for millions of books, butits probably just an algorithm. If only I knew what algorithms they were!

  10. TaymonBeal says:

    I initially found the idea of the book interesting, but was somewhat discouraged when the online sample chapter appeared to be a ripoff of Gödel, Escher, Bach. Might still read it anyway.

    • carlosbueno says:

      (author here) that chapter is a play on What the Tortoise Said to Achilles, by Lewis Carroll. GEB was inspired by the same story. In math writing, those two are very common stock characters, esp when talking about infinity.

  11. OgilvyTheAstronomer says:

    Well, hello Charles Stross’s “Economy 2.0″ from Accelerando.

  12. Nelson Christian says:

    Nice Book

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