2FAQ | Page 63 | Newberry


“Why are these two identical books different prices?”

I’m glad you asked me that, friend., No, really. See? I’m smiling. Just turn your head a little this way. Don’t worry. You won’t feel a thing

You’re asking me in July why the prices on two books, one possibly priced in September and one in March, are the way they are. By all means, let’s have a chat. There’s a Book Fair going on, but I don’t have anything much to do.

A lot of times, it comes down to condition. The books aren’t really identical. This one, which is a dollar more, has its dust jacket and the other doesn’t. You don’t read the jacket? Well, some people like to have books with jackets and some don’t. You don’t? Okay, so why not just buy the cheaper one and leave me alone, marshmallow calzone? (This is one of the problems. I get this question from people who don’t want to buy EITHER copy. They just noticed the price discrepancy and the world will be meaningless unless I explain the reason. It’s a basic danger of running a Book Fair in a place like the Newberry. You attract the abstract thinkers.)

See, this is a beautiful copy of the book and that is a beautiful copy of the book. But that one is blank inside, whereas in this one someone has written “Merry Christmas from Faff to Foofoo. Thanks for lending me the deodorant!” I figured people might pay extra for the copy without the endearing inscription, but maybe I could have gone the other way.

Sometimes there are flaws you haven’t noticed: the cheaper copy may have a modest amount of underlining in the Introduction, or a little splash of coffee inside the back cover. Sometimes they look alike, but they’re entirely different editions. The second edition had fifty extra pages, or the first editon had better maps. And some people prefer the first printing of a famous book. Why? That’s another blog.

Then there’s the passage of time between pricing this one and pricing that one. The book came out in October, and I was thrilled to see a copy in such nice condition donated in December. I had no idea that in January seven different book groups would be reading the thing and in February I would be given sixteen more copies of it. No, it does NOT make sense to make a little note and then in July go running around to find the copy that now has an anomalous price. The other sixteen may simply sell first, that’s all.

They may not, too. Someone may find that first copy, realize it’s priced higher, and think “Aha! There must be a reason!” and carry it off, cackling with glee at having purchased this one when everyone else will have to be satisfied with the cheaper copy.

Now run along and look at some more books, prune cutlet. I have to go explain to someone why that first printing of Silence of the Lambs is $500 and the paperback is only a buck. 

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