News Ticker

Used Book Ripoff

It’s no surprise to regular readers that I like used bookstores. They’re a great way to find out-of-print books, they are fun places to Gather and they are the perfect outlet for my own biblioholism. I have the most luck with the local set of Half Price Books stores – each of the 8 stores offer a great selection (did I mention I’m a Biblioholic?) including tons of science fiction. I also find lots of neat stuff on clearance. I’m not necessarily a bookstore chain lover, mind you. I still hold Mom & Pop used bookstores close to my biblioholic heart. You know, to help the Little Guy.

I had another questionable experience at a bookstore today. We were downtown, coming back from a trip to the Zoo and I passed a bookstore called 1/4 Price Books which was touting their “Best Houston Bookstore” claim in the window. Yeah, whatever. I had been to this store years and years ago and wasn’t very impressed at the time. Their prices were great and true to their name but their science fiction selection sucked. Fast forward to today and my accidental drive-by was met with hope that their prices were still as-advertised but their selection would be much improved.

Well, I was right about the selection. They had an impressive array of the old Ace Doubles among other treasures. Not a huge selection, but way better than last time. Curiously, much of the stuff was either price-tagged way above the cover price (forget about one-fourth the cover price) or wrapped in plastic without any price whatsoever. I learned that the unmarked stuff was just newly shelved, so, OK.

Three items of interest were a set of unpriced, mass market paperback copies of David G. Hartwell’s Foundations of Fear horror anthology (all three volumes with a cover price of $6 each). This interested me for a few reasons:

  • The author/story selection looked interesting.
  • Hartwell knows his stuff.
  • I had just picked up one of those volumes just 2 days ago for half the cover price at Half Price Books (Hello…my name is John and…I’m a biblioholic).

Being unpriced but wrapped in plastic left little hope that I would get this bundle for $4.50. But I had to ask.

Since the books were unpriced, it required a “lookup”. Thanks to a beneficially placed portable computer, I was able to see that the “lookup” was nothing more than an Abe Books search. Hmmm…OK. I was then told that these mass market paperbacks were “first editions” and that they were selling for up to $29 each. However, the guy was going to graciously part with them all for the low, low price of $20. I said no, naturally, especially since I just picked up one of them 2 days ago for $3. Then I left the store. (OK, not empty handed. I bought a kid’s book for my kid and an old copy of Asimov’s Science Fiction for 75 cents. I might not have mentioned this before, but I’m somewhat of a biblioholic.)

Knowing something was fishy with this first-edition/$29 nonsense, I couldn’t help but do my own Abe Books web search when I got home. The books are beign sold anywhere from $1 to $6. (That’s a concise, but inaccurate, statement. Volume 1 only had a single seller pricing the book for $25!!! The next highest price was $7. The other two volumes are between $1 and $6. There. That’s more accurate.) What burned my ass was that I could easily get all three books for three bucks (plus shipping) and he knew that and had the cajones to offer me the low, low price of $20. Grrrr! I understand the concept of profit and I’m all for helping the Little Guy, but come on!

I got the last laugh though. When I got home, I realized that I already had the hardback version of Foundations of Fear already sitting on my bookshelf.

Oh, did I mention I have this biblioholism thing?

About John DeNardo (13013 Articles)
John DeNardo is the Managing Editor at SF Signal and a columnist at Kirkus Reviews. He also likes bagels. So there.

1 Comment on Used Book Ripoff

  1. You know, Katy Budget Books is having their annual 50 cent sale through Wednesday. That’s a little misleading since any marker hardback is actually $1, but $.50 is the most you’ll pay for specially marked paperbacks. Their on sale SF was a little thin, but I did pickup a copy of Star Risk, Ltd. for $.50. It’s sad, but their Romance (my wife was there) section is bigger than their SF section. Although I did find quite a few non-sale SF books that looked interesting.

    And you have a problem John. That problem being you didn’t get me anything…

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: