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Are books for 1p on Amazon a rip off?

16th August 2016

books for 1p on AmazonAt TripFiction we visit the amazon.co.uk site a great deal – we check the ISBN numbers we have been given before adding books to TF, and we re-post our blog reviews as they appear on our site. One question has bugged me over the months and years. Copies of a great many books we feature are available used for only 1p. Are these offers genuine or are they somehow a rip off? How can anyone make money when offering books so cheaply?

I decided to do some research.

These offers are not a rip off ‘as such’. They do in fact offer good value if you see a book that you want. The ‘trick’ is that the 1p is not all that you pay… Post and packaging is on top. And this is where the seller can make his money… Amazon takes a postal credit from the buyer – and passes this on (less a commission for listing the book) to the seller. The postal credit is £2.80 per book, and the amazon commission reduces the amount passed on to the seller to £2.32. So, the seller has to pack and post the book for less than this to show a profit.

There are in reality two types of seller. There are companies who do this for a living, and there are individuals passing on books for which they no longer have a need. The companies operate on an industrial scale. They collect truck loads of books from charity shops and libraries. These books are then sorted. Up to 80% may not be in a sellable condition, and are recycled. A few may turn out to be gems worth a great deal – but the majority of the sellable ones can be offered for just 1p. It is the volume – vast for some of the companies – that makes the money. They can also negotiate bulk rates with the Post Office, and a lot more of the £2.32 stays with them than for individual sellers. It is much harder, but not impossible, for individual sellers to make money. A couple of tips for anyone who is tempted:

First, don’t offer books at 1p unless you have to. Do your research… Visit Amazon and see who is selling the same book and how much they are charging for it. Lots of 1p offers may limit your choice! But if there are none (or very few) you might get away with more – judge your pricing by the what others are doing.

Second, really research the despatch options. Make sure what you are sending classifies itself (in the amazingly complex UK Post Office pricing system) as a Large Letter rather than a Small Parcel. A Small Parcel (up to 2kg) costs £2.85 – more than the £2.32 you’ll get from Amazon. Not good business… Aim for a Large Letter – and always send it second class. A Large Letter must weigh less than 750g and its measurements but not be larger than 35.3cm length, 25cm width, and 2.5cm thick. That gives you the parameters for the books you can sell! 100g weight will cost you 75p, 250g will cost you £1.20, 500g will cost you £1.54, and 750g will cost you £2.09.

The seller is also responsible for the book arriving safely in good condition. So make sure that your packaging is protective and secure. Light weight ‘Mail Lite’ envelopes (with an inner cushioning of air bubbles) are ideal.

You might not get rich, but you might get some of your old books to a new home. And you will not be ripping people off!

Sadly, however, the authors who originally penned these gems at the heart of this industry make nothing on this kind of trade. So when we cheer at having found a real bargain, there is always someone who takes a hit.

Tony for the TripFiction team

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Comments

  1. User: Joy

    Posted on: 04/01/2018 at 12:05 pm

    Good….Your site has good content. Thank you so much for the information, keep it up

    Comment

  2. User: Catherine Berry ( But you are in France, Madame)

    Posted on: 17/08/2016 at 1:19 pm

    We all like a bargain and there is intrinsically nothing wrong with that. As an author, though, listed on Amazon, I have sales but cannot access my profit. Let me explain: as an Australian account holder, everything that is earned in a different currency to my own can only be paid to me once I hit a minimum profit of 100 in the alternative currency. So, I have money from book sales in pounds, American dollars, Canadian dollars and euro that Is inaccessible to me and will possibly remain this way forever. This is what is unfair. The readers who are genuinely trying to support me have no idea that this is an Amazon practice and I’ m sure would be horrified to know that they are simply filling Amazon’s coffers with their purchases. Now, you can imagine how long it takes to get to 100 profit on book sales where the book price is virtually zero.

    Comment

  3. User: Sylvia Robbins

    Posted on: 16/08/2016 at 8:04 pm

    Amazon are tax evaders and I do not use them.
    I prefer to buy from charity shops and real bookshops.
    That way no one is diddled.
    The kindle I won from a chocolate bar is redundant since that is an Amazon product.

    Comment

  4. User: Sue Moorcroft

    Posted on: 16/08/2016 at 6:16 pm

    Yep. With respect it depends on your definition of ‘ripped off’ – the writers and publishers have put all the work and money into the product. To me, it feels exactly like being ripped off.

    Comment

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