Rare Book Monthly

Articles - August - 2006 Issue

Truth in Pricing: BookFinder Attempts to Display What Books <i>Really</i> Cost

Bkfinder

BookFinder searches allow you to see prices with or without shipping. There's quite a difference.


By Michael Stillman

Congratulations are in order to the multi-site book search engine BookFinder for attempting to present real prices, that is, ones that include shipping costs. This is an imperfect process, and not of great importance if you buy a Gutenberg Bible where shipping will be an insignificant part of the cost. However, if you are purchasing used books, perhaps just a few dollars in cost, or maybe even a penny, shipping is a major part of the price. BookFinder has recognized that a one-cent book with a $10 shipping cost is no bargain compared to a $3 book with $2 in shipping. A little truth in pricing should be most helpful for those looking to find the actual lowest price rather than the imaginary one.

There is a caution to this new pricing. Pricing can vary on different sites, depending on seller, weight, type and speed of shipment, etc. Sometimes, there may be special free shipping offers, based on such factors as size of order. In some cases BookFinder has had to use typical shipping costs, which may not always be correct for a particular book. You will have to check before making a purchase to be certain the figures posted by BookFinder reflect the actual shipping charges. However, since such metasearch engines take you to the selling site, rather than making sales themselves, you will always be able to confirm the shipping costs after a BookFinder search before you make a purchase.

BookFinder still allows you to search the old way, showing prices without shipping, if you prefer. This option enabled us to do a comparison, and if you click the image to the left to enlarge it, you will see what we found. Sorted by lowest price first, the left column displays prices without shipping, the right with. The differences are noteworthy. First of all, the cheapest delivered price is 373 times the cheapest non-delivered price. That's a 37,300% increase in the price once you add shipping! That's what happens when you buy penny books that have to be shipped.

Of course, you already knew that there are no real penny books. Why would anyone take the time or spend the money to sell a book for a penny if they couldn't make anything on the shipping and handling? You didn't really believe there's a free lunch, did you? What is most revealing is comparing the list to the right, with shipping, to the one without shipping to the left. What you find is a totally different group of booksellers have the lowest prices once shipping is added. Now you have a better look at which book is likely to actually cost the least when all charges are taken into account.

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