Rare Book Monthly

Articles - December - 2003 Issue

There&#146;s a <i>Reason </i>It&#146;s a Big River — A Guide to Swimming in the Amazon

The cyber-equivalent of the Mall of the Americas.


Let’s take a look under the hood. There are two primary ways to sell on Amazon. You can market through “Amazon Marketplace”, i.e. as a link off the main, ISBN-driven page that Amazon uses to sell its own books. Or, alternatively, you can create your own, individual identity in “Amazon Z-Shops”, a cyber-space dedicated to individual sellers that resides on Amazon’s servers and uses the same payment engine as Marketplace. To determine the best way to move your inventory, you should examine the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Marketplace is, by far, the more visible Amazon real estate — and visibility, as a rule, is the key to sales. Customers using Amazon’s standard search engine will be directed to the page or pages where books that have ISBN numbers (current or assigned) are listed. Used books of all types, including rare, antiquarian books, can be listed by anybody, on the spot, as links off of these pages. College kids listing their used books, people buying and reselling from yard sales — anybody selling the same titles as you — will be sharing these pages with you. Additionally, when buyers seeking books use search engines such as www.bookfinder.com or www.addall.com, these engines will find Marketplace listings and return them to the customer.

In exchange for this very high visibility, Amazon currently charges a fixed 15% commission for sales through Marketplace, plus a piece of the fixed shipping allotment. The commission is 15% whether the book sells for $12.00 or $1200.00. In Z-Shops, on the other hand, Amazon collects closing fees determined by the sales price: 5% for items selling from $0.01 to $25.00; $1.25 plus 2.5% for any amount greater than $25.00 to $1,000.00; $25.63 plus 1.25% for any amount greater than $1,000.00.

Item Sales PriceAmazon Marketplace Fee Amazon Z-Shop Fee
$25.00 $3.75 $1.25
$100.00$15.00 ($1.25 + $2.50) = $3.75
$1200.00$180.00($25.63 + $15.00) = $43.63

The difference is huge, and it gets grotesque when you reach the higher price ranges. For this reason, we list most of our inventory in both places, hoping that customers looking for additional books will browse our Z-Shop, where we can sell more profitably. However, the power and exposure of Marketplace are so great that we have found it an exceptionally effective place from which to sell rare books, even despite the higher fee. And, of course, our selling price can be adjusted upwards to a certain point (determined by market pricing) to absorb at least a portion of the increased fee.

Rare Book Monthly

  • Sotheby’s
    Modern First Editions
    Available for Immediate Purchase
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Winston Churchill. The Second World War. Set of First-Edition Volumes. 6,000 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: A.A. Milne, Ernest H. Shepard. A Collection of The Pooh Books. Set of First-Editions. 18,600 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Salvador Dalí, Lewis Carroll. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Finely Bound and Signed Limited Edition. 15,000 USD
    Sotheby’s
    Modern First Editions
    Available for Immediate Purchase
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Ian Fleming. Live and Let Die. First Edition. 9,500 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: J.K. Rowling. Harry Potter Series. Finely Bound First Printing Set of Complete Series. 5,650 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Ernest Hemingway. A Farewell to Arms. First Edition, First Printing. 4,200 USD
  • Bid on iGavelAuctions.com: Heller, Joseph, Closing Time, Advance Readers Copy of Uncorrected Proof with a letter from Heller on his personal stationary
    Bid on iGavelAuctions.com: Gates, Bill, How to Avoid a Climate Disaster, N Y: Knopf, 2021; first edition, with a handwritten note from Bill Gates
    Bid on iGavelAuctions.com: Heller, Joseph, Catch-22, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1961, first edition, first printing, first issue dust jacket, inscribed on the front end paper by Heller
    Bid on iGavelAuctions.com: Heller, Joseph, Something Happened, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1974, first edition, inscribed on the front end paper by Heller
    Bid on iGavelAuctions.com: Austen, Jane, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, London: John Murray, 1818, in four volumes
  • Manuscript Masterpieces from the Schøyen Collection
    London auction, 11 June
    BROWSE NOW
    Christie’s, Explore now: The Holkham Hebrew Bible. In Hebrew, decorated manuscript on vellum [Toledo, 2nd quarter 13th century]. £1,500,000–3,000,000
    Christie’s, Explore now: The Crosby-Schøyen Codex. In Coptic, manuscript on papyrus [Upper Egypt, middle 3rd century / 4th century]. £2,000,000–3,000,000
    Christie’s, Explore now: The Geraardsbergen Bible. In Latin, illuminated manuscript on vellum [Southern Netherlands, late 12th century]. £700,000–1,000,000
    Christie’s, Explore now : Jean de Courcy (fl. 1420). The Chronique de la Bouquechardiere. In French, illuminated manuscript on vellum [Paris, c.1480]. £200,000–300,000
    Christie’s, Explore now: The ‘Catherine de Medici’ Hours. In Latin and French, illuminated manuscript on vellum [Paris, c.1485]. £120,000–180,000
  • Forum Auctions
    Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper
    30th May 2024
    Forum, May 30: Potter (Beatrix). Complete set of four original illustrations for the nursery rhyme, 'This pig went to market', 1890s. £60,000 to £80,000.
    Forum, May 30: Dante Alighieri.- Lactantius (Lucius Coelius Firmianus). Opera, second edition, Rome, 1468. £40,000 to £60,000.
    Forum, May 30: Distilling.- Brunschwig (Hieronymus). Liber de arte Distillandi de Compositis, first edition of the so-called 'Grosses Destillierbuch', Strassburg, 1512. £22,000 to £28,000.
    Forum, May 30: Eliot (T.S.), W. H. Auden, Ted Hughes, Philip Larkin, Robert Lowell, Seamus Heaney, Ted Hughes, & others. A Personal Anthology for Eric Walter White, 60 autograph poems. £20,000 to £30,000.
    Forum, May 30: Cornerstone of French Enlightenment Philosophy.- Helvetius (Claude Adrien). De l'Esprit, true first issue "A" of the suppressed first edition, Paris, 1758. £20,000 to £30,000.
    Forum Auctions
    Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper
    30th May 2024
    Forum, May 30: Szyk (Arthur). The Haggadah, one of 125 copies, this out-of-series, Beaconsfield Press, 1940. £15,000 to £20,000.
    Forum, May 30: Fleming (Ian). Casino Royale, first edition, first impression, 1953. £15,000 to £20,000.
    Forum, May 30: Japan.- Ryusui (Katsuma). Umi no Sachi [Wealth of the Sea], 2 vol., Tokyo, 1762. £8,000 to £12,000.
    Forum, May 30: Computing.- Operating and maintenance manual for the BINAC binary automatic computer built for Northrop Aircraft Corporation 1949, Philadelphia, 1949. £8,000 to £12,000.
    Forum, May 30: Burmese School (probably circa 1870s). Folding manuscript, or parabaik, from the Court Workshop at the Royal Court at Manadaly, Burma, [c.1870s]. £8,000 to £12,000.

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