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Another Amazon Outgrowth: The Penny Pinchers

It is no secret that Amazon and has single-handedly corrupted the entire bookselling industry.

We have lost 50% of our open bookshops since the birth of online bookselling
and it almost impossible for the 50% who are left to be price competitive.

Interestingly enough, while the number of open bookshops have been cut in half the amount of people calling themselves booksellers has skyrocketed.

Within this tornado little cottage industries have popped up trying to capitalize on the Amazon effect.

There is the whole Scoutpal culture where a PDA device and the Amazon database combine to remove much of human element from handling and pricing books, “Bookscouting with Scoutpal is like hunting with radar” is how they sum it up on their homepage.

This same technology has revolutionized the thrift store industry as well. The book departments are an ever increasing source of revenue for these charities. I recently visited the new book operation at the Goodwill here in Seattle and witnessed a literal book factory where over 100 orders a day are being processed from online sales channels.

Then there is the used book industry and how almost all the major inventory software programs for booksellers are tied to Amazon’s database for bibliographic information. The problem is that many times the information is not correct and ends up polluting the marketplace.

The other significant Amazon induced consequence has been the downward price pressure on the price of books. In many instances they have plummeted.

There are now a whole new breed of penny pinchers, legions of “sellers” offering thousands of books for a penny apiece. A penny! How can they survive? The answer – $3.99.
That’s the shipping fee that Amazon charges the buyer and reimburses the seller. For the average paperback that is an easy $1-$2 profit for the seller.

And out of the depths of this apparition comes Pretty Penny Books, a website that gathers all the penny books being offered on Amazon. They are currently listing over 300,000 books. You can also subscribe to specific subjects via an RSS feed “so you can get immediate notification when books that might interest you become available.”
They also offer you these words of encouragement:
“Please remember to support these one penny books sellers! They don’t make a whole lot of profit on these books, so be nice and leave great feedback.”

I never thought I would live to see the day where the term profit was associated with something priced a penny.

We can only go up from here.

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