Belfast Books Blog
Out of print books are like freshly landed fish - their price can change daily, based on supply and demand.
If you've been to our shop you'll see that for the more expensive books, we scan them at the time of purchase to see what price sellers are asking at that exact second. Today, a customer saved himself £10 on a Doctor Who collectible book by us checking today's market price for a book he picked up in the shop and wanted to buy. We were delighted to tell him the good news and he went off, happy as a sand boy.
An extreme example of this price fluctuation is the seminal Troubles book 'Lost Lives' by McKittrick et al. The Amazon search page here shows all listings of Lost Lives currently on sale by third party sellers on Amazon.
For those book nerds out there who have a barcode scanner on their Christmas list, the real title of the tome in question is Lost Lives: The Stories of the Men, Women and Children Who Died as a Result of the Northern Ireland Troubles . It comes in hardcover, was first published in 1999, and last published in revised format in 2008 by Chris Thornton (Author), Seamus Kelters (Author), Brian Feeney (Author), David McKittrick (Author).
Unless you’re challenging your inner librarian, or doing the good old cut and paste from this blog post there’s no need to put the full title in to search on Amazon - as ‘Lost Lives McKittrick ‘ will do.
Around 18 months ago the second hand price for this book averaged £15, half of what it cost when new. Today, in its various Amazon listings, used sellers are asking between £115-£613 including UK delivery. Yes, nearly £500 difference for the same used book (in all its 25 different printings from 1999-2008).
The book itself is an important Troubles book, more because of the easily digestible information it holds on each death, rather than any political commentary. However, there is also a lacuna as big as a Laguna in that it was last published in revised format in 2008. For students of Troubles history, that means those who lost their lives since 'Lost Lives' was last printed aren't included in the print copies. So as a guide to people murdered in Northern Ireland by groups and individuals whose ‘craft’ was forged in the Troubles, ‘Lost Lives’ is silent after 2008, and for me that should push the value down, not up. It should also push the publishers to update and republish. I'll be speaking with them directly about that.
Personally I value all versions of Lost Lives at McKittrick it at in and around the £70-80 retail price bracket in VERY GOOD condition, which is the most popular grade of used books, especially hardbacks. For those of you holding signed copies I’d value it at up to £160 if signed by all four authors; and at £100 if signed by one; £120 by two; and £140 by only three authors. If you've a first edition, first printing you can add 50% to all those valuations.
Some of you might be surprised that at this stage I am not differentiating in value between the 25 different printings of 'Lost Lives'. Surely the most up to date editions must be the most sought after, and therefore the most valuable? Not necessarily as it all depends on how many books are out there in the marketplace of each edition. I'll speak with the publishers and see what print runs of each book were produced for what edition, and reserve the right to plus or minus individual editions.
I’ll also do a second piece on this Lost Lives saga when I'll look at who is selling copies of the book, how they have arrived at that pricing, and why. I’ll also share will you who might buy hyper price inflated used books, and why.
Subscribers to our mailing list here will get this first, so it might be a good idea to pop over and join that. A bit like Crimestoppers the Mailchimp powered list won’t ask for your name, but it will ask for your email.
Now there is a question.
Here's a simple answer, "sometimes to us", but first you need to read the following...
Gumtree Belfast has a books section, only people seem to think their books are made of gold, and because they are listed on Amazon as £14.87 used, they think that £13 cash is a fair price, totally neglecting that Amazon has a Sales Rank system, and used books that are priced that high are SLOOOOOOOWWWWWW movers, out of print stuff or something else. Phew, that was a long sentence.