Amazon arbitrage of the day

By Felix Salmon
August 20, 2009

One of the best travel books ever written (indeed, one of my favorite books, period, ever) is The Surprise of Cremona by Edith Templeton. Unfortunately, it’s not easy to find: your best bet is to track down the 2003 Pallas Athene paperback with an introduction by Anita Brookner.

If you go to the Amazon page for that book, you’ll find there are “7 new” copies for sale. The cheapest is $20; the most expensive is $166.18. Woody’s Books, for instance, is selling the book for $27.50 — plus a $125.79 “sourcing fee”, plus $3.99 shipping from New Jersey — $157.28 in all.

On the other hand, if you check the book out on Amazon.co.uk, you’ll find “6 new” copies for sale, including Woody’s UK, which will sell you the book for £12.99, plus a sourcing fee of just £0.01. Shipping, to the US, is £3.08, for a total of £16.08, or about $26.51 in dollars — less than the sticker price on the US book before the massive sourcing fee. And yes, the book is still shipped from New Jersey.

In other words, the same book, from the same US-based seller, being shipped to the same US address, costs either $26.51 if you buy it on Amazon.co.uk, or $157.28 — pretty much six times as much — if you buy it on Amazon.com. There might be a good reason why Woody’s is doing this. But I don’t think it reflects particularly well on Amazon.

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