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The Book Market Monitor – 2017 Edition

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**last updated April 30, 2017 – check back later for a May update**


February update:  The overall supply of used books dropped dramatically in February as existing sellers shed nearly a third of their existing inventory and some sellers quit altogether.   For used books with a sales rank under 1 million, the market lost 29% of its existing inventory from an average of 40.5 offers per listing in January down to 28.9 offers in February.  For used books with a sales rank under 5 million, the market saw 34% of its inventory disappear completely (26.2 offers down to 17.2 offers).  This means that for books ranked under 5 million, roughly 44.8 million books were removed from the market altogether!

The principles of economics held true as the market prices increased thanks to the decrease in supply.   The median price for a used book (with a rank under 1 million) increased by $1.88, from $6.96 in January to $8.84 in February.  For more detailed metrics, check out the charts below.

March update:  The supply of books in the marketplace leveled off in March, but the median and average used prices continued to rise as the market is still correcting and sellers are removing their lowest-priced books that they would be selling at a loss (i.e. under $5 for MF sellers, under $6 for FBA sellers).  The largest changes in the market were in these cheaper books.  In January, 33% of all books ranked under a million had sales prices of $4.00 or less (including shipping).  In March, only 3% of books are still for sale for $4.00 or less, and those won’t be there for long!  We are seeing signs of an efficient market here.  From a supply side, the market has corrected quickly and even with the new fees in play, higher overall prices mean that sellers shouldn’t see much of a difference in their net profits.  What remains to be seen is the demand side of the equation.  As the floor price for MF books seems to be $5.99 plus free shipping now, will fewer customers buy books on Amazon compared to the number of buyers who purchased $4.00 books?  Other eCommerce sites may be able to win over some of Amazon’s loyal customers, or perhaps customers will start to look for used books in their local markets at $2-3 price points.  Only time will tell!

April update:  The market has reached its equilibrium point as sellers appear to be cautiously coming back to the marketplace.  The number of offers is climbing slightly and as a result the average and median prices are coming back down a bit.  April is usually a slow month for booksellers, so we’ll see what happens as the mini-textbook rush in May occurs due to summer college classes.  Additionally, the floor price of $5.99 for MF sellers had been established in March, but the megasellers are starting to come down from that price a bit.  If they target the same profit levels as before the new fees, I would anticipate a new floor price in the $5.20 – $5.30 range.

How will the market continue to react to the new fees in 2017?  Check back monthly as we’ll be updating this post regularly.


The Results:  We sub-divided our analysis into two categories – volume and price.  Volume metrics will reveal whether sellers are entering or exiting the market, and price metrics will help us visualize how the fee increases will impact the overall market.  Will the opportunities to find and flip profitable books be better, worse, or remain unchanged?  Let’s find out!

Volume Metrics:

For all books with a rank currently under one million, here are the average number of offers per listing for both used and new books:
Screen Shot 2017-05-03 at 9.29.10 AMOf note – starting in March, Amazon will begin allowing third party sellers to compete for the Buy Box with new books.  However, Amazon recently began cracking down on newer sellers who were listing new books without receipts from the publisher.  It’ll be interesting to watch whether the trend of new offers per book increases or decreases over the next few months.

Here is the percentage of listings where Amazon is on the listing:Screen Shot 2017-05-03 at 9.30.10 AMAs you can see, Amazon relies on third party sellers to provide nearly a third of all titles to their buyers.  (Perhaps this is why they are referred to as “third” party sellers??)  Many of you have noticed that Amazon is slashing their prices on their new book offers.  This is merely a hunch on my part, but I would guess that they are getting out of the inventory-owning business and are going to purposely sell out of their stock and then rely on third party sellers to provide Amazon’s customers with new inventory.  Even though they’re cracking down on booksellers selling new books, I believe they are content to collect the fees from their sellers without the risk of actually owning the inventory.  Conspiracy theory?  Perhaps!  (April update – looks like Amazon may be getting back into the game… so much for that theory!)

Price Metrics:

We can learn a lot by looking at the average prices on Amazon.  This chart shows the average of the lowest offer available, including shipping.  A penny book with $3.99 shipping would show up as $4.00 in this analysis.  If the lowest offer available is from a Prime seller, we are assuming shipping would be free.Screen Shot 2017-05-03 at 9.31.26 AMUsing price averages can be misleading, especially when outliers exist where the lowest used offers start at more than a thousand bucks (these are usually the result of repricing software gone haywire – don’t quit your day job just yet!).  To give a more realistic overview, statisticians typically rely on the median price instead, which is the price smack dab in the middle of all of the offers.

Here’s a look at the median used prices:Screen Shot 2017-05-03 at 9.32.14 AMNow let’s go one level deeper and break down the percentages of books where the lowest used offer is less than $10.  We can call these “The Duds”.  Keep in mind that these prices reflect the TOTAL price, including shipping.  A $1.00 book plus $3.99 in shipping would be considered a $4.99 book in this analysis.Screen Shot 2017-05-03 at 9.32.56 AMIn January, one third of all books ranked less than a million had at least one “penny” offer ($0.01 plus $3.99 shipping).  As the new fees were implemented, those offers quickly “shifted” two dollars to the right, and now one third of books are at $6 or less.  There are still a few stragglers in the $4 range, so if you happen to want any of those titles for your own collection, snag them soon because we won’t be seeing prices that cheap on Amazon for the foreseeable future!

Here is the breakdown of books where the lowest used offer is higher than $10:Screen Shot 2017-05-03 at 9.33.42 AMAccording to the data, you have a 1-in-5 chance of scanning a book where the lowest used price is higher than $20, and you have a 1-in-20 chance of scanning a book where the lowest used price is higher than $50.  Why, then, does it seem like your odds of success in a thrift store aren’t nearly this good?  Three primary reasons come to mind:

  1. The thrift store may sell their books online, and remove most of the good titles before placing them on the shelves.
  2. Thrift stores typically set out only a small percentage of their donated books and recycle (or discard) the rest. Many of the books that sell well in thrift stores typically have no value online (think romance novels and fiction titles here).  And sadly, many thrift stores simply discard their textbooks because they assume no one would actually buy college titles in a thrift store environment.  It can pay off big time to have a conversation with a store manager to learn more about what they do with their books.
  3. Lastly, the proportion of books available for sale are never going to exactly mimic the distribution of books on Amazon. Niche, non-fiction titles typically have much smaller print runs than mass market fiction titles.  As such, your odds of finding penny books at your local thrift store may be higher than 1-in-3, simply because there are many more of these books in existence.

As we get further into 2017, be sure to check back here regularly for market updates.  This data will keep you informed as to how the market ebbs and flows.  When you rely on your instincts, you may trick yourself into believing that the market is better or worse than it actually is.  Of course, your local market may change as new scouters enter the market and compete for your town’s limited resources.  Or perhaps your thrift stores may begin to sell their own books online.  This market analysis will help you understand how the book market – at a macro level – is changing over time.

Do you have questions about the analysis, or have other data points you’d like for me to include in future reports?  Do you agree with the data, or vehemently disagree?  Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

**If you found this article helpful, please take a moment to share it.**

(For those who are seeing this post for the first time, here is the back story.)

Back Story:  2017 is shaping up to be a potentially bumpy ride for book flippers.  Amazon introduced a few changes that will impact everyone’s profit margins.  As a result, some sellers are planning to quit selling altogether, while others are saying that the upcoming changes are no big deal.  Who’s right?  No one knows for certain what will happen to the market.  Instead of relying on a hunch or letting your emotions guide your decision making this year, why not let the market data speak for itself?  Throughout 2017, I plan to keep tabs on key market metrics in Amazon’s book market and report them here for all of you to see on a monthly basis.  Over time we’ll gain a better understanding of what’s happening at a macro level and can base our strategies and business decisions on concrete evidence, not our often-misguided sense of “feel”.

Any market’s economics can be distilled down to two variables: supply and demand.  If some booksellers follow through on their promises to exit the market, the reduction in supply should theoretically cause the book market’s prices to rise.  Of course, that’s assuming et ceteris paribus, or all other things being equal.  As some sellers exit, new entrants may take their place.  Existing sellers may ramp up their volume significantly and further add to the supply side of the equation, potentially driving prices down.  Repricing softwares may play a further role in harming (or possibly helping) the market prices of books.  Regardless of what happens to the supply of books in 2017, the demand side of the equation remains a rather large question mark.  Only time will tell – which is why it’s important to objectively monitor the book market over the next few months.

Before we have a look at the data, let’s set the stage with a bit of background info.

What’s Different in 2017:  Two major changes will kick in during the first quarter:

  • The end of the single unit exemption for Long Term Storage Fees (LTSF) – Media sellers will no longer skip out on paying LTSF when they have only one of a particular ISBN. Starting on February 15, LTSF will be incurred in the amount of roughly 30 cents and 60 cents for books that have been in an Amazon warehouse for at least 6 months and 12 months, respectively. For a medium-sized bookseller with 5,000 books in inventory, your total bill on February 15 could be in the ballpark of $1,000 – $3,000, depending on the age of your inventory.
  • Increased selling fees for both MF and FBA sellers – Starting on March 1, the average fees for Merchant Fulfilled sellers will increase about $1.00.  The average fees for FBA sellers will increase about $2.00 (read more about the fee increases in this post).  At face value, these fees will hurt FBA sellers more than their MF counterparts, but keep in mind FBA sellers still enjoy a higher average selling price compared to MF offers on the majority of their books.

Background on the Data Analysis:  For the purposes of our analysis, we will include all books with a sales rank currently less than one million.  My twin brother – who conveniently happens to have a PhD in mathematics – advised me that we could draw statistically significant conclusions from a sample size of only 200 titles, but using a figure closer to a million sounds much more impressive!  Plus, it will give sellers a better idea of the true nature of the entire market.  We’ve spent thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours assembling a massive database of ISBNs and tracking them regularly as the foundation for our eFLIP software, so we might as well put that data to good use here.  If we used a smaller sample set, the data could potentially be skewed if we included too many (or too few) textbooks in our analysis.  In addition, there are new books entering the market every week, and if our sample didn’t factor in these new titles, we could also potentially misrepresent the market as a whole.  Long-tail titles are also included in this analysis.  When a super high-ranked title sells a single copy, its rank will drop to around 150k and our algorithm will detect the sale and add it to the analysis.  Once its rank drifts north of a million again, we won’t include it in the monthly analysis unless it sells again at a future date.  In this manner, we’ll include nearly all of the regular sellers on Amazon and also include a solid subset of long-tail titles.  By avoiding books that haven’t sold in years, we are attempting to provide a more accurate representation of the true state of the used book market.

56 Comments

  1. Nice man! Glad to have you and your evil genius brother working hard on our behalf 🙂

  2. Nice job again my friend! Very interesting. One thing I believe, and in which I find great comfort is this – nothing that Amazon does will quench consumer’s demand for books. Sellers who adapt will find plenty of demand for their books!

  3. This rocks. Please keep it up. Just setting up a book selling business thanks to yours and a few others and it’s nerve-wracking with the changes happening seemingly daily. Love solid info instead of the usually speculation that occurs elsewhere!

  4. I will join with the others in thanking you for sharing the data. These changes are making it challenging to be profitable. Does anyone out there have any info about Merchant Fulfilled Sellers being able to offer free shipping on books, or is that just a rumor?

    • All media sellers with be able to offer free shipping as of March 1st. Amazon sent this e-mail to sellers on 11/9/16. Changes are for MF sellers and effective March 1, 2017.

      Dear Seller,

      We are making three important changes for sellers who sell Media products on the Amazon Marketplace on Amazon.com:

      1. Sellers will be able to offer free shipping and set their own shipping prices on Books, Music, Video, and DVD products.

      Effective March 1, 2017, you will be able to set your own shipping prices for Standard delivery and set different shipping prices by region for Expedited, Two-Day, or International delivery. Your current shipping settings and shipping prices will be retained when the new capability launches on March 1. Beginning on that date, you can adjust your shipping prices for Books, Music, Video, and DVD products using Shipping Settings.

      2. Sellers will be able to compete for the Buy Box for Books in new condition.

      Starting in late Q1 2017, eligible sellers will be able to compete for the Buy Box for Books in new condition. The Buy Box is the display on the product detail page with the Add to Cart button that customers can use to add items to their shopping carts. When one of your listed items appears as the default on the product detail page, you win the Buy Box, which can increase your chances of selling that item. To compete for the Buy Box, both your selling account and your listed item must be eligible. Becoming eligible to compete for the Buy Box doesn’t guarantee that you will win it (https://sellercentral.amazon.com/gp/help/200418100). You can increase your chances by pricing your items competitively, offering Prime and free shipping, providing great customer service, and keeping stock available (https://sellercentral.amazon.com/gp/help/201687550).

      3. Changes to Selling on Amazon fees.

      We will be making two changes to how Selling on Amazon fees are charged for Media products (including Books, Music, Video, DVD, Software, and Video Games). These fee changes will not take effect until March 1, 2017, to give you time to plan accordingly.

      1) Variable Closing Fees (VCF): The VCF charge in Media product categories (Books, Music, Video, DVD, Software, and Video Games) will increase to $1.80 from $1.35 per item. This charge will appear as a Closing Fee (CF) instead of as a VCF to avoid confusion, as it will be a fixed fee rate and not variable.

      2) Referral fees: Currently, the referral fee for Media products is an applicable percentage of an item’s sales price (excluding any shipping or gift wrap charges). Effective March 1, 2017, the referral fee will instead be calculated on the total sales price (the total amount paid by the customer, including the item price and any shipping or gift wrap charges), as follows:

      Current Fees

      * Books, Music, Video, DVD, Software, Video Games (non-console): VCF – $1.35 per item; referral fee – 15% of the item price
      * Video Game Consoles: VCF – $1.35 per item; referral fee – 8% of the item price

      New Fees

      * Books, Music, Video, DVD, Software, Video Games (non-console): CF – $1.80 per item; referral fee – 15% of the total sales price
      * Video Game Consoles: CF – $1.80 per item; referral fee – 8% of the total sales price

      For additional information on Selling Fees, please see the Selling on Amazon Fee Schedule, https://sellercentral.amazon.com/gp/help/200336920

      Regards,
      Amazon Services

    • Yes, it will happen in late Q1 (late March) and it shouldn’t really compete with Prime offers since it won’t be free 2-day shipping, and buyers still won’t get to work with Amazon’s customer service.

  5. This is great information! Thanks for all your hard work. It will certainly be interesting to see how everything plays out.

  6. You mentioned you priced long tail books in the past with lowest MF. How will the change affect your pricing and sending these books in going forward. Since MF can potentially offer free shipping. Which will result in you losing $4 in profit just to price match. With the new fees and long term storage fees. It may be cheaper to just mf them yourself…

    • Hi Jay – I do price my long-tail books based on the lowest MF, but it’s important to note that I don’t exactly match the lowest MF. I price a small percentage higher than the lowest MF, so as to not incite a race to the bottom. Prime buyers will easily pay a small premium for FBA, I’m just not banking on them paying a huge premium if there’s only a sale or two each year on that particular title. And when I price based on the MF offer, I use “landed price”, which includes their shipping charges, if applicable. And MF sellers will still have to pay for the shipping costs on their own, even if they offer free shipping, so the overall prices will still reflect all the costs. If I sold a $20 MF book vs. a $23 FBA book, I may make a small marginal profit if I sold it MF, but I have no plans to do so. I plan to spend 10-12 weeks away from home in 2017, so MF doesn’t fit my lifestyle design. If you have space and don’t mind shipping your own books, then MF may make sense in a few instances.

  7. Thanks for all the great info! Quick question…how do you think these Amazon changes are going to impact selling ‘heavy’ textbooks via FBA? I always enjoyed scouting for good, profitable textbooks, and sales were always up at the beginning of each semester. But…there are some that don’t sell for some reason (even though the selection is current, great condition, etc). Now with the new storage fees for heavier books, I am thinking maybe I should just steer away from textbooks. Ideas?? Maybe there is a better way to sell textbooks?? Thanks again.

    • Heavier textbooks will incur more charges, but not enough to offset all of your profits on a $25+ book. If you’re trying to move older editions that have other Prime offers selling for around $10, that’s probably not a good candidate for FBA on a 7 pound book.

  8. Always appreciate that there is someone out there that is always trying to figure things out for the rest of us and i really appreciate that about you!

    Thank you always Caleb!

  9. How will we get billed for these long term storage fee? I guess Im better to have them destroy mine. Most are falling under the long term storage now.

    • Amazon has your bank account info on file – they’ll simply charge you and extract the funds if a deficit shows up. If the books still have good ranks and competitive prices, don’t let a few fees deter you from keeping them around.

  10. I pretty much increased my prices (I sell FBA only) matching your chart findings. This is a crappy month for my sales anyway, but overall book sales have dropped significantly. In the past, I was averaging reserves of 4-7 books/day w/most fulfilled sooner or later. Now, I am seeing 0-2 books/day reserved, a substantial drop. I am about 50-50 on whether the Amz price changes were due to increased costs or Amz simply wants to get out of the used book business, except maybe textbooks? Amz can still sell the newbies at whatever markup they need and have lots of warehouse space cleared for new goodies that come along. I have my settings on automatic return of books before LTSF kicks in. When they arrive I will either offer MF or move on to Half.com or some of each. Books are very profitable for me, mostly gleaned (much more selectively now!) from garage/yard sales every weekend. I guess it was too good to be true! Thanks for providing the space for my venting!

    • Hey Larry, the increased fees were likely just a way to (a) match fees in other categories and (b) help to free up room in the overcrowded warehouses. Amazon started with books, and is by far the market leader in selling used books. They aren’t getting out of that business anytime soon! I see them pushing the liability onto third party sellers and increasing their own margins in the process. I could see Amazon getting away from stocking as many new books under their own name, and push that responsibility onto sellers where Amazon has zero dollars tied up in inventory. Time will tell, but so far the market has responded well to the new fees as supply has dropped by nearly a third and the used prices are rising up to factor in the new fees.

  11. Thanks Caleb, You are the best as always. I am not overly concerned as I sell textbooks or other high dollar books only. But I am watching (with your help) to see how it all falls out. Since I acquire just about all my inventory online, I did see a glimmer of opportunity in your write up. If sellers are allowed to set their own shipping prices I am guessing that us online buyers will find a few more gems out there with shipping prices being a little lower here and there. Just a guess on my part. I could be wrong.

    • Overall prices will go up to factor in the new fees (roughly $1 for MF books, $2 for FBA books). As long as more people desire Prime than there are sellers providing Prime books, the prices for Prime will be higher than for MF, and the Amazon to Amazon flips should continue to be profitable. So if Americans continue to be impatient and want instant gratification and great customer service, we’re still looking good 🙂

  12. Where did your figures and numbers come from

    • They came from our eFLIP database of 22+ million ISBNs. For the purposes of this analysis, we looked at every book in our database with a current sales rank under 1 million.

  13. It’s great to have guys like you take the time to provide us with great articles like this. Thank you Caleb for your service 🙂

  14. Nice work! I Look forward to your new data as it becomes available.

  15. Really fascinating stuff, Caleb. Thanks for doing this project.

    Another aspect of this is how the price increases on Amazon impact a physical used bookstore business model. I think they pave the way for greater profitability for those who sell out of a physical store. What are your thoughts?

    Also, flipping will become more expensive and require strict scrutiny of each buy. I still believe flipping has good legs though.

    Thanks again for the blog.

    • As the floor price moves from $4 for books ($0.01 plus $3.99 shipping) up to $5 or $6 (the new norm for now), that should give physical bookstores a slight advantage in that they can charge $3-5 per book and still be considerably cheaper than Amazon. Flipping may cost more for inventory, but as long as more people prefer Prime than there are sellers providing Prime books, the Amazon to Amazon flips will still be viable. I focus more on higher-priced books, so my strategy hasn’t changed much with these new fees. There will be fewer $4 books to snatch up, however.

  16. Caleb,
    In the last week as I listed my books and set pricing I have noticed a disturbing trend. Many of the FM listings are dominated by up to 15 listings all Free Shipping and all $5.99 or all $6.61. These listing are all from mega-sellers. Where did all of them come from and why have they appeared so suddenly. As I list almost exclusively on FBA I am not sure of the potential effect on my market. I am finding this trend on many of my books that would traditionally sell for $25 or more.

    • Hey Del – keep in mind that free shipping is NOT the same as Prime shipping. It’s not two days guaranteed delivery, and customers don’t get Amazon’s top-rate customer service. MF sellers are still not your competition. Amazon recently allowed MF sellers to set their own shipping rates, so it’s not surprising to see people offer free shipping. The floor prices have moved up from $4 to almost $6, so they are more expensive than they used to be, considering the new fees that were implemented.

      • I filter Free Shipping off the page, just as I do all Merchant offers when pricing against FBA offers. The difference is that whereas clicking on Free Shipping or Prime both used to yield the same results, now you have to click on Prime specifically so as to bring up only FBA offers. This assumes, of course, that all rentals have been filtered off the page.

  17. Caleb, here’s something I posted on a different forum a few weeks ago, but never received the first response. Maybe I’ll get some responses here: Here’s an interesting dilemma: First, it is said that the chances that your book will sell are much greater if you are on the first page of Prime/Used listings. Second, it is better for each individual seller–and the FBA marketplace as a whole–to avoid getting caught up in the “race to the bottom” where no one makes any money. However, it seems that these two points are oftentimes mutually exclusive. If a book is well priced somewhere in the top half of the first page, it only takes a few price plungers to move your listing to the bottom of the first page and then on to the second page. This appears to be a no win situation. Either you have to keep matching or staying in the mix of lower and lower prices in order to keep your listing on that all-important first page; or, you leave your price at an amount which will generate a good profit (the purpose of being in business in the first place), and watch your listing go to page two, three, etc. This doesn’t necessarily always mean FBA penny sellers, either. I’ve listed books for about $40 or more which were at the mid range of the first page, only to find in a few days a plethora of $10-20 offers appearing and filling up that first page, while mine had moved to the second page.

    • Hey Terry – I’m a firm believer in an Efficient Market, and if people aren’t making any profits on books if prices tank then they will eventually go out of business and the market will correct itself over time. I typically price within the lowest 5 FBA offers, and then hold my price for 3-6 months before letting a repricer take over from there. If you micro-manage your pricing on every single book, you’ll pull your hair out trying to keep up with an ever-changing market! The market will do what it wants, and the best any of us can do is to hold on for the ride as best as we can. The market doesn’t care whether you or I earn a profit. It is driven by the powers of supply and demand. If sellers race to the bottom to get the sale, you can either follow along and try to catch up (which none of us smaller players will be able to do thanks to mega-sellers that use their own proprietary repricing algorithms to continuously reprice), or look to differentiate your products by selling FBA, maintaining a high feedback score, and using your descriptions to stand out from the larger sellers who use boilerplate descriptions. Good luck to ya!

  18. I just found a serious problem with the way Amazon is calculating the FBA size tier. It has to do with the order the dimensions are entered. If the thickness is not last then a 6x9x.6 book that is entered as 6x.6×9 is classified as a large item rather than small. The FBA fee increases from 2.41 to 4.18. Check ASIN 0300066422.

    I have already found 14 of my skus that are not classified correctly out of about 30 I manually checked. I have thousands of sku’s in inventory. That means I could lose $1.77 on many sales. Think of the extra revenue that Amazon is receiving because of this programming error.

    I am posting to let other sellers know to start checking your smaller media items to make sure the FBA fees are calculated correctly.

    • I’ve always wondered whether or not that makes a difference. Fortunately, I always plugged in the measurement as width/length/thickness. Do you have any idea as to whether it matters about the width & length as to which one is entered first? Thanks.

    • Nice catch, Mark. I’ve heard a few sellers mentioning incorrect dimensions and/or weights lately. Hopefully enough sellers raise the issue often and Amazon will take notice. This could be a long road if they fix these one at a time. The problem is these are all crowd-sourced dimensions and sellers input them the first time a book is sent in as FBA. Many sellers just pick random dimensions and their carelessness means the rest of us ultimately pay the price. Thanks for sharing!

  19. HI Caleb, great info here. Can you comment for those of us who have been using the online arbitrage model for books as follows: Buying MF books on Amazon and reselling them on Amazon FBA….and should I also mention to make a decent profit! as well! 🙂

    Ron

  20. Great stuff as always. I am finally going to start using a repricer. Which one do you use?

  21. Great Job! Although amazon selling is a secondary income for me as my primary business makes money in my sleep, I believe in diversification in this future shock world of change. Amazon’s recent changes only verify this.

    As a successful network marketer, I see why so many fail in that industry–they have no respect for the math. No one takes a job without knowing their salary, but network marketers and Amazon sellers alike do the same thing. There was a Pollyanna mindset posted on many Facebook forums as people understand the leverage of online selling but few had realized the upcoming challenges of the Single ASIN exemption being removed and the increased Amazon fees . . . until they hit. Now the bitching is going on. Numbers don’t lie and if you ignore numbers, you are lying to yourself.

    Like any business, Amazon is here to make a profit. They care about that not their sellers. This isn’t a feel good venue but a tough business that requires tough decisions and those who are oblivious to the math are going to get crushed.

    The other factor is that there are any number of wholesale booksellers who have never read a book, have never even seen their own inventory because they have minimum wage outsourcers running their operation, and describe every book exactly the same because they have no clue about their inventory. Thus, you see these wholesale listings that say, “May or may not have a dust jacket, may or may not have the original media, may or may not be damaged, etc.” If they were car salesmen, you would see “May or may not have an engine.”

    In short, the wholesalers have reduced books to widgets and Amazon to a flea market. Thus, you have penny books and horrendous, meaningless descriptions.

    So I appreciate your work and attention to detail. Metrics are critical and I agree that the market has become volatile. Wholesalers who have used Amazon as their personal 1 up warehouse will now pay dearly for the privilege. A new order will emerge. Not sure if it will be good or bad but certainly different.

    The irony for me is that I know books and had run a large brick and mortar bookstore in the 90’s. Much has changed with online marketing. Knowing the points of issue is almost irrelevant today and First editions that were getting about $25 in the ’90’s have become penny seller fodder today.

    In short, the only way to win this game is to do exactly what you’re doing–the math. Books online have become widgets. The market dictates. Those who adapt will benefit as long as they are in sync with the metrics.

    I appreciate your effort because it certainly took a lot of work and is the most rational approach I’ve seen in pinpointing the dynamics of this business.

  22. Have been selling books less than a year and noticed that Amazon keeps going below my 9.99 minimum. Didn’t know if this was normal as out of stock books came back into stock or what. All I know is its frustrating to send in a $25 book and when it gets there it’s a $10 or less book and dead in the water unless I just want to break even or make $1-2.

    Also, so many sellers are putting new books at around $10 which leaves no room for profit in any other condition. If we could all just settle on a price when there are too many of that book like: Acc. 8.99; good 10.99; vg 12.99; ln 14.99 and new 16.99. Sure, that will happen.

    Anyhow, 1/3 of my FBA books are now at 9.99. Sure many were sent in when fess weren’t such a kick in the butt, but many were just sent in, and at higher prices.

    Have set 9.99 FBA minimum and 3.99+ as MF minimum. And stopped paying $1 for books until it all shakes out. .05-.25 is my limit for awhile.

  23. With Amazon lowering their prices for used books, doesn’t it logically cause all other prices, New and Used, to be lowered? Amazon sets the bar? I’ve noticed so many instances where Amazon lowers their price and leaves other sellers way out of price range to actually sell their book. So how do you see prices going higher since the fee increases and changes in shipping options?

    • Sorry, I meant “Amazon lowering their prices for NEW”, not used.

    • Based on my reading of this blog, Caleb thinks there is a chance Amazon is clearing out their new book inventory to make warehouse room for other stuff. They will let 3P sellers have the buy box and sell fewer books, themselves. In other words, Amazon’s price drops on new books are temporary. Maybe.

      • I think that might be wishful thinking. I’ve checked on several prices on books that I listed just a couple of weeks ago and I’ve checked on the number of that book Amazon has available. I don’t see any evidence that they are scaling down, it just seems that they reprice to undercut 3P sellers. I had a book (FBA) listed for $32.95, Like New that I listed 2 weeks ago which at the time was a competitive price. Now Amazon has reduced their New price to $28.99 and they have over 100 of them available. My Like New price doesn’t stand a chance unless I lower it or Amazon decides to raise their New price. I know from looking at CamelCamelCamel that Amazon prices change all the time, so maybe the best idea is just to leave my price where it is. So confusing! I can’t keep chasing Amazon’s prices on every book. I use a repricer but even so, it is difficult to know how low to go. The idea is to make a profit!!

  24. This was by far the best analysis I’ve seen for selling books in this industry. I’m on your mailing list so no need adding me.

    And there will be anomalies. For instance, I can’t fathom why I’ve seen such a critical loss of volume in March and April. I know the LTSF’s and Amazon’s price increases for FBA sellers have changed the whole dynamic here but I find that most of my titles are VG, scan below 1M, and I have excellent descriptions as a former brick-and-mortar bookseller who knows first editions and points of issue. I also find, ironically, that that means little on Amazon and much less than price and scanner realities. I find further irony in that selling books FBA is one business where you don’t have to know squat about your own inventory or even touch it. I am disgusted by big bulk sellers who describe every single book the same but let’s face it, we are selling widgets not books here so it’s simply a way for them to scale their workload.

    We used to get $25 for first editions of popular authors like Robert G. Parker in the 90’s. Now all those are going for less than $10 if you can compete with the bulk sellers and it’s probably a good idea to stay away from such books as you have highlighted above.

    I was seriously considering calling it quits here when the single ASIN exempion was rescinded and Amazon FBA fees went off the charts because Amazon is a secondary business for me as I have an incredible business that makes me money in my sleep without adding a dime to my monthly budget, but I also had realized many others would be doing that and economics is the study of scarcity–as massive numbers of people leave, the marketplace may radically change. I also wonder how bulk sellers will survive as their prices just went up along with all their fees and they are working on small margins.

    So it pays for me to stick around for awhile and watch. I just put in my first inbound shipment today since last July (I had stopped everything once I had heard rumors about the single ASIN exemption being taken out) and do believe in diversification. I had learned the hard way. In 1994, my bookstore made $750,000. We were going to open 5 stores. In 1996, the superstores came in and crushed us. You’ve Got Mail was my life. Ironically, Amazon had crushed them. So I diversify in this future shock world.

  25. Thanks for your story and perspective Mark! Always great to hear the different perspectives and experiences from booksellers, both online and brick & mortar.

    And you’re right- Caleb’s analysis is some of the best stuff out there right now!

  26. great reading your analysis, Caleb. Thank you for sharing it and I will be sure to keep on checking on it during 2017, as I plan to re-enter the book buying world after a year off.

  27. Still wondering how to deal with Amazon lowering prices to the point where it is not profitable to compete against them. Even having a repricer adjust prices, if Amazon lowers the NEW price, all of the used book prices need to be adjusted lower to compete. Any thoughts on this? Caleb? Where do you think this is going? At some point it is not worth having books listed that spiral down to nothing thanks to Amazon- and how to manage it?

  28. Caleb, I’d love to read a new update from you. The changes are occurring so fast now that even with this site’s yearly update schedule I think you’re going to need new posts at least once a month. Other sites like FBAMastery have made little of the LTSF but I believe that’s because they make their profit selling “how to sell books on Amazon” ebooks.

    It’s clear that the days of profitable bookselling on Amazon are over for most.

    When the changes occurred I upped my minimum to $11 and quickly saw that the profit just wasn’t there. Now I don’t sell any book under $15. Even that is kind of low. Amazon is just taking too much of the money now. I used to make a very good living with 4,000 longtail books in FBA, and now seeing the LTSF and the new transaction and weight fees increased so much, I’m having trouble keeping the business afloat.

    I used to add retail arbitrage to the mix, but I stopped that when Amazon began cracking down on it. I also felt that focusing purely on books was a better model. I’m good at it. I’m just unsure where to take this business now. as the $10 book was kind of a staple – they’re common, popular, and when you sell 10-20 of them a day it makes a good chunk of your income. When you have to remove them completely, and sales have been so slow, and LTSFs loom for everything, there’s cause for concern.

    I’ve switched to RepriceIt after your other posts, BTW. It seemed to help at first, but it has its limitations and I get the feeling they’re letting it coast without any active development. There are too many interesting and good features they could implement but aren’t. I am not sure developers are banking much on the Amazon Marketplace right now, either.

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