18 November 2007

Goddam, Goddam the Relister Man

Lady With a Mead Cup: Ritual Prophecy and Lordship in the European Warband from La Tene to the Viking Age.  (ISBN: 1851821880)

FOUR COURTS PRESS, 1996. Published by FOUR COURTS PRESS in 1996. Hardback with Dust jacket. Condition: Very Good. May show some wear.
Price: £ 812.50 ($1665)

Lady With a Mead Cup: Ritual Prophecy and Lordship in the European Warband from La Tene to the Viking Age (Hardcover)
by Michael J. Enright (Author)

FOUR COURTS PRESS, 1996. Published by FOUR COURTS PRESS in 1996. Hardback with Dust jacket. Condition: Very Good. May show some wear.
CDN$ 2,961.75 (£1480)

The above is a daft web price for a book from the Irish academic press Four Courts. It mainly concerns barbarian drinking rituals. The book has been on sale for about a year. It sits with a genuine seller at £812.50 and is also being 'offered' by a 'Relister' at a grotesque £1480. I have tried in quiet reflection to work out how a person who is probably otherwise a pleasant individual, not giving to chewing carpets or shouting at bus queues, could come up with £800+ for a recently out of print insubstantial and slightly obscure academic book. A book that the author himself has stated is not worth more than $200 and where the publisher has announced a reprint at any moment. It dawned on me that this is how it came about.

The book goes out of print and copies start appearing at about £300 and actually sell. About a year ago there were copies on Amazon at $300 to $500. While they are still around a RELISTER (the villain of the piece) relists the genuine copies at £900 (under a thousand they tend to treble up, over that a near double is attempted.) He does not own the book but if lucky enough to get an order will buy the £300 copy and pocket the difference. Meanwhile a slightly dim bookseller flown with greed and ignorance gets a genuine copy and sees the £900 price and not realising that it's a relister's price puts £800 on his copy. All cheaper copies sell, the £900 pragmatic relister now has only the £800 one to sell if he gets an order, a crap profit and risky to boot, so he now relists at £1400 - an almost certifiable price that only a rich, stupid and desperate person obsessed by La Tene and barbarian drinking rituals would pay. Not a lot of people fit all four categories. Note the exact same description and the not even bothering to describe condition - 'may show some wear' - for £800 one might expect a conscientious condition report, even a scholarly puff and some unctuous remarks like 'possibly the finest work on the European Warband etc.,'

This process happens all the time and explains many an outrageous price on the web. One might call these 'ghost prices.' They are trace reflections of real books that have sold in the past. Against these prices dealers who genuinely acquire this title, and have their greed firmly in check, probably get a fast £300 but the monumental prices are very, very rarely achieved. People are simply not that stupid. Relisters list hundreds of thousands of books on many sites and wait for some poor bastard to come along and order at their inflated price and then they (the relister) buy the book from a dealer or the publisher who has it at a fraction of theirs. I doubt it's the kind of business that gets you a Porsche but it is legal and requires absolutely no books. Avoid these people like the plague! But as they say in France Je m'en fous -polite translation 'I've said my bit and I'm out of here.' Here is the publisher's own listing (a reprint is scheduled for this year at a cheerful £76.50--- schadenfreude all round! ).
'Lady with a Mead Cup is a broad-ranging, innovative and strikingly original study of the early medieval barbarian cup-offering ritual and its social, institutional and religious significance. Medievalists are familiar with the image of a queen offering a drink to a king or chieftain and to his retainers, the Wealhtheow scene in Beowulf being perhaps the most famous instance.
Drawing on archaeology, anthropology and philology, as well as medieval history, Professor Enright has produced the first work in English on the warband and on the significance of barbarian drinking rituals.'


R.E. Lister said...

I'm glad someone has highlighted this awful practice. I'm sick of relisters books clogging up my search results.

Jindy said...

Crazy. All glories to you Sir Bookseller for shining a light on these scallywags.

Anonymous said...

Excellent description of how book prices online can become ridiculous. Today, I came across a similar phenomenon: First: I saw a copy of "The Great Gatsby" online for $100. So, I emailed the seller to ask if it was one of the reprints from the 1950's. The seller responded with "yes, 1953"... (which, by the way, means the book is only worth about $15 [not $100]). Next, a funny thing happened: I rechecked the listing only to find the the price had been changed... to $1000!!... just another example of how the prices can go mad, for no good reason.