By Tamiru Ayele
I read a confounding piece by Meshesha Mekonnen (PhD) about an offprint book that seems to be way overpriced. Dr. Mekonnen even congratulated the author, Tecola Hagos, for having written a book which can fetch $2585.85 a copy. “Congratulations Prof. Tecola Hagos, what a remarkable accomplishment! Your book was priced for $2,585.58 per copy – I hope you got to reap some of these financial benefits,” Dr. Mekonnen wrote.
While I appreciate the doctor’s effort to draw our attention to a book written in 1999 but has since been a vintage college, he seems to miss the small print and some details that could have made his article more informative and complete.
Most books that are likely to be overpriced beyond the real value are most likely out of print or ancient. It is just simply a case of demand and supply. The fact that Mr. Hagos’ book, Demystifying Political Thought, Power, and Economic Development: A Guest Lecture at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, Khepera, 1999, is overpriced cannot be good news for the author. Given the fact that the book was published a decade and half ago but has been priced like an antique shows something that Mr. Mekonnen missed. One can easily figure out that the book was published in limited numbers. If there is a huge interest for the book, as Dr. Mekonnen assumed the publishers would have reprinted the book, which would be more beneficial to the author than the arbitrary price of rare book sellers.
If Dr. Mekonnen had done more research, he would also have found one important fact that rare books, which the author wrote when he was an official of the TPLF-led regime, pricing is arbitrary. In fact, the book in question can illustrate this reality.
The seller which listed the price of the antique book at $2585.85 on Amazon is Thrift Books. The same seller has set the price at $787.81 Barnes & Noble. Mind you, there price difference , even if the seller is the same, is $1798.07. What is even more interesting is another fact that I have just discovered. The very seller that has outrageously priced the book on Amazon and Barnes & Noble has offered the same book on Abebooks for $88.59. In each case, Thrift Books has indicated that it has only one single copy. The price difference between the offer on Amazon and Abebooks is almost $2500.
It seems to me that there is something wrong with Thrift Book price setters that seem so arbitrary that the prices for the same book on the three online book markets are not based on supply and demand.
Whatever the case, if any vintage book collector is really desperate to have a copy of this book, which doesn’t seem to be reprinted anymore, they can buy it from Abebooks for the much more affordable price of on AbeBooks. The buyer’s, whoever they may be will immediately save $2500 or make a profit in that margin, if there is such a staggering demand for a copy. But Thrift Books needs to recheck its price tags than pricing the same book in the range of $88 to $2586. It is quite obviously absurd.
In any case, I hope my humble contribution has somehow stabilized the price of a book that Dr. Mekonnen says is in huge demand.
By Tamiru Ayele