Posted on April 25, 2019 @ 08:12:00 AM by Paul Meagher
Normally, I simply buy books because I want to read the books. I've never really thought about buying a book as a financial investment. I recently purchased a book for my wife's birthday that I knew she would like but it was no longer in print and copies were hard to come by. I did manage to secure a copy for $120 on Amazon but after the expected delivery date arrived and there was no book I contacted the seller who quickly accepted the fact that it was lost and offered to source another one or refund me. I was refunded the next day with an explanation that they couldn't source another one. I suspect the book seller realized s/he could get more for the book and played a little charade with me that it somehow got lost in transit. No tracking numbers were ever issued. When I initially purchased the book on Amazon, the price for the book immediately jumped to around $200 because that was the price the other sellers were offering for their copies. Some sellers listed as high as around $500. I did eventually source another copy of the book for around my original price. Now I cannot find any copies on Amazon which makes me wonder what price I might be able to put on it as an Amazon seller if I wanted to sell.
The co-author of the book, Timothy Asch, was trained in photography by Ansel Adams and includes beautiful black and white photos of what local life was like in 1952.
Timothy Asch later became a leading visual anthropologist and preferred to use film more in his later documentation of other cultures. I learned over the weekend from one of the people he took photos of that there were only made 500 copies made of the book I purchased. So the value of the book is attributable to its rarity, the reputation of the author, and unique content it contains that university departments and local residents would be eager to have.
Another book that I wanted to purchase at one time was an autobiography by Permaculture founder Bill Mollison.
The lowest price of this paperback book on Amazon is currently around $800 !
Again I suspect there is only a limited number of copies of this book. Bill Mollison founded the publishing company Tagari which does not sell this book anymore. The rarity of the book coupled with the number of admirers of his work means you can ask a high price for this book.
If I decided to get into book investing in a more serious way one strategy I might use would be to corner the market on a book. If there was a book that I thought was rare and desirable with only a limited number of copies available for sale I might buy all the available copies within a price range so that I can exert more control over the price and availability. I have no experience in deploying this strategy so can't tell you whether it would be successful or not.
Like any investing you have to be good at valuation and not let your biases get in the way. It would require more research into the fine points of book investing on my part before I went from reading books to investing in them. There are lots of people who make money selling used books and this is probably only one of many strategies they might use.