Looking for needlepoint books on Amazon can be a frustrating business. It can also be expensive if you don’t understand how they work and how the used book business works. I’ve sold and bought many books on Amazon and many other marketplaces. As a result I’ve learned and I want to share what I’ve learned with you.
Buying New Books
If you are looking for a new needlepoint book, you can be frustrated if you can’t find it on Amazon. That’s for a very simple reason, if you don’t have an ISBN, Amazon (as well as regular bookstores) can’t really sell it. ISBN numbers are like UPC codes on products, they allow the seller to order the item and track the inventory.
In our industry, needlepoint, codes are not required. As a result books without ISBN codes can and are sold in needlepoint shops.
Unless a book has an ISBN don’t expect to find it on Amazon.
When a book is published, the publisher, or author for self-published books, sets the retail price. This is always a suggested price. Just like any other reseller Amazon can set their price to you wherever they want. I might say my book is $25, but if Amazon wants to sell it for $5 or $50, they can. I cannot do anything about it.
That’s why you can often buy books cheaply on Amazon.
The Used Book Market
There are lots of people who specialize in buying and selling used books. Although most sellers of these are general sellers, there are specialists who sell only books in a particular market. When used books come to the seller, two things are assigned to it: a condition and a price.
You have probably seen conditions in descriptions of used books. They are words and phrases such as “Like new” or “acceptable.” These are subjective and there is no general agreement as to what each means. A book that is “very good” to me because I don’t care that the cover is torn or that it has some notes, might only be “acceptable” to you.
Once evaluated the seller then assigns a price. Lots of things go into this pricing and often these prices can be way out of whack from what we would assign it. That’s because we know something about this industry where the bookseller has no idea.
If you are looking for used books you need to be aware of relative values for the book and what kind of condition you are willing to live with. As a consumer and as a librarian, I have processed and bought thousands of used books. I have only been burned once. I bought a book on eBay that reeked of smoke. However I know many people who have been burned multiple times buying used books.
This is why you should always be careful buying used books.
Buying Used Books on Amazon
When it comes to used books Amazon is just like other marketplaces. Sellers add books to Amazon’s inventory and set condition and price based on their knowledge. Amazon does not require ISBNs for used books nor does it check your description. It works on the honor system, assuming that you are honest in how you describe your books.
Amazon is the conduit, the seller is the one responsible for everything,including pricing or shipping. This is true unless it is sold by Amazon or “fulfilled by Amazon.”
What they do is pay the seller the money for the sale plus a set amount for shipping. They will also ask you if you want to match or exceed the lowest current price. That can be great when you want to get rid of something quickly.
That means prices on Amazon can vary wildly. A Goodwill might sell a book for 1 cent plus shipping. But another bookseller might think that because he cannot find the book in any reference books that it “rare” and therefore quite valuable and priced accordingly.
I have also noticed that for many needlework books on Amazon have what I call “rogue listings.” These are listings for books, sometimes new and sometimes used that are off other prices by huge amounts, sometimes by a factor of ten.
I don’t know where these prices come from or who these sellers are. I do know as an author that I can complain to Amazon about these listings. Amazon investigates and has always removed them.
Although some would like you to think so, this does not make Amazon bad. They have nothing to do with prices of used books! To advise others avoid them because one book is priced outrageously is not responsible to our art. Choosing to buy from other sellers, and not from third party sellers through Amazon is a choice you should make based on other factors beyond the fact that the seller chooses to sell through a=Amazon.
What You Can Do
- Know the price of used books you want. Look at the prices for this book on eBay, at specialist resellers, as well as other markets.
- Know how hard the book is to find. Expect to pay more for harder to find books. Copies of a popular book will be more common and cost less than a great but harder-to-find books.
- Seek out books from less-common sources. Library sales and guild auctions are outstanding for great cheap books.
Always, always beware! Know what you are buying and how much you should pay.
About Janet M Perry
Janet Perry is the Internet's leading authority on needlepoint. She designs, teaches and writes, getting raves from her fans for her innovative techniques, extensive knowledge and generous teaching style. A leading writer of stitch guides, she blogs here and lives on an island in the northeast corner of the SF Bay with her family
Liz Williams says
Thanks for the info. It has let me know that I am doing it Right!
Diane Roberts says
Well the buying and selling of needlepoint books brought a question to my mind. i have a relatively new oak roll frame that I would like to sell and have no idea how to do it. Craigs List isn’t quite the market for that I fear, and I’ve never seen anything like a bulletin board selling things at a local needlepoint shop. I suppose that it’s competition.. How does one buy and sell used things like frames?
Janet M Perry says
The best choices for this are either to sell through the Facebook groups that sell needlework items, there are several with varying rules. You could also sell it yourself on eBay to Etsy (eBay is better for frames), or give it to a needlework consigner to sell for you. There are several of these. There are several posts here to help you with this process:
Keep stitching, Janet
Diane Roberts says
Thanks a bunch. !! It’s so obvious once you mentioned eBay and Etsy.
P.J. Crone says
I used to buy books on Amazon when I was a librarian for a local group and our dollar was more equitable. Some time later I looked for some books on Amazon and I was referred to various sellers.
This meant I would have to pay postage which is quite high for each item unless I could source them all from the same seller. No more Amazon for me.
Pam in Australia