Ethics and eBay Book Buying

J B Krygier jbkrygier at
Sun May 29 17:31:05 EDT 2005

On May 29, 2005, at 1:33 PM, rchrist5 at wrote:

> Here's a question, though, with regard to your above story––but with a 
> twist: A seller is selling a Don Quixote illustrated (in perfect 
> condition) with a $15 BUY IT NOW. ...what do you do as a knowledgeable 
> ML collector/buyer/seller. Do you let them know it is worth 
> considerably more? Do you offer the same "conscience" to a 
> seller––who, most on eBay are not professionals...

"Book-hunting is not only the art of spotting rarities, it is the art
of making bargains, as the hunter well knows.  When he drops on a find
his demeanour changes: he does not betray his luck by the slightest
facial movement as he handles the precious volume.  Should he think the
dealer is watching him, he will, provided that no other bibliophile is
hovering about, put down the book and turn to something else; and in a
little while he will take it up again with a nonchalant air, and giving
it a look of contempt as thought to indicate its worthlessness, he will
inquire the price; hesitate; haggle; until he finally secures for two-
pence, grudgingly tendered, what may be worth many pounds."

(Holbrook Jackson, "The Anatomy of Bibliomania," 1950, p. 458)

By far the grandest thrill in book collecting is the rarity found for
a bargain!

Book dealers also seek underpriced books to resell at a higher price -
sometimes significantly higher - if the antiquarian bookseller memoirs
I have read are any indication.

If there is an ethical problem with not letting a seller know they
have vastly underpriced a book, then many book sellers and buyers
(those on limited budgets, or those who enjoy getting a bargain as
much as the book itself) are in trouble.

John K.

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