BookThink Special Report


An Overview
of Historical Pricing Resources

by Craig Stark

26 January 2009

Three Resources at the Right Price

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Among booksellers, pricing is more often regarded as an art than a science. And yet never before in the history of bookselling have booksellers had such ready access to so much pricing data. Granted, most of this data pertains to books that haven't sold yet, but, increasingly, historical pricing data is becoming more and more available as well.

Three of the better resources include:


For some time now, Alibris has maintained a fairly extensive database of sales records for both Alibris direct sales and those it has facilitated through its partner programs with Barnes & Noble,, etc. What's especially useful about this data is that it not only includes the selling price and date of sale but also the original seller's description. In other words, you can compare apples to apples.

Alibris also computes a sales index:

"This benchmark is a calculated figure to illustrate how this item sells across all of our channels in comparison to all other items listed for sale. The scale is from 1.0 to 10.0, with 10.0 representing the best selling items. As always, price and condition are important to any single sale; this index is meant to indicate the relative demand of a given title."

This number is significantly more useful than an Amazon sales ranking, which most of us know only indicates how recently a given book has sold, not how often.

The price of entry to this database is participating in the Alibris Gold program. This requires a onetime processing fee of $19.99 and, depending on how large an inventory you maintain, a monthly fee starting as low as $9.95 for 0-500 books.

And of course you could access this database without using Alibris as one of your venues. At $9.95 a month, it would still be a modest cost for pricing research alone, especially compared to Amazon's historical pricing at about $250 a month.


At $24.95 a month ($16.50 a month if you pay annually), Terapeak isn't quite the bargain Alibris is, but this gives you access to 90 days of eBay sales - not just books but all items, and you can search five international sites as well. Also, there are a number of research tools that enhance the search process and enable you to identify especially hot titles. Go here to see some demos.

The final resource may be one you haven't heard of. Go here and type in an ISBN or a book author/title that possesses an ISBN.

When results are returned, click "Price History" on the menu in the upper left column. A graph and six months of price history appear. Neat, huh? You can then expand this search to include price history dating back to 2006! Venues include Abebooks, Alibris, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Biblio, Powells and TextbookX. Before you get too excited, however, you won't find every book listed by these venues over the last three years, but the present database does include over four million titles that possess ISBNs. Also, by "price history," we're not talking about prices these books sold for but prices they were listed at. Still, this is exceptionally useful for getting an idea of where values are headed, especially for more common titles.

Take, for example, The Da Vinci Code. Here's the price trend graph for used hardcover copies.

Quite a plunge, yes? And this is a hauntingly familiar pattern for many books. But consider Suppertime for Frieda Fuzzypaw.

This in fact underlines the most valuable aspect of this resource - identifying titles that are heating up.


Struggling at bookselling? Could be a knowledge deficit. BookThink can get you up to speed quickly with resources on many bookselling topics. Start here.

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Questions or comments?
Contact the editor, Craig Stark

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