Why Media Mail

AmazonI sell books on Amazon. It is not a big deal. Mostly, I just do it to justify spending hours at thrift stores and book sales. The amount of money I make is small, but I doubt most of the people who buy from me think so. I know I used to think, “I just paid $3.99 for shipping this book and this seller ships it Media Mail! What gives?”

What gives is Amazon and the huge cut they take out of each sale. For example, suppose I post a book for sale for $1.00. A buyer pays $4.99 ($1.00 for the book and $3.99 for shipping and handling). How much do I get? $2.50. That’s right: I get $2.50 and Amazon gets $2.49. I just shipped a paperback book that weighed just over one pound; it cost me $2.82 to ship via Media Mail. So you see, I have to charge more than $1.00 for any book that weighs over a pound.

And what about those one cent books you see all over Amazon? I can’t sell anything for that price. If I sell a book for $0.01, I get $1.66 and Amazon get $2.34. I can’t ship anything for that.

Things get better as the price goes up. For books costing $10.00, I will get a little more than that ($10.15). But this is the exception. I rarely get anything close to that for a book.

I can’t even sell my own books on Amazon, because the discount the publishers give me do not allow me to sell them cheaply enough after Amazon takes its cut for existing.

So if you aren’t happy with the prices at Amazon: it isn’t the sellers. We are just scraping by.


But don’t get me wrong. I like Amazon. I buy a lot of stuff from them. Although, increasingly I buy things from AbeBooks.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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