Pick a number, any number…

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You’ll find some unexpected – and unintentional – humor in this work. I offer the Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine (6 volumes, 2011 publicication) as an example of the computerized comedy that is online bookselling.

This reference work is still the current edition, so I thought it would be worth a look. I scanned the bar code and saw a price of $9,999.93. Hmmm.

I looked it up by title and found copies from $180.

I looked it up by the ISBN for the set, found on the copyright page, and learned that I could get a copy for $20. The seller said it was the complete set, but it won’t ship for anything close to the $3.99 fee Amazon collects. The shipping cost would eat up the $20 (less $4.35 commission) price. Too much work for too little profit.

I put the set into our November public book sale for $25. It didn’t sell, even on half-price day.

I draw two conclusions from this. One, the truism “if something seems too good to be true, it probably is” is a useful caution in the world of books as elsewhere. Two, computers are great but the human brain is still the most useful tool.

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