I have been looking for this book for quite some time. I have his book, "How to Become a Candidate Master", but have had trouble finding this one at a reasonable price. Currently on Amazon, used copies are listed at $75 on up to over $100, with one copy listed at $655.04. Other sites have similar price ranges. I recently tried bidding on a copy on E-bay, but was outbid at the last minute where it sold for $31.00. Why is this particular book so hard to find at an affordable price, say $25-30?

  • This belongs here. economics.stackexchange.com – Jossie Calderon May 24 '17 at 3:31
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    @JossieCalderon Sorry, no, I specifically asked on Meta if this type of question would be acceptable here. – Herb Wolfe May 24 '17 at 3:32
  • Thanks for raising the meta post. I personally have always found these questions ambiguous regarding whether they are on-topic. @JossieCalderon, please let your opinion on meta be known so that the community has guidance on these types of question. – user1108 May 24 '17 at 7:28
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    @Bad_Bishop chess.meta.stackexchange.com/a/485/13147 – Jossie Calderon May 24 '17 at 11:53
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    If you are looking for the book for instruction, there are holes in the analysis. It helped me a lot when I was a Class B player, just making me aware of certain concepts, but it misses some tactics. Still, I enjoyed taking the amateur games through an engine, and it was ahead of its time, because it didn't restrict itself to just GM games, and it doesn't feel like a textbook. – aschultz May 31 '17 at 15:15

Supply and Demand (Economics 101)

EDIT: Some additional clarification at the request of the OP.

Supply is pretty clear. It is fairly easy to measure although it can be a bit more tricky to get an accurate measure when it is very light.

Demand is a bit more nebulous. When there is enormous demand then it is also pretty clear. Where things become less clear is when demand becomes very light, when supply is also likely to be very light. Then you have actual, real demand and perceived or imagined demand.

Just as in chess between humans the clear logic of the situation can be distorted by emotion. It is not something you see in computer chess and you also see much less of it in big business. Suppose there is enormous demand for the latest Harry Potter book or Star Wars film. The companies controlling the product will try and match price and supply in a fairly mathematical way to maximize profit.

When supply and demand are very light then over emotional human beings make the decisions and things become a bit random.

Let me give some examples.

1) Cyril Northcote Parkinson, originator of Parkinson's Law, wrote an excellent book called "The Evolution of Political Thought". It has been out of print for decades. A few years ago somebody recommended it to me and I looked for it and found a cheap copy, < $5, from a bookseller via Amazon. Why was the price so much lower than for your chess book? Well, Parkinson was right wing and so not politically correct. A PC person trying to set a price is likely to automatically value it less in financial terms because they value it less politically. They will put a lower price on it, a more realistic price. And now I've checked on Amazon again and, lo and behold! a publisher called "Forgotten Books" brought out a new edition just 2 days ago so they must see or anticipate fresh demand.

2) In 1978 I found some old chess magazines scattered over a couple of shelves in a second hand bookshop priced at 10p each. As far as I could see they were all different issues of the same English magazine, "Chess". I approached the shopkeeper and asked for a price for the job lot. "£8" he said and I bought them. When I got them home and sorted them out I found I had the first 12 years complete from 1935 to 1946, importantly covering the war years when stuff like paper was in short supply. I've occasionally thought of selling them. But there are two questions I find difficult to answer. How much could I get? and How much would I want? You would think I should be able to get $1200, $100 per year. If a collector really wanted them he might pay me $12000, $1000 per year. But I certainly wouldn't sell for $1200 and nor for $12000. I would sell for $120,000 but I doubt there are any buyers at that price. I'm sure there is a lower figure, somewhere between $12,000 and $120,000 , which I would accept if offered but the offer is extremely unlikely. I could put them on the market for $50,000 but that would just be a more extreme version of your Alex Dunne chess book on offer for > $100.

You see where this is going? A big, professional business which bought the magazines for roughly $12 in 1978 would have no problem selling them for $1200 today. But I'm not a professional business. I'm a human being who is emotionally attached to these magazines. Supply is being distorted by emotion.

3) A large general store about 15 minutes walk from where I live has a charity table by the exit full of donated second hand books which you are encouraged to take in return for a suggested donation of 50p. A few months ago I came across the second part of John Masters' autobiography, The Road to Mandalay, which covers his progress during the second world war from lieutenant to colonel, and donated my 50p. I enjoyed it and so looked for parts 1 and 3 on Amazon. I found them, again for < $5. Despite John Masters' politics being middle of the road (he would be a Liberal Democrat in the UK today) and being the author of the book Bhowani Junction which was turned into a classic film, I suspect he is seen in modern eyes as old fashioned and not politically correct and this "value" is reflected in the low price asked.

I doubt very much if the actual demand for Alex Dunne's "How to be a Class A Player" is really so much higher than for my books by Parkinson and Masters but the emotional beings setting the price have no good way of accurately measuring it. Their judgement has been clouded. They are not behaving rationally and their stock will remain unsold ... unless you win the lottery :-)

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  • Can you expand on that? It doesn't appear the supply is that limited, as I've seen numerous used copies for sale, just none at a price comparable to his book, "How to Become a Candidate Master", or most other used chess books. – Herb Wolfe May 26 '17 at 5:29
  • @HerbWolfe I've expanded on my answer but you'll see that, like your original question, it has very little to do with chess. I agree with Jossie Calderon that your question doesn't really belong here and nor, by extension, do any of the answers. – Brian Towers May 27 '17 at 13:34

There are a few reasons why How to be a class A player is so valuable:

  • The book is out of print, and is therefore rare
  • The book takes a different approach of showing amateur games (class A vs. mostly class B players). This makes the material targeted to the audiance
  • The book has been well reviewed, with 4.5 stars on 4 reviews on Amazon
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