You can't put a price on a good education, but $23 million for a textbook still seems a bit steep.
Michael Eisen, an evolutionary biologist and blogger, recently spotted the outrageous price tag on Peter Lawrence’s "The Making of a Fly," listed by Amazon at $23,698,655.93, plus -- and here's the deal breaker -- shipping.
Lawrence's book does boast mostly 5-star reviews, but any developmental biology textbook pushing eight figures should be a tough sell.
Something seemed off.
In a blog post, Eisen describes, in great detail, the robotic price war he witnessed play out over the course of 10 days. The two competing book sellers -- profnath and borderbook -- were, according to Eisen, "clearly using automatic pricing – employing algorithms that didn’t have a built-in sanity check on the prices they produced."
Eisen found that profnath would adjust its price to exactly 0.9983 the borderbook offering, only to have borderbook respond accordingly by returning its deal to 1.270589 times that of profnath, in turn causing the two price tags to skyrocket.
Eventually, someone must have tipped off the sellers, as the price reportedly decreased to around $100.
For at least one sarcastic buyer, scoring a copy for $20 million felt like a big score.
"I was fortunate enough to buy this at the bargain price of $19,087,354," the customer commented. "There must have been a sale because the next day it was listed at $23M."