Rock’em Sock’em Robots

From the book industry newsletter Shelf Awareness comes news of used book pricing run amok. Michael Eisen, an evolutionary biologist and Red Sox fan, tells the story.

It’s no secret that online booksellers often use computer programs to set their prices. Most of the time, prices are fairly stable, but Eisner noticed one instance when the system didn’t work. Only two copies of Peter Lawrence’s The Making of a Fly were available. Each seller was clearly setting the his or her price in relation to the other. When one went up, the other soon followed suit. Eventually, the unchecked algorithms took the price all the way up to a whopping $23,698,655.93. As charming and useful as Lawrence’s work on the Drosophila no doubt is, no one bought either copy.

Eisen’s full article is here.–David E