Bookjacking is a real thing, a real sh;tty thing

So I’ve never been terribly fond of for many reasons (they are a giant welfare queen, they put b&m bookstores out of business, the Kindle is disposable rather than repairable, … feel free to add your own grievances to the list).

But today I learned of yet another atrocity. In this case it is not really Amazon’s fault, though it is something they tolerate and apparently make no effort to stop. I am talking about “bookjacking” — the practice of using software to find books listed on one but not another book seller site (Amazon, Abebooks,, etc.) and automatically relisting said item on the other sites, at a markup. And by “markup” I mean a potentially huge markup. Though you could say “caveat emptor” and yeah you should probably shop around, the fact is that they are exploiting and hurting consumers, plain and simple. By automating this process, these phony sellers are able generate sales, and feedback, so that they look legit, even though they just act as middlemen and do nothing but run algorithms through the sites. A more detailed explanation of the process is here at Zubal Books’ site.  Do not patronize the bookjackers identified there.

If you are like me, you occasionally purchase out of print titles. These bookjackers drive up prices  and use deceptive advertisements (see Zubal Books above — the bookjackers use weasel words and ambiguous, generic descriptions because they are not examining the merchandise, they never see it). If you want to see what bookjacking looks like for RPG titles, see this listing (it will no doubt change over time but as of this writing there are listings for the Judges Guild “Dark Tower” module with prices all ranging from $115 to over $325, and all the conditions are blank or generic BS like this: “Item may show signs of shelf wear. Pages may include limited notes and highlighting. Includes supplemental or companion materials if applicable. Access codes may or may not work. Connecting readers since 1972. Customer service is our top priority.” (emphasis added)

<Update!> A colleague suggested another way to check if a seller is bookjacking:

Check to see if they offer expedited shipping. They cannot because they do not have the book in hand. This also applies to a seller supplying a print on demand title. In addition, this will separate out sellers who allegedly are located in the US but ship from the UK–or Norway or India or wherever.


Published in: on December 5, 2014 at 11:27 pm  Comments (41)  
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41 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Fascinating….I had seen listing like these but had no idea what the logic was behind them.

    • I used to assume the generic descriptions were being used because a huge dealer couldn’t necessarily take the time to describe each book they had after assigning a “condition,” but going forward I won’t be giving the benefit of the doubt.
      Another thing about bookjacking that bothers me is that it creates an impression that there are more copies available than there really are. Grr.

  2. Several of the “resellers” on the Amazon Marketplace with the largest amounts of sales / feedback do this. I try to keep track of which ones I have dealt with so I don’t do it again. Books in unexpected conditions and crappy shipping materials and “slow-boat to China” delivery times really aggravate me. Whats also strange is that AbeBooks and BookDepository for instance are actually OWNED by Amazon these days.

    • Zubal Books identifies the following “sellers” as bookjackers, but I think they all also use various permutations of their names (adding a state, changing spacing or punctuation, etc.):
      Book Smart
      Castle Rock
      Crashing Rocks
      DailyDeal USA
      East West Academic Books
      International Books
      lana’s Shop
      lance books
      Lost Books
      Migna Book Store
      Murray Media
      Park Place Products
      Summit Read
      Vault Media
      Vault Media
      Woody’s Books
      Wisepenny Books

      • I think Book Rescue!! of Burdett New York is probably a bookjacker also — based on the great number of books they order from us, which they have at the same time listed at Amazon for triple the price.

        • Thanks, good to know!

      • Will add that nearfine is currently the source of my own book jacking problem. I have taken screen shots of everything, and will not let this drop if they scam me (not confirmed yet, but looking that way…). What i hate about being scammed online is the anonymous, opaque smoke and mirrors, that allows these people to take advantage of honest people and get away with it without any kind of revenge possible. You can’t punch a virtual book seller on the nose.

  3. Your RPG example is hillarious! I picked up the d20 Dark Tower for $1 at Paizo’s sale last year.

    And yeah, this sort of predatory tactic is sad. But that’s capitalism for you!

    • I began to wonder if it was really a rarity when I saw how much it was going for. Insane.

  4. I don’t want to go all political here, but man, captitalism really has a way of dropping a duce on some things. Not that I have any better ideas for an alternative.

    • I don’t blame capitalism. I blame Robo-capitalism. Cold, heartless robots…

      • 🙂

    • It doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing. One alternative would be companies that sell stuff online to take some responsibility for what they allow sellers to do. But I guess they would only do that if they gave a rat’s ass about consumers, which they really don’t. So it’s caveat emptor.

  5. I’ll occasionally buy new books on Amazon, but never used books. Almost all of my book purchases these days come from Abe Books. I’ve had really good experiences, by and far, and the selection and price is outstanding. I target sellers who run actual B&M stores across the U.S. and U.K.

    • ABEbooks is actually owned by Amazon. Try instead!

  6. Thanks for the heads up. My significant other buys a lot of used books online; I’ll email her this.

  7. The generic quote you posted comes from Half Price Books. Amazon is very particular about how HPB is listed on line. Some stores are HPB (insert state here), while others have different names.

    What you quoted is purposefully vague for exactly the reason you originally assumed. HPB is a big seller, though each store is responsible for its own online sales.

    The prices are also something HPB does not control. There is an automatic price set from a program called Monsoon, which operates in Amazon. It looks at other prices at Amazon and adjusts the sale price accordingly. However, like in the example with Dark Tower, it is not always effective if other sellers set unrealistic prices.

    I’m actually really surprised by that listing.

    In any case, I just wanted to mention what was going on for at least one of those entries. Book jacking is a crazy thing that is incredibly frustrating because it so deeply impacts legitimate booksellers.

    • Interesting! Thanks!

  8. as someone else pointed out, you actually quoted half price books description, and they are NOT a bookjacker, they are a legitimate brick and mortar retailer.

    the book listing you give illustrates however what a big problem the bookjacking scam is. if you look at that listing for Judges Guild 3 Dark Tower there is only ONE legitimate seller selling that book (blackrazor_books). the other “sellers” are the usual bookjacker scammers–dailydeals, anybook, murraymedia and brookebooks. as a result the seller blackrazor is vastly underpricing his book, but doesnt know it

  9. Hallo there,
    I still don’t quite get what bookjacking is all about. How can a bookjacker list a book on any site if he or she doesn’t own a copy of it? Do they buy it from the original lister, then sell it after they have received it? The description of bookjacking doesn’t seem to support this option, as it is said that they never get to see the book. It’s all still a mystery to me. Please could somebody explain in more detail how a bookjacker can list a book to sell that he or she does not have in his or her possession?
    I look forward to hearing some kind of an answer to my question.
    Thanking you in anticipation.

    • It’s a variation on “drop shipping”. ( The bookjacker lists the item, and takes payment, then sends payment to whoever is actually selling it, and gives the seller the address of the buyer. The difference between what the bookjacker got and what the actual seller gets is the bookjacker’s profit. This can be a few cents or (when things work as planned) a lot more — the buyer either doesn’t see the original listing because it is on another website or chooses the inflated price from the bookjacker because the bookjacker has thousands of sales and mostly good feedback while the jacked seller has much less feedback and seems less reputable. Does make sense? They are basically inserting themselves as middle-men.

      • Thank you very much for your comprehensive reply. I had thought this could be the only way the bookjacker could do this, but I was not sure. It would be interesting to find out what the buyer would say when he or she saw the invoice from the original seller — say myself — as I take it that the bookjacker would not bother to let on to me what he has just done.

        Once again, thank you for your informtive little blog. it was most interesting to find out what these thieves get up to. Although, I suppose they’re not really stealing the book, as they do send the original seller the money.

        Shame on them!

      • I had this happen when I bought a DVD set which included a booklet. The condition was supposed to be new, in shrink-wrap. I bought it from a seller in PA. It was drop-shipped to me from somewhere other than PA. It was not shrink-wrapped nor did it include the booklet. And, get this, it DID include an invoice showing the seller was charged a lot less than he charged me. I, too, keep a list of sellers I will not use again. Many of them are on Zubal’s list. I also steer away from sellers who will not state where they are shipping from. In my experience, that is another clue they are a bookjacker. I have also seen several sellers located in a geographic area all selling a book with the same condition statement and increasing prices. All of them were “established” within a month or two of each other. According to the Better Business Bureau, they are simply PO boxes, all forwarding to one box. Bookjackers are an enormous problem for me when I am trying to purchase multiple copies of an OP title. GAK!

  10. As for Zubal, it looks to me like they’re now in the business of selling (for 9.99) ‘ebooks’ that are freely available on the Internet Archive. E-Books Delivery Service and are associated with Tom Zubal of Cleveland, according to ABE and whois searching.

    So much for the good old fashioned family business. Calling out the bookjackers made someone look good.

    Taking money for nothing — that doesn’t look so great.

    • Well that’s pretty disappointing.


  11. in practice dropshippers arent just dropshipping, they are doing crooked things and breaking the rules of sites such as amazon. amazon allows them to do this because a drop shipped transaction produced more than one commission per transaction because the dropshipper has to buy a book for another party on amazon. in practice dropshippers arent as technologically savvy as people think, all they do is buy amazons apis and list a couple million books and that is enough to produce a couple thousand transactions a day. they dont check other sites for availability, which is why they have so many cancellations and “lost in the mail” feedbacks. in practice they sell “new” and dropship “used–very good”, sell paperback and dropship hardcover (or vice versa), sell one edition and dropship and earlier edition, send the wrong book (eg sell the oxford shakespeare and send the signet shakespeare) and they create new listings, in violation of amazon rules, in order to sell items for higher prices (they open a new listings and sell a book for $50 when its available on the official amazon page for $2). again all this misconduct has the blessing of amazon because it produces MULTIPLE SALES for amazon. so dont expect amazon to ever stop dropshipping.if fact they have recently taken steps to try to force it on their site by creating the buy box which lets them award a sale to the dropshipper of their choosing. in order to make a book available to a drop shipper, amazon delists the items of real sellers and forces them to lower their prices. AMAZON IS A TOTALLY CROOKED COMPANY

  12. all the book sites–amazon, alibris, abe, half are all filled with these drop ship scammers. there are almost no actual books sellers anymore, i guess its not worth it for most people to bother selling and have to deal with all these dropshippers. the sites themselves seem only to want big drop ship scammers, i see tons of smaller amazon sellers being kicked off for minor infractions while dropshippers get away with anything

  13. F**k these sellers. They really piss me off with their retarded prices. Many times when looking for something at Amazon, these clowns pop up and are the only sellers offering an item for sale.. Vault Media and Thebookcommunity being the absolute worst offenders, although i’ve seen other sellers from the mentioned list when I’m searching out-of-print old CDs at Amazon at bad prices as well, so why bother? I really wish they get kicked out of Amazon. These sellers ruin my otherwise good experience at Amazon. It should be noted that many of these sellers also operate in other Amazon Marketplaces (the_book_community AKA rbmbooks at and Vault Media AKA EliteDigital DE at

    Add KELINDO to the list as well. One of the many stupid drop shippers from Japan. Hope they all get banned.

    • Our book just got hijacked by KELINDO – on Amazon. How are the authors dealing with this??

  14. in textbooks this process is a true disaster; today textbooks no longer sell just book alone; they are bundled, have scratch off access codes, and offer ancillaries; all this is described in great detail in the textbook’s description; the jackers wipe out seller description; then the student may get a book “not as described” f ex because the cloud access code has been used and he expects one…

    I have asked jackers to cancel their order ’cause it is for the “wrong” book; they refuse and expect the seller to do this for them;

  15. I sell books on Amazon only that I have in stock, I give descriptions of condition on nearly all my items so I am a target for bookjackers. The majority of orders will come through with the delivery address adding NO INVOICE to the first line, alternatively at times I might get asked on EBay to post the book to the customer’s address as it is not possible on EBay to put in an alternative delivery address as on Amazon.

    These orders are more likely to be problematic than orders from the public, with the purchaser claiming non delivery or not as described, of course the purchaser has never seen the book and as many items are not of high value and sent untracked, this can mean that we are later forced to refund the purchase price.

    I have no complaint with booksellers buying from us when they do not ask us to drop ship, and we get a fair few orders from these. For sure some people do not want to scour the web themselves for books and so ask a dealer to source copies for them, especially if they are looking for a number of titles; or the bookseller has simply spotted an opportunity to make money on a title, every seller has to source stock to sell and these sellers just happen to use the Internet to do so.

    Sussex Used Books (UK)

  16. Wish I had known about this and the list before making the HUGE mistake of making a purchase from one of these sellers on Amazon! The seller was Wisepenny Books, who swindle more than just through the means of bookjacking. I bought a $190 textbook from them on the first day of my college class, and 4 days later it still hadn’t shipped. I contacted them telling them I needed the book ASAP for a class or I would cancel, and they didn’t respond for 3 days. Messaged them on the 3rd day saying I was canceling the order since I bought the book elsewhere and hadn’t received a response and the book hadnt shipped before then. According to USPS tracking they shipped my book literally 30 minutes after my email. They lied and said that they had shipped the book before they got my message. I received the book, and sent it back since it had been their mistake of sending a book that they had seen was cancelled. They returned most of my money but they charged me a ~~$40~~ restocking fee and didnt pay the $13 of return shipping back. Although their return policy said that the restocking fee only applied to books that were returned if the problem with the book was not the fault of the seller! They also claimed the book was no longer “New” so it could not be sold as such even though I hadn’t even opened the book from it’s packaging. To get my $40 back I spent 12+ hours over the span of 25 days calling Amazon customer service who are completely incapable of taking action against sellers who clearly are swindling their customers like this. I sent them several messages they didn’t bother responding to, and would only respond if Amazon forced them to reply to me. I’ve also been constantly checking their order rating by customers, and 99% of the bad reviews get taken down by the seller within a day or two. NEVER make the same mistake that I did and buy from Wisepenny, who I’m sure isn’t the only bookjacker who also leeches off of people’s hard earned money (some of whom who is struggling to get by like my family and I) through Amazon’s “we don’t have control over the actions of third party sellers, so sorry we can’t do anything,” policy.

  17. KELINDO out of Japan – just listed our book, for $34.99 and we are listing for $9.99 – we called Amazon – and were told to fill out paperwork and got a bunch of crap to deal with. It’s like the new version of Identity Theft. Has anyone find a way to deal with this???

  18. I believe i have recently become a victim of book jackers; and i want to warn others of this unethical practice. Here is what happens.

    – You are looking for a rare book
    – You at last find it
    – The price seems inflated but you pay (say cost new 10 dollars, but you pay 40 for a very good condition used copy)
    – The order is confirmed by the marketplace, but the market place seller has 72 hours to confirm or reject the order
    – Market place seller robot picks up sale. Price is multipled by 2, 3, 4 (say 3); book is sold to you, but remains advertised on market place, now at 120 Dollars
    – Second buyer spots rare book, buys 120 Dollars
    – Market place seller robotics picks up sale. Price doubled to 240 dollars (book already sold twice)
    _ Market place seller picks up sale. Price increased 50 percent; becomes 360 Dollars
    – Book does not sell within 48 hours
    – Book sold to buyer who paid 240 Dollars. First buyer @ 20 and 120 Dollars receive order cancelled emails.

    Book jacker wins. Book sold at maximum price after already securing 2 sales at a lower price. Amazon/Abe Books/low morality other channel wins, due charging commission on the sold amount. Customers are scammed; particularly those who recieve the order cancellation after purchasing the book.

    Now that i understand the mechanism, i am furious. I am still waiting for near fine to confirm my order, and I am still seeing my book (so rare impossible they have multiple copies..) on the sites mentionned at 3 times the price since my order was placed. No wonder corporate profits are soring for these companies. This must stop.

    • That is so devious. But Amazon seems to have no incentive to stop it, because they get their cut of any sale. The spice must flow.

  19. They have 20 hours left to confirm or reject the sale. i still see the (now my…) book for sale on Abe Books and 4 Amazon (Japan, France, US and Germany…) sites from the same seller at triple the price. It does not seem to have sold to an additional buyer so far. I have time stamped prints of everything. In the event the sale is not confirmed, and my book not received, I will go to “repression des fraudes” in France; a government organisation to surpress such behaviour. We will see; I will stick like unwanted chewing gum if the try to screw me over. I wont go down without a fight! 😛

  20. In addition to using Jubal’s list, I keep my own list of marketplace sellers I will not use again. One way to get on that list is to ship from someplace other than what shows in the seller description. I leave very negative feedback when this happens. I now print the screen showing “ships from GA”, “ships from NY”, etc. When I receive the book from India or Switzerland or wherever, I go back to Amazon, Alibris, AbeBooks, & complain. Several times, they have refunded the shipping cost. I have noticed several sellers now state “may ship from multiple locations.” I do not use them. The book may arrive within the estimated delivery timeframe but I could have received it a week earlier from a seller shipping from a US location. I buy for an academic library so time is sometimes more important than price.

    • Is your list public? I work for an academic library too now, and I’d want to share it with our Acquisitions folks.

  21. I both sell & buy books on with five kids in college over recent years (still only like 100+ sales.) To combat book jacking companies, (which I only recently found what they are call but previously realized existed), I ALWAYS ONLY buy from 100% positive feedback sellers, ALWAYS check negative feedback (& reasons) from any seller with numerous sales (99.3% positive on a seller with 65,000 in sales still means MANY negatives), & ONLY buy from sellers shipping from the continental US (due to my location). Be sure the book IS NOT an international or teachers illegal addition. Now having all tracking on Media Mail is a definite plus to prove a delivery dispute later. Finally, when receiving a new invoice for a sale, I check for the buyer being different from the mailing address (likely book jacker). If the seller’s name is not complete (has occured several times recently or address cannot be verified through contact with the seller) then no sale & not worth the risk. I include these facts in communication explaining the reason.

  22. i am becoming increasingly careful now. When its a book that is not commonly available, I now systematically contact the seller before making the purchase, I make sure they actually have a copy, and I ask for information about it (pencil marks, cover condition etc). For the order I listed above, it was indeed cancelled by the vendor, I was furious, but not surprised. I have since found a further copy of the book, the order was confirmed, and the book is allegedly on its way…allegedly… :).

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