Jolie Blon’s Bounce and Amazon’s long tail

Jolie Blon's Bounce


Last week I picked up a like new hardcover edition of James Lee Burke’s Jolie Blon’s Bounce for $2.00.

There are several interesting things about that find, so before I get to Burke’s writing allow me to digress for a second into the state of buying paper books online.

I found the hardcover edition at a Friends of the Library sale in Brenham, Texas.  I was really mostly interested in non-fiction books at that sale.  But I never miss a chance to acquire a James Lee Burke book I haven’t read.

Especially when I can get it for $2.00.

The format of the book I have linked to the image above is the Kindle version. It is priced at $7.49. It is also has a sales ranking in the paid Kindle store at about 35,000.  That ranking means the book is selling probably several copies a day, even though it was released originally in hardback in 2002.

Thirteen years ago.

Now let’s look at the hardback version.

Amazon has it for sale, as do several other sellers on Amazon’s site.

Would you like to guess the price?

New it’s going for — $116.09.

Actually a new copy will run you anywhere from $103.99 to $366.64.

The only used copy is also $366.64 (plus $3.99 for shipping, which brings it to $370.64).

The sales ranking for the hardback is somewhere north of 6,000,000.  I would guess that equates to a sale every six months or so.

All this leads me to ask why a person who could buy a digital copy of Jolie Blon’s Bounce for $7.49 would plunk down over $100 to get a hardback edition?

The sales rankings show us that most buyers opt for the cheaper digital copy.  That means only die hard Burke fans probably buy the hard cover to complete their collection or to gift it to a special friend or loved one.

The deal is that a person searching for a hardback copy of the book will be hard-pressed to find one anywhere except online, or more specifically, on Amazon.

I just lucked into my copy.

This discussion goes a long way to demonstrate the notion of Amazon’s long tail.  In the world of online book sales, a book continues to live for years, years after it has died at physical book stores. Plus eBooks have  not only given a book like Jolie Blon’s Bounce new life, they have brought it to a whole new world of readers.

And no.  I won’t sell you my copy for $2.00.

You missed your chance.

Since I love the first page of a book, I would be remiss not to share the beginning of Jolie Blon’s Bounce. It is pure James Lee Burke.

Growing up during the 1940s in New Iberia, down on the Gulf Coast, I never doubted how the world worked.  At dawn the antebellum homes along East Main loomed out of the mists, their columned porches and garden walkways and second-story verandas soaked with dew, the chimneys and slate roofs softly molded by the canopy of live oaks that arched over the entire street.

The stacks of sunken U.S. Navy ships lay sideways in Pearl Harbor and service stars hung inside front windows all over New Iberia.  But on East Main, in the false dawn, the air was heavy with the smell of night-blooming flowers and  lichen on damp stone and the fecund odor of Bayou Teche, and even though a gold service star may have hung in a window of a grand mansion, indicating the death of a serviceman in the family, the year could have been mistaken for 1861 rather than 1942.

A beginning like that is a harbinger of dark things to come.


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  • If I’m going to reread an old book, I buy the cheapest possible copy. There are few books I will reread more than a couple of times, and I am not about to enrich the publishing houses charging huge premiums for owning the rights to old stories – no, thanks, especially since I know the author is getting practically nothing.

    I’ve also heard (haven’t bothered to check) that often the ebooks are poorly converted scans with terrible OCR errors. The used books will be better formatted.

    Amazon sends you book club versions, discarded library copies, paperbacks – whatever they have. I will often pay a few cents more and get the hardcover for reading convenience, but I don’t plan on keeping most books anyway – after a lifetime of reading, there are way too many millions of them in my brain.

  • Christina Carson

    I think this was one of his best novels. What a fine gift to you at $2.00

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