I have had a few emails to ask what I would consider to be acceptable postage and not acceptable or excessive postage (with specific reference to books).
Hopefully this little guide will go some way to answering those questions.
It is only really to be used when buying books using eBay, as there is a readily available source of information to compare prices with elsewhere on the internet.
Please bear in mind that this is only a rough guide. Many factors influence what a seller decides to charge for postage.
The two main costs are:
1) the actual cost of the stamps
2) the actual cost of the packaging materials
In addition there are a number of other factors that might add to the cost of the postage (espcially if the seller is running their sales as a business rather than a hobby).
The main ones in this category might be:
3) the nearest post office is several miles away and involves a car / bus / taxi journey
4) internet / phone line connection
5) time for packaging the book
Sellers also (unofficially, of course, as it's against the rules) add other items on, for example.
6) the eBay and Paypal fees (or some of them at least)
7) a bit of a margin to cover a low final price of the book
So what would I be happy to pay for the postage. Well what you have to take into consideration is the scarcity or rarity of the book, and how often they turn up for sale on eBay. Also very important is the condition.
It also depends on whether the book is being sent first or second class. Remember any item (whether a book or otherwise) that is less than 1 kilogram when packed can be sent for £2.12 second class. 2 kilograms is £5.31, standard parcels. Not sure how much a book weighs? Weigh some of your own that look of a similar size, or ask the seller for the weight.
For mass-market paperbacks where you just want to get a cheap reading copy for as little money as possible it pays to shop around for a few weeks to see what the best deal is that you can get. Certainly you never want to be paying more that £1.50 to £2.00 for postage. Some very thin paperbacks may only cost 60 pence to post. These are the sort of books that get only one or two bids before the price is too much. If a seller wants £3 or £4 for postage move on quickly !
For common hardback books the the situation becomes tricky. Small hardbacks are again in the £1.50 to £2.00 category. Large hardbacks (and by this I mean "coffee table" books) may be as much as £3.00 to £4.00.
For scarce or rare hardbacks (and sometimes paperbacks) that only occasionally come up on eBay then the seller may think he can get away with charging over the top postage. For example some of the hardback Doctor Who novelisations (that can be extremely rare) have been offered with £3.50 and £4.00 postage. One of these books can be posted for less than £1.00. This always begs the question - where is the other £2 - £3 going? I am sure you may have seen other examples. These books very often get multiple bids and can fetch quite high prices. However, if you are bidding on these then you should never be tempted to pay more than the book is worth.
So for example. A book is worth £40 and the seller has started at 99 pence with £4.00 postage. Ideally you never want to bid say more than £30 - £35 (otherwise you might as well buy direct from a bookshop). If you can get it for less than that then you have got yourself a bargain. Bidding say £50 to make sure you win is a total waste of money.
A more extreme example. Same book worth £40 and the seller has gone really OTT with the postage at £10 and with a start at 99 pence. In this case it is pointless bidding over £20 - £25. If some one wants to pay more than that well then let them pay over the odds - wait for another copy and you'll probably get yourself a bargain.
A similar situation arises when you want to buy more than one book from the same seller. They want to charge you £6 (i.e. £3 each) and are reluctant to offer postage discount. You know it might only cost £2.50 or £3 to post both anyway. So all you do is find out how much both books are worth, and then bid accordingly.
Do your homework before you even think of bidding. Find out how much it will cost to get the book from elsewhere and NEVER pay any more than that amount.