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    Re: Derek Howse's book "Nevil Maskelyne, the seaman's astronomer"
    From: George Huxtable
    Date: 2004 Aug 6, 23:45 +0100

    Robert Gainer wrote-
    >The book is of interest but the price is way out of my class. You being in
    >England will have a better feel for this then I, do you think it would be
    >out of line to offer less. I really hate to spread the idea that we
    >(Americans) are rude and inconsiderate.
    >Thanks and all the best,
    >Robert Gainer
    Well, Robert, little that you do will affect their image of Americans.
    Just as an aside, I was booking accommodation for some friends at a local
    bed-and-breakfast establishment. On the phone, I could hear the owner's
    face fall when I mentioned American. "They're so DEMANDING", she said. Then
    I explained that although the wife was American, he was a Yorkshireman.
    "Yorkshireman", she mused, "that's not much better, really". So xenophobia
    is alive and well, here in England. In my view, those "demanding" Americans
    do their bit to push up standards for the rest of us.
    Now to answer Robert's question.
    1. What I copied was the details of an Abebooks transaction. If purchased
    via Abebooks, the bookseller would expect to have to pay a 10% levy to
    Abebooks. But if you purchase direct from the seller, Abebooks isn't
    involved, and so no levy. You might use this as an argument to get a 10%
    discount, or perhaps free postage.
    2. Secondhand bookshops commonly offer a discount of 10% to those in the
    book trade. Not that I am, but sometimes I will find say six books that
    attract me, and if so I usually ask for a reduction for quantity, the same
    as a book-trader would get, of 10%, and quite often I will get it. But I am
    not an accomplished haggler.
    3. As a general rule, secondhand booksellers seem to expect to get their
    asking price, or pretty close to it. If a book doesn't sell quickly, they
    will mark its price down, after a time.
    4. Every transaction is a free contract between buyer and seller, and you
    are free to offer whatever you are willing to pay. The seller can always
    say no. Nobody will mind.
    5. I've seen the same volume on offer a couple of years ago in two US
    bookshops at about twice the price asked here, which I certainly wouldn't
    pay. A few weeks ago I bought a copy for less than half the price asked
    here, and thought myself very lucky indeed. If that one hadn't appeared, I
    think I would pay the price asked for this copy, in view of the rarity of
    the book on the market.
    6. The book is now 15 years after publication date. In the early years
    after publication, few copies of a book turn up secondhand. They appear
    later, as owners die off and their collections recycle.
    7. Derek Howes knew his topic well. Quite a lot of the book is about
    personal and family biography, and its a bit short on the mathematcal side
    for my liking. It has a good chapter on lunars and the Nautical Almanac.
    And another good chapter on Maskelyne's measurement of the deflection of
    gravity, on either side of a cone-shaped mountain in Scotland, making the
    first determination of the Universal Gravitational Constant (big-G) and so,
    effectively, weighing the Earth for the first time. And there's a
    magnificent bibliography.
    8. But there's only 280 pages, which isn't a lot in terms of pages per dollar.
    contact George Huxtable by email at george@huxtable.u-net.com, by phone at
    01865 820222 (from outside UK, +44 1865 820222), or by mail at 1 Sandy
    Lane, Southmoor, Abingdon, Oxon OX13 5HX, UK.

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