I have been using Amazon heavily lately to expand my music collection, catch up on my reading, get textbooks, and getting a DVD [Come Feel Me Tremble] that I’ve been wanting for a while. If you look under the grill of Amazon.com, you can hack your spending techniques and get the best value.

Buy used or new (through sellers’ listings)

The first step is to be willing to buy a product that has been handled by someone else. Every now and then a deal will come your way on sealed items that are offered by Amazon sellers. The majority of items on Amazon are cost effective when buying used rather than new, even when tacking on shipping charges. Direct Amazon purchases (New items) usually offer free shipping on $25+ orders, but used sellers always have a set shipping rate. The exception are high-demand items and recent releases. Lucinda Williams’ West, which came out February of this year goes for the regular price of $9.99 from the Amazon.com factory and $7.99 in the marketplace.

Also, pay attention to the seller’s descriptions and decipher what conditions suit your needs. For instance, there might be a $1.00 CD but it doesn’t include the inserts/artwork or is missing a disc. Some sellers have a preset default message and don’t describe the item itself. In my experience, those generic powersellers normally sell only functional items or indicate when there are any problems. You should know that different products have different shipping rates. Audio CDs go for $2.98 per disc and books usually depend on paperback or hardcover.

Don’t buy on impulse

This is key if you are to make the most of the used/new marketplace. Being patient is the best thing you can do. Even better would be to examine your priorities, check out current price listings, and to make note of the lowest prices. You can induce the demand by the quantity of low priced items. I might be kinda geeky for saying this, but I see my tactics as a poor man’s version of a stock analyst. I look at the price history (maybe give it a week) and see how steady the price is. Until there is a plummet that I am willing to pay, I keep waiting.

Check for duplicate or identical entries

This is most important and will give you better prices other buyers won’t see unless they are digging. Many versions of items exist, so instead of (or after) searching for an author, search for a specific title you are interested in getting. For example, there are six variations of Pixies’ Surfer Rosa in a variety of formats on the first page of results alone. Most are Audio CD, but there are also LP and Cassette. Some are issued bundled with Come on Pilgrim, and some are reissued with possible remastering. They are vary in price as well. Some are unavailable, some are only offered used, and the ones that show up on top are the most popular relevant titles, not necessarily the cheapest. I recently bought the Surfer Rosa/Come on Pilgrim duo for a few cents over 2 bucks!

Sort Smartly

Main Search has no customizable parametersIf you are looking for something with less demand but you know who the artist or author is, it’ll be smart to sort results by price. You cannot do this directly unless you choose a product category next to the search input or afterwards in the left column. Look at the screenshot to see the areas I have negativized to show what a global search offers in options.

Sortable now that we have defined a departmentWhen selecting a specific product category, you can then refine your details as you can see on this page sorted by Price. The screen shot shows this page with the added sorting option and appropriate changes.