If you want a copy of Jerry Sandusky's autobiography from Amazon, there are just under 20 offers to choose from. The books range in price from $131.78 to $1,111.00, depending on whether you want a signed copy and what condition it's in.
I reached out to 12 of the vendors hawking the book via Amazon's internal contact system. This is the message I sent:
I'm a writer for BuzzFeed.com, and I'm working on a story about the copies of Jerry Sandusky's autobiography being sold on Amazon. I noticed that you are selling a copy, and I was hoping to speak with you about why you're selling the book for such a high price and whether you plan on changing the listing in the wake of Sandusky's conviction. Please email me at kevin.t.lincoln at gmail.com or kevin at buzzfeed.com, or call at xxx-xxx-xxxx, when you get a chance.
Based on the records I received, it looks like Amazon removed my email addresses from a bunch of the messages, but because of the info associated with my Amazon account, they could still get back to me. I got three responses. Two were strange.
The first, from iBooksNet, seemed to think I was Jerry Sandusky.
Kevin,I respect that you're the author of the book. The book business is all driven by demand and supply once the books are in the marketplace for sale. We're not selling at the highest price at amazon.com and just trying to match or beat the competition. And I hope you can understand why our book is marked at that price. I appreciate the fact that you physically signed that book, which we got a copy of. There is not much we can do to impact other sellers decisions of listing their books neither.
Not a flattering mistake, but also not a reasonable one — nowhere in my message was there any ambiguity as to who I was or what I was asking about. Looking at the rest of iBooksNet's stock, there's no discernable theme or consistency; they're one of the three vendors to list Sandusky's book as a "collectible."
The second response, from gb_book, was a bit briefer, but again seemed to have nothing to do with what I was asking.
"Dear Valued Customer,
Thank you for your email. There was an error in our price system. We will adjust it soon. Thank you very much.
gb_book's selling price of $713.79 (+ $3.99 shipping!) has not changed in the four hours since I received that message. The responses from iBooksNet and gb_book seem to hint at some sort of weird, not-very-good-at-English Amazon resell bots. Not sure how they came into possession of Sandusky's book.
The third response was different. A seller messaged me and said she would call, then called. She told me her name and Amazon ID, and I asked her how she had obtained the Jerry Sandusky book. She said she found it at a book sale, autographed, which isn't uncommon. When she put it online, she determined the price based on the other Amazon listings; originally, she'd put it on for $750, but she'd since lowered it.
I asked her if, after Sandusky's conviction, she'd considered taking the book down. She said no. There was an awkward pause, and she asked me if I was suggesting she was doing something immoral. I said I wasn't suggesting anything, I was just wondering if she'd thought about removing the book, and she said, "I sell stuff on Amazon. That’s what I do." She'd found the book within 60 days of the Sandusky news breaking and didn't think it would be a big deal to sell the book. We finished the call and she hung up.
Ten minutes later, she called again.
"I read this article on Mediaite, and it called me pretty much a bloodsucker and this other stuff. I don’t even like sports — apparently the book is about sports, it's not about what he did. I'm not selling it from a moral standpoint. It's just what I do for a living."
But the article, and my story, had her worried. She told me, "Now you're making me think I should take it off," and she requested that I not use her name or phone number. (As of publishing, the listing is still up.)
I asked if anyone had contacted her about buying the book.
"No. Not yet."