Understanding the most confusing Amazon condition: When should you grade a book as “Like New”? How does Amazon define it? Answering every question about Like New condition.
Why is Like New condition so confusing?
Of every Amazon condition, “Like New” for Books is the one that is least understood, and most debated.
The guidelines for what qualifies as “Like New” are so ambiguous, most sellers are left to fend for themselves in deciding when to apply. After years of personal trial and error, I’m going to explain in clear terms what Like New condition is, when it should be used (rarely), and when it should not be used (almost always).
How Amazon defines Like New
This is how Amazon defines Like New condition, on their “Marketplace Items Condition Guidelines” page:
Used – Like New: Item may have minor cosmetic defects (marks, wears, cuts, bends, crushes) on the cover, spine, pages or dust cover. Dust cover is intact and pages are clean and not marred by notes. Item may contain remainder marks on outside edges. Item may be missing bundle media.
What’s crazy is that this guideline reads exactly like how I define Very Good condition. So after reading this, I have lots of questions. Such as:
- How does Amazon define a “minor” defect?
- What is a “mark”?
- What is a “cut”?
- What exactly separates “Like New” from “Very Good”?
Since Amazon offers no clarity, let’s jump to the most important part of this article: How I think Amazon sellers should define Like New.
How sellers should define Like New condition
Usually I’m looking for ways to (safely and victimless-ly) bend Amazon’s rules. But this is one situation where I strongly advise sellers interpreting something more conservatively than Amazon itself.
If you went by Amazon’s guidelines, you could take a slightly above-average used book and list it as “Like New.” However, I’m confident that’s not what Amazon intended. Nor, more importantly, what customers expect.
So here’s now I define Like New:
“A new condition book with a single, barely perceptible blemish.”
In other words, the kind of blemish a book could suffer if it was brand new on the shelf at a Barnes & Noble. A book where every other attribute of a New condition book is intact: Nothing on the spine indicating the book was ever opened, the new cover sheen you only see with a brand new book, etc. But it’s allowed to have a single, tiny imperfection that bumps it out of New condition status.
There are pitfalls to applying Like New even if you follow the above guideline to the letter (as I’ll explain), but if you maintain this standard, you mostly can’t go wrong.
What blemishes qualify as Like New?
The most common blemishes that make a book “Like New” are:
Remainder marks: These usually take the form of a single pen mark applied to the fore-edge of the book (the part opposite the spine, or on the top or bottom). These are applied by discount book wholesalers generally, to mark a book as new but sold at a discounted price. In the rare instance I list any book as Like New, it’s usually because of a remainder mark.
Gift inscriptions: I personally never list a book with a gift inscription as Like New. But I know a lot of sellers disagree, so I’m including this here so you know all your options. A gift inscription is simply a note usually written on the first page when a book is given as a gift.
Price-clips: This is often seen on Hardcovers, where the corner of the dustjacket flap is cut. Like a remainder mark, this is done to New books to mark them as being sold on the discount or “remainder” market.
Stickers: The simple presence of a sticker can bump a book down from New to Like New (depends on the sticker). If the sticker reveals you are not the original seller, and you are unable to remove the sticker, that’s going to mean the book is Like New.
Price written on inside cover: Sometimes the only thing that keeps a book from being New is the price penciled in on the title page. You’ll see this at independent bookstores, or even used bookstores (which often sell brand new books at used prices).
Folds: Sometimes an otherwise new book has a fold to a single page. Unfortunately, that’s going to bump an otherwise New book down to Like New status.
Loss of sheen: A book can be unread, but if it’s sat on a shelf long enough, it loses that gloss that people recognize in New condition books. When that sheen is gone, you have no choice but to list that as Like New.
Remember the Golden Rule of Like New: It has to be a truly new book with only one single blemish as an exception. Again, this is just my personal definition and not Amazon’s, but it’s served me well.
So if you have two or more of these blemishes, and you can’t correct some of them, you’re best to err on the side of listing as Very Good.
What damage should prevent listing as Like New?
Any damage that’s significant. Such as:
- White out on pages
- Pen marks
- Creased spine
When in doubt: List it as Very Good.
Why grading as Like New is usually a bad idea
I almost never use “Like New” condition, and encourage you to apply it very sparingly. Several reasons Like New is usually a bad idea:
Amazon customers think Like New means New
This is the big one. The definition of Like New is so ambiguous, you’re inviting confusion from customers. Many customers read “like new” and hear “new.”
For that reason, listing something as Like New is begging for negative feedback (it’s happened to me).
You can often turn Like New books into New
Most of the common blemishes that make an otherwise New book Used can be corrected. This is too big a subject for this article, but many blemishes – from writing on a single page. to loss of new book sheen, to remainder marks – can all be fixed, thereby restoring a Like New book to New condition. Like I said, too big a subject for now, but often you’re better off repairing books (if the price bump makes it worthwhile).
You should over-promise and under-deliver
As a general rule, you should under-promise to your customers, and over-deliver. And it’s impossible to over-deliver when listing something as Like New. The best scenario is that you get it exactly right. Over-delivering would be delivering a New condition book, in which case you should have just listed it as New.
If a book is used, you should usually list it as unambiguously “used” – not “like new.”
Is Like New better or worse than Very Good condition?
I’m only bringing this up because, for whatever reason, I remember being momentarily confused by this when I first started on Amazon. I shouldn’t have been, but I’m slow. So for any sellers like me:
Like New condition is better than Very Good condition.
The hierarchy, from worst condition to best, goes:
- Very Good
- Like New
Can you price a Like New book the same way as a New book?
Big mistake.Always price a Like New book as a used book. You’re only competing with other used books – never new.
A Like New book is very much a used book. You are competing with used sellers only. Your books is filed on the Amazon page under “Used,” and only customers looking for Used copies are going to see your offer. Pricing as used book against new offers is like throwing out your blanket at the flea market and trying to charge Barnes and Noble prices. It doesn’t work.
There are sellers who price their LN copies like N, on the logic that their book is almost new, so they have a right to command the same sales price as something in new condition. This entitlement is misguided, and simply doesn’t work.
Some people go to Amazon to buy used books. Some people go to buy new. And if someone is there for a new copy, they’re not looking in the used tab. Likewise, buyers looking for a used copy aren’t willing to pay new condition prices for a used book.
From every angle it doesn’t make sense. So don’t make this mistake.
When should a book be listed as New and not Like New?
If a book is cosmetically flawless, then it’s New. And if a book is New, you can list it as new. That’s it.
Tons of hall monitor-type sellers will throw a tantrum over this, and try to claim “New” only applies to any book that had a previous owner. That if a book has ever crossed the holy threshold of a retail store’s property line, it’s a grievous sin to sell it as “New.”
Ignore them. If a book is cosmetically flawless, it is in New condition. Nothing more needs to be said.
The great debate around “What is New condition?”
I remember when I first started writing about my Amazon selling experiences online, one of the first times I remember having any conflict with other sellers was over this issue. I’ve made a lot of mistakes (and corrected some bad behavior) in my 15 years, but this debate is not something I have wavered on.
My stance on New condition books is this: A book is in new condition if a book is in new condition. Simple as that.
But there are two schools of thought around what constitutes “New” condition:
- One: Condition is defined by the chain of custody. If a book has had a previous owner, it is not new.
- Another: Condition is defined by condition. If a book is in new condition, it is new.
This couldn’t be simpler for me: I’m firmly in the second camp: If a book is in new condition, it is functionally new.
I really can’t pretend to understand the other side. It seems to be a mindset adopted by the stuffy, finger-wagging YouTube-commenter types. There’s so many holes to their logic, I wouldn’t know where to start. So a book with more than one owner is a used book? Well that book at your local bookstore went from the publisher to the distributor to the store. So that’s at least two owners. So is every book used? Or is the rule that a book is used if it’s had more than two owners? Sounds arbitrary. They can’t get their story straight.
The guiding principal of any Amazon seller should be that no matter what you do, you never deprive the customer of any value. If you give them the exact product they expect, you are always doing the right thing.
What most sellers get wrong about Like New condition
Mistake #1: Listing new condition books as Like New
I’ve shared my editorial on this above, but if you have a new condition book – by all means list it as new. The price difference is often significant.
Mistake #2: Listing Good or Very Good condition books as Like New
The opposite of above: Many sellers “grade up” and apply Like New condition too liberally.
Mistake #3: Pricing Like New books like New books
Covered above. Don’t do it.
The Like New condition on Amazon cheat sheet
- Like New condition should rarely be used.
- A book is Like New if it is in new condition with one very minor blemish.
- A Like New book is still a used book, and should be priced as such.
- Amazon customers are easily confused by “Like New,” making it risky.
- If a book is in new condition, don’t list it as Like New – list it as New.
You now have a PhD in Like New condition on Amazon.