What is the definition of Good vs Very Good condition on Amazon? And does it matter? Exploring the difference, and the impact on sales.
Video: The great Good vs Very Good condition debate
You have used book to sell on Amazon. It has an average amount of wear. How do you know if you should list it as Very Good (VG) condition, or Good (G)?
The “Good vs Very Good” dilemma is a big point of confusion for Amazon sellers (second only to the confusion around Acceptable condition). And Amazon is not helpful in defining the difference, so we have to fend for ourselves.
In this article, I’m going to define the differences between Good and Very Good, so you’ll know exactly when to apply each condition.
How Amazon defines Very Good condition
Let’s use Amazon’s condition guidelines as a starting point.
Here’s how Amazon defines Good condition for books:
“Used – Very Good: a copy that has been read, but is in excellent condition. Pages are intact and not marred by notes or highlighting. The spine remains undamaged.”
Their definition leaves a lot of questions, and Amazon is not helpful at giving sellers clear guidelines to follow. So we have to read between the lines.
The guiding principal with any buyer-facing decision you make is “will this satisfy the buyer?” Really, this is all that matters.
Asking this question can cause you to both interpret Amazon’s condition guidelines more conservatively or less conservatively, depending on the situation.
I’ll get to my personal battle-tested interpretation of Good condition in a minute, but first…
How Amazon defines Good condition
Let’s take a step down to Good condition. Here’s Amazon’s (again, vague) guideline:
“Used – Good: A copy that has been read but remains in clean condition. All pages are intact and the cover is intact (including the dust cover, if applicable). The spine may show signs of wear. Pages can include limited notes and highlighting, and the copy can include “From the library of” labels.”
This is at least moderately more helpful and distinct than Amazon’s guideline for Very Good condition, but still leaves lots of ambiguity.
Unanswered question about Amazon’s condition guidelines
Now that we know Amazon’s definitions, we can use these as a starting point to fill in the gaps. Here’s a few questions Amazon doesn’t answer for us:
- What about stickers?
- What about LOTS of stickers?
- What bout huge creases in the cover?
- What about tears in the cover?
- What are “limited” notes and highlighting?
- What about pen marks/writing on the front or back cover?
I could go on. But Amazon leave sellers to answer these questions for ourselves (which I am attempting to do in this article).
The real definition of Good condition on Amazon
Let’s settle the ambiguity and decide when exactly to list a book in Good condition.
Here is the one-sentence definition I use to decide when a book is Good (vs Very Good):
“When there is specific and definable damage to a book (vs. mere reading or shelving wear) or the wear is extremely heavy.”
- Small tear to cover = Good condition.
- Pen marks in less than 15%-20% of the book = Good condition.
- Library stamps & stickers = Good condition.
- Large crease in cover = Good condition.
What is it about these blemishes that forces a book into Good condition territory? It’s that they are specific and definable.
Generally, a Very Good condition book is going to have light, general blemishes. Whereas a Good condition book is going to have significant, specific blemishes.
this is not an exact science, and there are plenty of books that should be graded as Good condition and have no specific blemishes – they merely have a heavy amount of wear. But in most instances, the “specific and definable” rule holds.
Example of a book in Good condition
Here’s an example of a book that would meet the standards of “Good condition” (but many sellers might consider Acceptable):
This would be a Very Good condition book, except for the giant crease down the middle of the cover. The crease, of course, being a “specific and definable blemish.”
I chose this book specifically because I thought it would be mildly controversial. With the crease, many sellers would opt for Acceptable condition.
Even without the crease, a lot of sellers would consider this a Good condition book, due to the moderate wear around the edges. I wouldn’t necessarily disagree with these assessments, I just don’t think it’s necessary to grade that conservatively. And with a positive feedback score of 97%, my customers agree (or 97% of them do).
The back cover shows more wear around the edges. This is an average used book with average wear, which to me will always mean Very Good condition.
The real definition of Very Good condition on Amazon
Now let’s settle the ambiguity and decide when exactly to list a book in Good condition.
If you got this far and think I’m conservative with my grading and am a stickler for “the rules” – you’re very wrong. I (probably) grade the majority of my books in Very Good condition.
Here is my definition of Very Good condition:
“A used book that lacks anything that could be defined as ‘damage.’’
I would say this applies to over half of books you’ll encounter – clearly used, but no “damage.”
Here’s another way to put it:
“Very Good condition means an average used book.”
Example of a book in Very Good condition
Not much to say about his example. This is a classic used book with light wear. Definitely Very Good condition.
The simple way to tell if a book is Good or Very Good condition
Let’s recap this into one Unifying Theory Of Good Vs. Very Good Condition.
What is the single question you can ask that will settle any confusion over whether a book is in Very Good condition or Good condition?
Here is the question I use:
Does this used book have any specific blemish that could be defined as ‘damage,’ or is the wear general and undefinable?”
That’s a little bit of a mouthful, but if I had to condense everything into one question, that would be it.
- If a book has specific damage, I list it in Good condition.
- If a book merely has general wear, I list it in Very Good condition.
To be extra clear: It’s not always this simple, but this is as close to a single guideline as we can get.
The #1 way Amazon sellers mess this up
The top mistake made on this subject is pricing a Good condition book differently than a Very Good condition book.
In it’s most egregious form, this means sellers not considering their VG book to be competitive with a G condition book, and not taking any book graded below Very Good into consideration when pricing (yes, this happens).
Again, the number of Amazon buyers who will only purchase Very Good condition books or better is probably small. You’re filtering out the majority of potential sales by pricing against competing Very Good condition books only.
It’s a huge (and inaccurate) assumption that buyers are combing through listings to find Very Good condition offers (or clicking the “Very Good” filter), and ignoring Good condition.
Comparing VG to VG only might be a winning strategy for very (very) high demand books. But for 98% of your inventory, this will backfire.
The #2 way Amazon sellers mess this up
The second mistake is grading books too conservatively, and considering the majority of used books to be Good condition.
When you look at the inventory for nearly all megasellers, they grade all or most of their inventory as Good condition. The reason for this is simple: they’re relying on cheap, entry-level-job labor for their book grading. And their graders have to work quickly due to the high volume. So it’s simply not realistic to ask book graders at a large operation to take the time to assess each book for whether it’s in Good condition or Very Good condition.
If you’re a smaller seller, you have an advantage here. If you’re not processing so much volume that it’s unrealistic, you can grade each book individually.
If you’re not doing this, and lumping most or all used books into the “Good” category, you’re abandoning one of the advantages smaller sellers have over larger sellers.
Good vs Very Good: It matters, but not that much
I have not observed a strong preference among buyers for books in Very Good condition over Good. All other things being equal (esp. price), a buyer will of course opt for a VG condition book – if they notice the difference at all.
Yes it helps if your book is Very Good, but not that much. To most Amazon buyers, both Good and Very Good translates equally to “an average used copy.”
The flipside: Condition (we can assume) is a factor for getting the Buy Box.
So my personal take is: It matters, the advantage of Very Good condition over Good condition matters, but not that much.
One YouTube guru, The Used Book Guy, teaches all his followers to grade EVERYTHING as Good or Acceptable—never as VG or LN; and to use the exact same condition note on everything. Of course, he also subscribes to the “undercut everything by a penny” pricing strategy.
Peter Valley says
I’m deliberately in the dark about most YT personalities but I can’t see the rationale behind listing everything in Good condition. It doesn’t serve your business or the Amazon customer (who isn’t stupid and knows what to expect when they order a used book).
If I ordered a “good” condition book from you and received that book with that huge crease in the cover, I’d never order from you again. As a customer, I’d expect “fair” on that one.Your second example, American Heiress, I’d expect to be listed as “good”. “Like new” should be like new and “Very good” should be with very light signs of wear. This is what I expect as a customer and what I have received.
Peter Valley says
There is no condition called “fair” and American Heiress has only very light wear, as described.