Having enjoyed reading Sydney Nevile's autobiography when I spied another one by a brewing big cheese I decided to get a copy. "Gone for a Burton" by ex-Bass boss Bob Ricketts was a more recent tome but still written by a man with decades of brewing experience. So a quick visit to abebooks later the order was placed and I was looking forward to learning some more fascinating facts.
But it was not to be. After the confirmation email had come through another one followed, this time with bad news:
"We're sorry! AbeBooks sales order number ******* has been cancelled because the item is unavailable. The item may have just sold to a customer in the bookseller's store or via another website"
That's a stroke of bad luck I thought, but as there were a couple of copies on abebooks I just went back and ordered another one. A confirmation email followed, but again another email came soon after:
"Unfortunately, as do most sellers we sell on many markets around the world and the software systems can take a few minutes to update, so this means that on a rare occasion, someone may buy the book on another marketplace just before you do and the system hasnt had time to remove it from sale on the remaining markets before you have also tried to purchase it. This happens rarely, but can happen and is not the sellers fault.
Please accept our sincere apologies for any inconvenience caused. We genuinely hope that you will shop with us again and look forward to your continued custom."
My luck really wasn't in. Two copies of the same book both bought just when I decide I want it. And that was the last of the copies at abebook. Still, there's plenty more websites in the sea so I went to ebay next and sure enough found a copy there which I bought. Or so I thought.
But once again an unwanted email was soon in my inbox:
"This is a courtesy email from Ebay, regarding your recent order.
I'm afraid that during our quality control checks we found that your book was in very poor condition due to damage occurring whilst in storage at the warehouse.
Unfortunately we don’t have any more copies of that book in stock at the moment to replace the order with.
Would you be interested in another title as a replacement for this order? Please visit our shop - if there’s anything you would like then please let us know the ISBN and we will have it shipped out within 24 hours from your request.
If there is not any other title you are currently interested in, we will of course issue a full refund should you prefer.
Once again I'm sorry for the inconvenience, but we wanted you to know as soon as possible. If there's anything else we can do for you, please let us know.
Regards, ******* ****** Ebay Customer Service"
This was too much to be a coincidence, two books suddenly sold just when I wanted them, and another copy destroyed in the warehouse. I suspected sinister forces were at work, and when I resorted to googling for the book these suspicious were confirmed:
The book was now going on Amazon.com for over $5000!
A dark conspiracy in the world of beer geekery had connived to corner the market in retired brewery boss books, by buying up what the could and destroying what they couldn't. They were now using their monopoly position to make the prices rocket! Well craft keg doesn't come cheap and they've got to pay for it somehow.
The only flaw in my otherwise watertight conspiracy theory, aside from the lack of any evidence, is that the price is several orders of magnitude more than anyone would pay for the partial views of a retired brewery manager.
Perhaps there are computer programmes that confuse the low availability of small print run minority interest books with massive demand and price accordingly?
Anyway, I waited a month until my twitter timeline filled with stuff about Borefts Beer Festival and with the international beer geek conspiracy suitably distracted was able to pick up a copy for 1p plus postage.
I've read it now so if anyone wants a copy I'm selling it cheap at only $4000.