Thursday, March 8, 2012

Lost Book Algorithm.

I am a kid. This is my candy shop.
Here's a scenario for you to consider:

You walk into a Gamestop to trade in some of your used video games and you're decidedly underwhelmed at the unimpressive offer the manager makes on your games.

You think:
...But I paid $60 for this game just last week!
...But my son only played the game once!
...But this is a really popular game! You must be able to offer me better than that!


Sadly, as with most retail items, a video game's value drops drastically after you've removed the plastic wrap. If you're stuck selling a game back, you may get upwards of $30 for a new or popular release, but most games for current consoles come in somewhere around $10 or less. If you accept store credit, your games are usually valued a little higher.

("Hang on!", you say. "Isn't this a library blog? Aren't we supposed to talk about library things?" We will, my friend. We will. Just hang in there. We'll get to the library-relevant meat soon.)

All Gamestop stores offer the exact same amount for a given title, regardless of what location you visit. It's consistent. It probably saves them a lot of trouble.

But it got me thinking, How do they determine how much your game is worth?

I'd like to think it's some complicated algorithm with values that changes on a weekly basis based on supply and demand. Perhaps something like this:


But then you'd actually try to use the formula and realize that, while in concept it looks pretty cool and mathy, this algorithm would actually pay out higher for games that are returned more frequently, which completely rejects the concept of wants/needs.

And in truth, Gamestop probably just pays a person to adjust the values on the used games on a weekly basis based on what's selling and how many of particular titles gets returned.

No matter.

The whole reason my brian ruminated over Gamestop's buy-back practices was because I began to ponder whether or not you could create an algorithm to determine the value of lost books.

(Ah ha! Finally!)

But wait! Don't we already know the value of the lost book by looking up the retail value of the title through sources like Amazon?

I'm not sure we do. It seems to me like a book such as Diary of a Wimpy Kid, which is checked by one student after another, rarely ever making it back onto the shelf, is more valuable to the collection than, say, a book published in 1968 with the title Robotic Innovations of the Future. To me, this makes Wimpy Kid more valuable to our collection.

And if the book is more valuable to the collection, shouldn't we be able to ask a greater fee if the item is lost or damaged and needs to be replaced?

Of course not! That would be ridiculous! 

But you have to admit that it would be a little fun, if only to see the students reactions as you start dispersing bills for lost books that start to more closely resemble your heating or phone bill!


Yeah... sorry Jimmy, but that Babymouse book you lost is very popular. Had you just lost your own copy, you could probably replace it for around $6.99. But because you lost the library's copy, and because that copy is always being checked out by our students, you now owe us $239.65. I know that's a lot, but think of all of the kids who now won't be able to read that book. You've lost Babymouse for all of them, too!

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