Thursday, March 12, 2009

SF Signal: Do Used Booksellers Hurt the Publishing Industry?

SFSignal's Mind Meld feature this week asked the question, Does the used book market help or hurt the publishing industry? Mind Meld asks the same question to a number of people and publish the answers. They get some good thinkers who take the time and trouble to give good answers, too. This was an especially good one. Here are a few snippets. I encourage you to follow the link for more.

Jonathan Strahan: "The greatest problem for writers -- who earn no royalties on books borrowed, loaned, traded, or bought second hand - isn't piracy, it's obscurity. The greatest problem for publishers isn't finding books to publisher or venues to sell them in. It's making readers. The used book for many both an entry into reading and into reading widely. It helps make new readers."

Diana Gill: "Obviously we'd prefer that people buy new books, but used books is one of the best way to try out new authors that you haven't read before, and often people then become big fans and buy new books..."

L.E. Modesitt, Jr.: "In the case of mass market paperbacks, the issue is far from clear.... Even frugal readers hesitated to try to drive to an inconvenient or distant location to save a few dollars unless they were intent on buying large numbers of books and knew that the titles were there. Today, with used books available in multiple locations on the internet, there's more convenience involved, particularly for mass market paperbacks.... [B]ut from where I sit, it's hard to tell how much of that is due to the greater availability of used paperbacks and how much to the 'standardization' and centralization of wholesale distribution, since the two feed off each other, at least partly."

Tim Pratt: "As a former poor kid and later a poor college student and still, frankly, not all that especially rich a guy, I'm a great fan of used books... What I care about is reaching readers, however I can.... [S]omeone might well take a chance on a two-dollar used book that they'd never pay full price for, and that might turn them into a lifelong fan of that author, someone who can't wait to read the next books and buys it in hardcover....

"[T]he doctrine of first sale is a well-established legal precedent. If somebody buys a book, the book -- the physical object -- is their property. They can sell it to someone else, give it away, use it to start a camp fire or level a table or squash bugs."

Mark Chadbourn: "As an author, one of the biggest obstacles facing me at this time is ensuring my name and work appears on the radar of people awash in thousands of books published every year, DVDs, games, TV shows and the constant, distracting chatter of 24-hour 21st century life. With publishers spending less and less on marketing, any avenue that allows you to connect with a potential reader becomes valuable."

Alex Irvine: "If you believe that every used book sold means that a new book is not getting sold, then it follows that the used book market is bad for publishing. I don't think anyone takes that idea seriously outside of publishing offices, though."

Alan Campbell
: "I don't know about that, but I bought six books this week from Oxfam for less than a fiver, which was pretty sweet. Also, two of my own books are in the Sue Ryder charity shop in Morningside, Edinburgh. Would someone please buy them because it's getting more embarrassing each time I go in there and see them still on the shelf."

1 comment:

Mrs. Mac said...

Funny you should post on this subject. Just a few moments ago I was checking out Amazon for a used Paul Harvey Book that S. Patrick had wanted ($42 was the the price for used out of publish) ... I'm a big fan of the public library and used books ... only time I buy new is for a good cookbook. (Grandma is sending the out of publish book to Soldier Boy when she's finished with it).