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Read for Pleasure Makes the Case for Used Book Sales v....

I love reader blogs and whenever one links to us, I go and check them out. Read for Pleasure began blogging this summer. She has an affinity for numbers, statistics, and, most importantly, books. RfP, as she is known in the commenting world, published a Used v. New article last week on her blog. It was an insightful column with interesting facts and insights. I asked whether I could reprint it at Dear Author and she graciously said yes.

* * *

Amazon.com first started selling used books in 2002. It was a huge success. By 2004, 67% of used books sales were online–a higher percentage than any other product category. (Only 12.7% of new books sales were online.)

The Author’s Guild urged its members to de-link Amazon in protest, and sent an open letter to Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon:

If your aggressive promotion of used book sales becomes popular among Amazon’s customers, this service will cut significantly into sales of new titles, directly harming authors and publishers.
April 9, 2002

Bezos in turn emailed Amazon’s used booksellers:

We’ve found that our used books business does not take business away from the sale of new books. In fact, the opposite has happened. Offering customers a lower-priced option causes them to visit our site more frequently, which in turn leads to higher sales of new books while encouraging customers to try authors and genres they may not have otherwise tried. In addition, when a customer sells used books, it gives them a budget to buy more new books.
April 14, 2002

In 2005, a group of economists studied Amazon’s sales data to see whether online used book sales were in fact cannibalizing new book sales. The answer was mostly no. Bezos’ email appears to be accurate.

If you like numbers

In 2004, only 3% of general-interest book sales were used. In-store used book sales are flat, but online used sales have climbed. Which means that used book sales used to be less than 3% of the book market.

The economic analysis found that of all used book sales on Amazon, only 16% replaced new book purchases. (That’s 16% of 3% of total book sales. Half a percent.)

The remaining 84% of used book sales apparently would not have occurred at Amazon’s new book prices.

In other words, 84% of used book sales represent an increase in readership.

Under status quo pricing, retailers (both new and used) should benefit from the used market, but publishers would lose money–$45.05 million out of publishers’ pockets (0.3% of publishers’ 2003 gross profits). However, the economists also found that publishers could compensate by raising new book prices slightly. Furthermore, they found that if publishers raised new-book prices by 10%, used book sales would increase by less than 1% (that’s 1% of 3% of the book market).

Hal Varian (a big name in economics) is a fan of the economic analysis. He points out that Amazon would lose money if their used book sales displaced too many of their new book sales:

According to the researchers’ calculations, Amazon earns, on average, $5.29 for a new book and about $2.94 on a used book. If each used sale displaced one new sale, this would be a less profitable proposition for Amazon.

Of course the balance of new/used isn’t as critical for Amazon as for publishers and authors, because Amazon makes some money on every book sale, including used. Basically Amazon has the same profit problem as publishers, but to a lesser degree.

The economists’ conclusions probably look callous to authors and publishers. They aren’t interested in where the losses happen; in their macro-scale view the publishers’ losses are more than offset by the consumers’ benefits (more competitive pricing, more products to choose from).

One weak point in their analysis is that the losses are accruing entirely to those who produce the books. If the analysis of pricing is accurate, that seems to say that the publishers can make up the loss relatively easily. I would like to see a new analysis in a couple of years, to see whether online used book sales are still climbing and whether publishers have adjusted successfully.

Some interesting author stances

I’m always intrigued with authors’ approach to this issue. Rosina Lippi doesn’t buy used books while the author’s still alive:

I don’t buy used books — if the book is in print, and the author is alive, I buy it new. that’s a solidarity thing and also just plain common sense. If we are to survive as scribblers, we’ve got to support each other.

Lippi doesn’t quite say “And you shouldn’t buy used either” (and she does support libraries), but the issue has come up a few times on her blog. She also tells a story of an evil (and stupid) used book seller who wants to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs.

Then there’s this article on Kay Hooper’s site, which comes out and says it.

*Her site seems to be down, but it’s the Susan Gable guest post that’s also on Marisela Morales’ site, ending:

Our careers, our lines, even our publishers, live and die by the numbers.
So please, where and when you can, save a writer. Buy a new book. We’ll all thank you for it. And that way, you’ll have more choices of books in the future.

The upshot?

Given how few people read, I tend to think that if the used book market increases readership, it’s hard to see that as a bad thing. As I said, I’d like to see another study in the next few years, on whether:

  1. online used book sales are still climbing, and
  2. publishers have adjusted successfully

If some future study demonstrated that online used book sales were seriously–and unfixably–detrimental to authors and publishers, and thus to readers, I might rethink the nuances of my relationships with new and used books. But I’m not inclined to condemn the secondary market in books, regardless of its downstream effects.


A side note–there’s some funny stuff in these debates over buying hardcovers and “supporting authors“.


Sources

© Read for Pleasure, 2007, reprinted with permission.

Guest Reviewer

37 Comments

  1. francois
    Aug 21, 2007 @ 05:21:50

    I buy new books, old books AND use the library. I’d assume that most heavy readers get books every way they can, but I like to buy 2nd hand where possible so that books get re-used. Especially if I’m only going to read it once and pass it on. I understand where authors/publishers are coming from financially, but morally and financially I can’t justify purchasing a new book when there is a perfectly good alternative. Of course this all goes out the window if a book I really really want is only available new…so the answer is to write really good books that people can’t help but buy?

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  2. Jackie
    Aug 21, 2007 @ 06:07:51

    I’m divided.

    Most of me fully supports used books — and the terrific free option, the library — because it doesn’t matter to me where people get my book; if they read it for free and really like it, hopefully they will buy my next book. And there’s something to be said about sampling authors for a reduced price or for free — what a terrific benefit for the reader. And really, if we’re not doing this for the readers, what are we doing this for?

    But the rest of me — the author who hopes to do this writing thing full-time one day — frets that if I don’t make my numbers, there will be no “next book.” Even if the third book is groundbreaking, if the sales from the first and second books aren’t there, there’s the very strong possibility that the author will be dropped. Of course, that’s not the reader’s problem.

    Me, I’ll buy books new unless they’re out of print (in which case, I’ll take them any way I can get them). And I’m happy when people tell me they’ve read and liked my book — I sure won’t ask if they’ve bought it.

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  3. Nora Roberts
    Aug 21, 2007 @ 06:48:46

    Once you buy a book, it’s your property. I figure you can keep it, sell it, give it away, whatever. I’ve never had a problem with used book stores–already been paid, thanks–and I firmly believe they can and do increase readership.

    My problem with Amazon is they advertize the used book on the main page of the new book. I don’t care that they sell books used–fine and dandy–I strongly dislike the method of having both new and used together on the same page.

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  4. Sarah McCarty
    Aug 21, 2007 @ 06:57:11

    I’m pretty prosaic about the reality of the secondary market. It’s been there for as long as I’ve been alive. I always buy new, but I pass books on to others. So I contribute and detract in the same movement. Like any other author, I hope my sales will be sufficient to keep me published. Like every reader, I totally understand the need, desire and thrill of used book stores. I spent so many years in them when I was growing up, when folks on a list talk about the great haul they made, the treasure they uncovered, I still get a vicarious thrill.

    Maybe I should be concerned, but I’m not. Probably because if change to the system is ever going to come, it’s going to be instigated at a much higher level than author and reader, so for me, it’s pretty much a non issue.

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  5. Shannon Stacey
    Aug 21, 2007 @ 07:33:23

    Speaking as an author, sure it would be nice if everybody bought new. But as a reader, even I don’t do that, so it would be hypocritical of me to try to insist readers buy mine new.

    I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for twelve years and that Mommy Guilt kicks in PDQ when that book I want is $14 because the urban crowd has made trade paperback the best thing since supersizing value meals. And hardcovers? Fuggedaboudit. But if I can bag up a few books I’ve read and truck them over to Annie’s and get credit toward that used trade book, I’m there. And if that book knocks my sock off, then yes, I’ll pay the $14 for her next one. And I’ll tell my friends about it, and probably pass it on to somebody, sharing the joy.

    So maybe, as an author, I can just hope that a reader who picks mine up used will love it and spread the word. Since I’ll have already received royalties for that copy, isn’t it worth more to me to then have a reader pick it up at the UBS and—hopefully—give it some word of mouth? I think so. It’s definitely better than trying to browbeat potential readers into buying new.

    I will say, though, that Amazon listing used copies of Adrenline right there on the front page before it was even available in stores got my knickers in a twist.

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  6. Ann Aguirre
    Aug 21, 2007 @ 07:59:13

    I’m cool with used bookstores and libraries. I just want people to read my books. Ideally, they read it, however they got a hold of it, and I go on their must-buy list from that point on.

    Hey, I can dream.

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  7. Ann Bruce
    Aug 21, 2007 @ 08:02:39

    With some mass market paperback prices at $12 CDN (about $10.50 USD), I can understand UBS because it makes economic sense for a number of people and I have no issue with Amazon’s practices.

    Personally, though, since I’m a little anal, I only buy new because it looks nicer on my bookshelf. I will only resort to used if the book is OOP and the publisher has no plans to reissue (e.g. early Iris Johansen). Even then, I’ll put self-adhesive vinyl on the covers of the used books to make ‘em prettier.

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  8. Jane A.
    Aug 21, 2007 @ 08:09:25

    I haven’t done the math on this, but I always figure that by the time I pay for shipping from each of the individual vendors who is selling on Amazon, that I might as well pay full price for new on a number of books and use the super saver shipping. The higher the price of the book the less true this becomes, but nonetheless I don’t believe that I’ve ever ordered used from a vendor when new is available for just this reason.

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  9. Ann Bruce
    Aug 21, 2007 @ 08:13:44

    Oh, and did I mention I’m addicted to “new book scent” and nothing quite beats opening the cover of a new book for the the first time (but not all the way because I don’t want to crease it).

    I’ve been known to get books from the library, get turned off because they’ve obviously been read too many times, and I’ll go order new instead.

    Did I mention I’m anal?

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  10. Bev Stephans
    Aug 21, 2007 @ 08:35:37

    As an avid reader, I buy books in all venues: HC, TPB, PB, E-Books, new & used. It really depends on how much I like an author and availability. Over the past 20 years, I have purchased enough new hardcovers to subsidize quite a few authors. I have also purchased many new paperbacks. I usually buy used books because the copy I want is no longer in print or I’m not sure whether or not I will like a book. There have been a few books that I bought used and ended up buying new because I wanted a better copy. I have a feeling that people who read a lot have similar buying habits.

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  11. Tara Marie
    Aug 21, 2007 @ 09:30:19

    In a perfect world, I would buy everything new and keep everything nicely shelved and organized. But I live in a reality with limited funds and storage space.

    Mostly I buy new books based on the author, release dates and blurbs. But if a book’s been out a while and it’s in good shape at my local UBS, I’ll pick it up and save a few dollars. I do this with TPB in particular, when I can pick-up a TPB for under $4 versus $14-$18.

    I believe that most avid (obsessive) readers will try an author used and then if they like the author will buy new in the future. This can be a winning situation for authors, though I do understand the concern about getting the “next” book published.

    I didn’t have enough time to actually delve into all the statistics, but I have to wonder about Amazon’s used book growth–how much of this is text books and out of print books?

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  12. Jennifer McKenzie
    Aug 21, 2007 @ 09:35:35

    Here’s my take. If I buy an book “used” and that author really does the job, then I’m probably going to look for other titles…new OR used. As an author, I don’t object to someone finding my title on a “used” shelf.
    And here’s a weird thing. That “new and used” option on Amazon? That’s the only way to get my upcoming book directly from the printer at a better price. Otherwise, who is going to pay $25 for a 170 pp. paperback? Small presses use this option to be on Amazon without doing the high priced premium listing.
    I’ve bought TONS of books new AND used. I want people to READ my books. Sure, I’d love to buy them new, but that’s not always in the budget.
    We authors, of all people, can understand that problem. Used books lead to readers doing what I’d love them to do. READ MY BOOKS.

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  13. RfP
    Aug 21, 2007 @ 09:54:08

    Thanks, Jane. I appreciate that you share my obsessions :)

    I'd assume that most heavy readers get books every way they can

    I think so too.

    My problem with Amazon is they advertize the used book on the main page of the new book.

    I think it’s a little odd how the used books are presented–just before you click Add To Cart, you’re invited to change your mind and look at used copies. However, I wonder if Amazon feels that this way, people make the decision to buy before they face all the used/shipping choices. I’d think that if a shopper’s already decided to front the money for the new book, she’s less likely to be swayed by a used offering.

    by the time I pay for shipping from each of the individual vendors who is selling on Amazon, that I might as well pay full price for new

    Usually when I do the math, I find there’s at least one book on my list that I must have new, so I might as well buy them all new and get free shipping. This morning I looked at Agnes and the Hitman–the Amazon discount brings it down to the price of a trade paperback, and there are no used copies yet, so many people will probably do what I did–buy another new book to get free shipping on both.

    Maybe I should be concerned, but I'm not. Probably because if change to the system is ever going to come, it's going to be instigated at a much higher level than author and reader, so for me, it's pretty much a non issue.

    I agree. According to the articles above, publishers can compensate for online used book sales by raising prices by a very small amount. That doesn’t help boost an author’s “official” sales, but it does help the publishers. Perhaps publishers need to change the way they measure authors’ sales. Or stop remaindering brand-new books before the official release date. (I assume that’s one reason Shannon Stacey’s book was on Amazon before it was in stores.) Either way, I can’t see blaming used book buyers for it.

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  14. RfP
    Aug 21, 2007 @ 10:08:05

    Amazon's used book growth-how much of this is text books and out of print books?

    Tara Marie, good question–I should have mentioned that. All the stats in those articles are about fiction, not textbooks.

    Textbooks are the most lucrative used book sales. However, studies find that college students know the value of that secondary market, so students are more willing to pay for a new textbook because they know they can resell it. (I certainly remember standing in the bookstore pondering the non-resalable, $10 cheaper, used book.)

    Most textbooks are strictly a buy/use/resell proposition, rather than buy/fall in love with/keep forever. Plus, campus bookstores have institutionalized the buy-back process. So the resale value is a priority.

    I don’t recall seeing any stats that differentiated between in-print and out-of-print used books. That would be interesting to know.

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  15. Emily
    Aug 21, 2007 @ 10:13:20

    How do they know what proportion of used book sales are online? 67% seems very unlikely to me and used sales offline are generally unreported and unrecorded.

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  16. Jade
    Aug 21, 2007 @ 10:24:07

    I’m just a reader here, not a writer. As a reader, I realize there are a bunch of you whose livelihoods depend on book sales. Knowing this, I always buy new, whether PB, TPB or HC, when I like that author’s work.

    I do buy a lot of used books, too. In fact, this summer alone, I must’ve spent a fortune on shipping thru the online UBS, but all of those purchases were hard to find or OOP books that I could only locate used and online.

    If I hear good things about an author, I’ll take the time to visit their site, maybe read an excerpt here and there-or go to the bookstore and sit and read for a bit. If I like it, I’ll order/buy it new. If I have an author that’s slipping in my favor, I’ll switch to buying their stuff used.

    On the flip side, though, there’s been times when I’ve read some big name authors’ old stuff used, then, b/c the book was so good, I turned around and bought it new (obviously, only if it’s still in print or been recently re-released). I guess it’s just my little way of saying “hey, good job on that thing you did from 10 years ago!”

    I think most of us have a complex system of how we go about buying new and used. And the numbers’ runners can tally up as much as they want, but, I think, we’re all gonna keep on doin’ what we keep doin’ for the most part, don’t you think?

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  17. Jay Lake
    Aug 21, 2007 @ 10:25:14

    The “buy new to support the author” rubric only makes sense if the book is still in print. For out of print backlist, used is often the only option. Speaking as both an author (Tor, Night Shade) and a reader, being able to find used copies of older work of an author I’ve newly discovered is very valuable.

    One advantage of independent presses, especially those using POD back-ends, is the ability to keep a title in print over a long period of time. When my current New York-published hardback sells out, it will simply be gone until the mass market is available. When that’s gone, the book will be gone unless I’m lucky enough to go into reprint. The used book market will be the only place to find it after that.

    On the other hand, my independent press titles still generate modest but meaningful sales, in some cases years after first coming into print.

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  18. RfP
    Aug 21, 2007 @ 11:24:35

    Tara Marie, I just remembered a study on out-of-print vs in-print used books. Some of these figures were used in the other articles I cited.

    In 2005 the Book Industry Study Group published a study on the used book market. The complete study is expensive; here’s a summary from the American Booksellers Association.

    Among independent book stores that sell both new and used, sales were pretty evenly split between in/out of print:

    • 48% of used books sold were titles that were still in print. 52% were out of print.

    • The number of nonstudents who only buy used books was just 2%.

    • 57% of all used book sales were paperbacks. 43% were hardcovers.

    The BISG study used sales data and surveys from “over 500 booksellers and 2,000 consumers and students”, including ABA, Abebooks, Alibris, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Biblio, Book Hunter Press, Bowker, eBay, Monument Information Resources, and Powell’s.

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  19. WandaSue
    Aug 21, 2007 @ 11:41:59

    If a book is out of print, would an author prefer that a reader NOT glom them at a used book store?

    Seriously, most readers will buy new. I will, always.

    It’s only when the book is out of print that I’ll go used.

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  20. RfP
    Aug 21, 2007 @ 11:42:44

    How do they know what proportion of used book sales are online? 67% seems very unlikely to me and used sales offline are generally unreported and unrecorded.

    If offline used sales were “generally” unrecorded, used book sellers’ taxes would be audited like crazy! I’m sure it’s an issue; it’s just the scale of it that I question.

    That said, I’m sure some offline used book stores fall through the cracks, and one study of indie bookstores found that for those stores, 80% of used book sales were in-store. I’d guess the large difference is due more to surveying different types of stores (e.g. Book Rack paperback trading stores, which are very locally-driven, versus Powell’s) than to a massive black market in used books.

    I do think the NY Times articles’ numbers are strong–those studies directly compared in-store and online sales for used book stores that sell through Amazon, Abebooks, and Alibris. Those on/offline comparisons are becoming easier every year, as more used bookstores put their whole inventory online. And the in-store sales figures are pretty easy to validate through business taxes and economic surveying.

    One article I didn’t cite was from Publishers Weekly in April ’07. PW described studies on Abebooks and Alibris, and interviewed a couple of large publishers. They give a mixed forecast–some used book stores doing well online but others not; some new bookstores doing well by selling used; one publisher not concerned but another anxious.

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  21. Kat
    Aug 21, 2007 @ 11:44:03

    I buy used to try new authors or to acquire backlists for authors that I’ve fallen in love with. Then those authors are autobuys for new books. If I didn’t buy used, I’d borrow from the library or borrow from a friend or just not read the book at all because I couldn’t possibly afford to buy all my books new. But once the author is auto-buy, it takes A LOT for me to stop buying her books. Plus I foist the books onto all my romance-reading friends. So I think in many ways it evens out (or at least comes close).

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  22. LinM
    Aug 21, 2007 @ 11:52:04

    What a blast – a small question answered – now I know what Rfp stands for. Like Tara Marie, I wonder what percentage of online book sales are OOP. I also wonder what the sales figures are for publishers who are digitizing their backlists and how that interacts with the used market for those books.
    I get books wherever I can: ebooks if possible (both new and replacements for titles on my keeper shelves); the library if they have it; new if the book is still in print; used if the price is manageable. I’ve been browsing through the Rfp “Tip of the bookberg” list realizing how many books I get from the library primarily because the ebooks are not available – I’m now up to 170′th place for “The Yiddish Policemen’s Union”.

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  23. Kristin
    Aug 21, 2007 @ 11:52:54

    I think Amazon should at least hold off on allowing used books to be sold for a certain amount of time after release. I mean, give the author some chance to sell his or her book brand new for a few weeks and/or months without that ‘used book’ thing on the sales page. What I don’t get is how a ‘used book’ seller could have a used book ready for sale the DAY of a new book’s release. It’s not really ‘used’ then, is it? It really is brand new, but you are giving some kind of better discount than Amazon, right?

    And why would Amazon want other new book sellers to compete with them? I don’t understand that at all.

    Authors I love (which are very few in number) will get automatic Amazon buys from me. Authors I want to explore I will either borrow from a friend or get from the library. Every now and then I might buy one used. And, if I like the author, I will go crazy to find their back list or any new books out. Meaning: sale!

    However, I live very far from any big, chain bookseller, so I am not tempted to walk up and down the aisles of B&N and buy, buy, buy. So, there is not some conscious effort on my part to avoid the full prices at B&N or Borders and go down the street to some hole-in-the-wall used book store to HOPE they have the book I want or wait for it to be delivered from some seller though Amazon.

    Best gift for a reader? Very large gift cards to Borders or B&N. I mean like $100 or $200. Those $20 ones only get you 1 1/2 books nowadays. If I got a gift card, I would go NUTS in the store, No problems there.

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  24. Susan/DC
    Aug 21, 2007 @ 11:54:26

    I’m a reader, not an author, and I find my reading material wherever and whenever I can. However, I have a few general rules that I try to follow for selfish reasons, either to save money or to try to ensure my favorite authors keep publishing: 1) Rarely buy HB because, even though I’m lucky enough to have a fairly large book budget (the kids are grown and books are a relatively cheap mid-life crisis), I do have limits and HB are expensive. 2) OOP books are fair game, since they can only be found used or in the library. 3) Mid-list authors are bought new, because otherwise they might not get that next contract (the list of such authors I love who are in this situation is way too long as it is). 4) Best selling authors are usually also fair game for the library or UBS, since I figure my share of Stephen King’s sales is far smaller than my share of Tracy Grant’s. He doesn’t need my word of mouth, but I very much want to read the third book in her Frazier series.

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  25. RfP
    Aug 21, 2007 @ 12:09:46

    now I know what Rfp stands for

    Yeah, it’s not very imaginative, once you know!

    I've been browsing through the Rfp “Tip of the bookbergâ€? list realizing how many books I get from the library primarily because the ebooks are not available – I'm now up to 170′th place for “The Yiddish Policemen's Unionâ€?.

    You’d snicker if you saw the rest of the “berg”. It’s large. And that’s books in my Amazon wishlist or my library queue, not books on the “someday” list or impulse buys. On the upside, at least my bookberg is more virtual than physical. If I had that many unread books waiting on my desk (floor, garage, spilling onto the sidewalk), I’d cry in frustration.

    I use the library like Netflix–I request a bunch of books I’m curious about, and see what arrives. I’m #155 in line for a recent movie… but #3 for “Yiddish Policemen” and several others. I foresee a reading crunch if they all arrive at once. It’s a good problem to have.

    As others have said, I use the library and sometimes used book stores to try new authors. The more books I read, the more favorite authors I find, and the more new releases I hear about. I don’t like hardcover, but I’ll buy a new hardcover by a favorite author because I’m too eager to wait.

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  26. Stephanie
    Aug 21, 2007 @ 12:12:25

    I’m young and poor and I read pretty quickly, so if I wanted to support my reading habit by buying only new books (no library, no used), I’d probably own less than a tenth as many books and I’d spend a lot of time being frustrated.

    I do shell out for authors I particularly like, but there are maybe four of them total.

    These facts might change as I get more disposable income.

    Expecting readers only to buy new is a bit unrealistic in our current economic climate.

    (Also, the environmentalist in me wonders where all that paper is coming from to make all those books . . . and how much of a waste it would be if every used book sat around un-resold forever.)

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  27. RfP
    Aug 21, 2007 @ 12:59:10

    Kristin: What I don't get is how a ‘used book' seller could have a used book ready for sale the DAY of a new book's release.

    I thought this was usually because the publisher decided to remainder books–i.e. sell whatever’s left to stores for 1/2 price. I don’t know why they would remainder books before the release date. Perhaps it made sense back before online sales created pricing competition between “new” and “new used”.

    why would Amazon want other new book sellers to compete with them?

    Amazon does such a huge volume of business that it’s more important to be *the* source for cheap books, than to maximize profit per book. Amazon makes half the money on used books that it does on new, but selling cheap books brings customers back over and over, so overall Amazon gets more business.

    I think Amazon should at least hold off on allowing used books to be sold for a certain amount of time after release.

    That’s an interesting idea–though it might do more for first-week, bestseller-list sales figures than for overall sales through the book’s lifetime or for midlist sales. I imagine it would play out like this–what do you think?
    • The 2% who only buy used would wait.
    • Casual fans would dribble in to Amazon gradually over time; latecomers would see both new and used.
    • Some casual fans, and eager fans who buy the first week, would buy new-new instead of new-used.

    Susan/DC: Best selling authors are usually also fair game for the library or UBS, since I figure my share of Stephen King's sales is far smaller than my share of Tracy Grant's.

    I like that. Having decided to buy, you’re figuring out where your purchasing dollar speaks the loudest.

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  28. Kerry
    Aug 21, 2007 @ 16:21:29

    I would just love to be able to buy all my books new, but there’s a catch.

    I can’t afford it.

    My book budget is small and my reading appetite is huge.

    Also, books are very expensive here (New Zealand) and a standard mmp works out costing about US$17. If I buy from Amazon and have books shipped here, it’s nearly the same once the outrageous cost of postage goes on.

    I buy new whenever I can as I do like the idea of supporting the author, but it just isn’t always possible.

    So while I appreciate the various ethical reasons offered for purchasing, the bottom line is being able to afford it.

    I am starting to buy ebooks, and I think they work out well for authors as then I only have to pay the same price as any US consumer and I get the book immediately. However, I haven’t got over the need for a real, paper book yet. (And, if a book is tucked away on my computer I tend to forget I have it, whereas if it’s glaring at me from the shelf, I’m more likely to see it and remember to read it.)

    Just a ramble really, but trying to offer a pov from those of us who don’t live in a “big” country.

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  29. Larissa Ione
    Aug 21, 2007 @ 17:52:57

    Ann, I’m with you when I buy from Amazon…I figured out that buying new and getting shipping for free is actually cheaper than buying books used and paying for shipping.

    Of course, I’ve rarely bought used…ever. UBS and antique stores give me the creeps. I can’t stand the vibes I get off a lot of used books, so I generally avoid them.

    I know, I’m weird…

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  30. RfP
    Aug 21, 2007 @ 20:20:27

    Kerry: I haven't got over the need for a real, paper book yet.

    Me too. I love the idea of ebooks, but in practice I miss paper. Partly because ebooks look so similar. When I read a printed book, I get attached to the quirks of that edition–the cover, heft, color of the paper, font, whether it opens flat.

    I always read Jane’s posts about ebooks, hoping to catch the bug, but it hasn’t gelled yet. I’d be more motivated if I had to pay postage… or if e-publishers carried more out-of-paper-print books (I’ve only seen a little of this so far). Used book stores are hit-or-miss for catching up on an author’s backlist. Ebooks would be perfect for it.

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  31. Teddy Pig
    Aug 21, 2007 @ 20:49:03

    RfP I think that you would realize what you are missing by picking up some paperbacks that started as eBooks. I find they are different than what usually is found in paperback. Some better, some worse but a bit more edgier that is for sure.

    As far as used books go. Love em, where else can I get out of print books?

    Also, I have actually found new authors to read through used books and ended up buying their new hardcovers so I think it all evens itself out in the end. Despite the publishers greed.

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  32. thebooklass
    Aug 22, 2007 @ 00:49:10

    As a used bookseller…and please don’t hurt me if you think I’m the devil..we are good publicity for authors. No the money does not go to the author, but the books we get have come from customers who have already bought the book from regular retail chains. Also, understand that there are some books that used book stores don’t ever hardly ever see. Specially, the “it” books right now. Urban fantasy, christian fiction, paranormal and hip young adult novels. These are what our customers are looking for, but cannot provide, so they turn to the local retail chain. As a reader, I try out authors from used books then in turn buy there books at my local Borders if I love them.

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  33. Robin
    Aug 22, 2007 @ 01:49:02

    Kristin: What I don't get is how a ‘used book' seller could have a used book ready for sale the DAY of a new book's release.

    I thought this was usually because the publisher decided to remainder books-i.e. sell whatever's left to stores for 1/2 price. I don't know why they would remainder books before the release date. Perhaps it made sense back before online sales created pricing competition between “new� and “new used�.

    I’ve often figured — especially in the case of much anticipated books by big authors — that in the case of individual sellers, they acquire the book on the day it’s released, read it immediately, and then, like the next day, send it out as used. Often, I find that these sellers are not stores but individual Amazon Marketplace or eBay sellers. Also, since so many books seem to be released some places ahead of their actual street date, that books are acquired early and then sold as used on the actual release date.

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  34. francois
    Aug 22, 2007 @ 04:55:42

    I love the used book option on Amazon because it offers a direct comparison to the new price. The problem with a used book site like Abe Books is that (obviously) you have to go to another site to find out what the new price would be, and the shipping costs vary between each retailer there. Whereas the used books on Amazon are all the same shipping, making it very easy to do a comparison with the new books. If it happens that the books you want are all available from the same place, then you get a shipping discount for bulk.

    Its a bit of a pain, but I tend to go through each book I want to buy, checking the price difference. But sometimes, even despite the price difference I’ll buy new. Agnes and the Hitman is a bit of a dilemma. I’ve requested the local library buy it because I never buy hardbacks (they take up too much space and are unnecessary), but will they buy it? And will my willpower hold out?

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  35. Elizabeth LaVelle
    Aug 22, 2007 @ 19:52:06

    Kristin: What I don't get is how a ‘used book' seller could have a used book ready for sale the DAY of a new book's release.

    Speaking as a bookseller, the two main sources are: review copies traded in by local reviewers (these are often sent out well in advance of the release date, so that the review can be published around the release date); copies received damaged from the publisher being sold at a reduced price (rather than hassle with the damaged-returns process).

    Francois: ABE Books also includes new books these days – they eliminated their “used only” rule several years ago.

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  36. francois
    Aug 23, 2007 @ 04:51:37

    “ABE Books also includes new books”

    Thanks for the info. I find them too complicated for general use anyway, and being in the UK doesn’t help matters. They’re only for emergencies where the postage works out – i.e. books that are commonly available 2nd hand in the US, but difficult to find in any form in the UK. Abe turned up trumps when tracking down early Loretta Chase.

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  37. Rosina Lippi
    Aug 31, 2007 @ 16:37:05

    For the sake of clarity (and a bit late), please note that after a massive overhaul and move to wordpress, almost all links to my weblog are wrong or broken.

    Here’s the link to the booknerd here the more on used books — which I believe were the two posts cited.

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