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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Q4U: Do you buy used books?

I used to be a huge fan of used books. $0.75 is a good price and fit my budget quite nicely all these years. I didn't always have $8 to spend on a paperback but I could always scrounge three quarters for a paperback at the library's used book sale.

The catch is that as I've started working my way towards publication I realize that the good deal for me is a bad deal for the author involved. There are no royalties from a used book.

Worse, the publishing house doesn't see the sale.

When you buy a used book the people determining whether or not Book 3 of the series ever hits the shelves don't know there's any interest in books one and two. And that makes babies cry.

Which is why I'm in such a pickle today.

I've been very good about buying books I want new. As a reader and writer I feel I ought to support authors I like and give them enough respect to buy the book new.... No, I tell a lie. I'm a greedy reader and I want to make darn sure that the next in the series comes out. That's why I buy new. If that didn't matter I'd buy the 75 cent books and send the author a dollar. That would still be cheaper than full price.

Right now there's a cookbook I'm eyeing. My daughter's teacher sent home a book order form. The book budget is $10. The cookbook is $15. That not only breaks the budget but means we can only buy one book.

And the exact same book, brand new, is listed on half.com for seventy-five cents. It's twenty times cheaper to buy the book second-hand. Even with three dollar shipping I could spend the money on other things.

So, what do I do?

Do I buy the book full price to support the author?

Do I buy the book cheap second hand knowing the author won't receive credit?

Do I ignore the book entirely because it's out of my budget and buy another book instead?

Do you buy used books?


  1. I normally buy books at warehouse sales.
    But I don't mind buying used books. It's much cheaper, and I don't have to bother about keeping it pristine (because it's probably a little bent anyway).
    True, the authors don't see a cent, but it's still better than the popular alternative here... which involves copyright infringement. :)
    Go for it :D

  2. There will always be people who buy new books, just like they buy new clothes and new cars. The market between hardcover and paperback is well known too. The range of economy for a book is important for all levels of society.

    In truth, there is very little difference between a cheap used book, a free book, and checking out a book at the library.

    These markets emerge and thrive because they are needed. Don't feel bad for making a good decision for yourself or your family financially.

  3. I do both and have no guilt over it. I figure it's the way it goes.

  4. I get at least 75% of the books I read from the library. I also lead to and borrow books from friends.
    Most of the books that I buy are books that I can't find at the library.

    If you have a limited budget for books and you want to buy one or two used books and one new book, I don't think you're hurting the publishing industry. You are still buys some new books.

    Also spending your time reading used books gets you used to reading, so you are more likely to buy a new book you're excited about when it first comes out and you can't find it used.

  5. I buy used books, take tons of books out of the library, and buy lots of new books, too (I gave everyone B&N gift certificates for Christmas). I wouldn't feel at all guilty about buying used books. Sometimes I buy used books as "experimental" books, ie I wouldn't pay full price for them, but want to try out the author.

  6. Dude, chill. Just buy the cheap book. It's OK.

    I'm like you--I try to buy new books, and I try to buy Indie. But you better believe I'm snatching a deal if it presents itself.

  7. I buy a lot of books. Mostly new because the ones I want are rarely at the used bookstore, but if I find one there that I want I'll get it. Sorry for the author, but we all have our budgets to consider. If I were you, I'd go ahead and get the book--used.

  8. Natz - Yes, hacking computers and stealing manuscripts is probably a bad idea. :o)

    Dina- I collect paperbacks. Hardcover doesn't fit my budget, shelf space, or lifestyle. I like a paperback that I can shove in my purse and travel with so I wait for newer novels to come out in paperback. Good thoughts though, thank you.

    T. Anne - :o) True.

    Kate - I hadn't considered the library angle. I don't have one nearby but I do love libraries for testing an author out. If I keep checking the book out, I'll eventually but it.

    Matilda - That sounds like a very sensible approach. I like it!

    Beth - Thank you! I am absolved. I feel better now :o)

    Lotus - More sensible advice. $15 vs 75 cents is too huge a difference to ignore.

    Thank you all! I love your comments!

  9. This is something that I think about more and more as I see the writers around me spring up with books. I buy many, many more books new than I ever used to. I want to support the industry as much as I can. Great post--I'm glad you brought attention to this!

  10. Angela - It's so true though! If I didn't know writers as people rather than a name on a book I wouldn't care if they had recognition or not. Until I started researching the publishing industry it didn't occur to me that used book sales were different than the regular book sales.

    It's just not something I thought of.

  11. I felt slightly guilty when I discovered my addiction to half price books, but I put that guilt on the backburner when I lugged a pile of books to my car and only spent $25.00. :)

  12. ...And then there's Australia, where a new paperback costs $20. PA-PER-BACK. $20.

    In this world, you definitely have to balance concerns.

    On the other hand, places like Amazon DO give authors a cut, although a smaller one than a traditional bookstore, and they are cheaper than traditional bookstores. Might be worth finding out if Half.com gives authors a cut?? I'd like to know about the Book Depository too...

  13. Amber - Sound like a guilty pleasure.

    Amy - I'll have to ask and see what I can find out. I don't know if brick-and-mortar bookstores that buy back books and resell give authors credit either. But, if I find out, I'll let you know.

  14. I'm not entirely sure about the backend of book sales, but I do know that even if a royalty isn't paid for a used book, it still reaches another person. In fact, that person may appreciate that book more than the original buyer if it ended up in a second hand store. Some of my favourite books growing up were ones I didn't own. And now? I loved them so much, and still remember them. In fact, I've bought most of them, paid full price for a nice copy that I've read half a dozen times.

    It comes down to what means more: money or the readers?

  15. Aisely - That's an interesting question. I think we'll have to blog about that...

  16. I'm fine with people buying and reading used books. Why should the used book die and get cremated? Let it live on in the hands of an interested reader. They may fall in love with it and end up buying more books from the same author. Who knows, with the rise of online publishing perhaps ALL books will be used books someday? Sad.