Yesterday, I was reading a post on Dear Author
about used bookstores/internet used book sales. Interesting post, meaty, with some fascinating statistics. The overall theme, for those who haven't read it, was that retailers (both online and brick and mortar) are not hurt by used book sales. I know for a fact they don't hurt the store I work at. But for publishers and authors, it's another story. Based on 2003 sales figures, and an estimate of .3%, over $45 million dollars. That's not chump change.
Now, according to the individual who originally posted the study (Read for Pleasure
), it's a simple matter of increasing new book prices slightly to make up for that loss. I wonder, however, if that would work, or would it simply increase the demand for lower priced used copies?
How do authors feel? Several have voiced very firm opinions. Rosina Lippi doesn't buy used, as long as the author's alive. Susan Gable has a post titled, Save a Writer, Buy a New Book!
on another author's blog. Clearly, there are some authors who do not see any potential gain from used book sales.
Me? I'm somewhere in the middle. I get a pretty good idea of what goes on in a used bookstore. I see the drawbacks and the benefits. Loss of potential sales, but an increase in potential readership, buzz and word of mouth exposure.
In our store, there are those who buy new because they want the latest release--the one they've read about in last month's RT magazine--and they want it NOW. Not tomorrow. Not next week. And definitely not a month or two after everyone else has bought it.
Then there are those who rarely buy new. They're willing to wait. So, if my books weren't available used, would the used book readers buy them new? Chances are, they wouldn't.
What about the buyer in the middle? The one who sometimes buys new, sometimes buys used? They aren't as common as the extremes, at least at our store, but IMO, they are the ones an author could actually benefit from. The exception to the rule. These are the readers who might buy a backlist title used, and then find other titles and buy those new.
Benefits and drawbacks. To me, they seem to balance out. Probably won't make me the most popular person among my peers.
Some people might suggest I'm on the fence because I work at a store that sells both used and new books, that I wouldn't be if I didn't. Perhaps that's true, to a certain extent. But not because of any loyalty I feel to the store. If anything, it's the insight I have into the book buying habits of our customers that have kept me from taking a hard core anti-used book stance. New book buyers almost always buy new. But used, rarely.
Any thoughts? Insight? Comments? Rotten tomatoes? Let's talk.
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