ARE YOU BUYING USED BOOKS ON THE INTERNET?

Recently, my webmaster forwarded a request to me from an Internet used book outfit asking that their link be added to my website (www.johnmorganwilson.com). This was my reply:

No, Internet book sales have pretty much finished off my career writing books (after an even dozen). Because of used books sales, my publisher no longer brings out my books in paper, which is true of many other writers. Why should someone purchase our trade paperbacks when they can buy a used hardcover for less? Because of Internet used books sales, I probably will not get another contract to write more mystery novels, since used books sales, after killing off my paperback contract, have now started to eat into my hardcover sales as well. My income is down by half from ten years ago, and dropping, while I'm actually reaching more readers than ever. (Recently, my Edgar-winning title, originally published in 1996, was ranked #51 among Amazon.com's current top 100 gay men's mystery titles, and it has been out of print for seven years, meaning it continues to sell well, while I get no credit for those sales.) Unfortunately, they are buying used books rather than new, for which I get neither credit for sales nor royalties. It also makes getting older titles back into print very difficult, because, again, they are already available used, who what's the incentive for the publisher? Internet used booksellers are killing the golden goose, little by little, and don't seem to give a damn. The bestselling authors will survive and I guess that's all that matters.

Used booksellers argue that used books are a way for readers to discover new authors but the fact is that most of those readers will continue to buy that author's work used. The tradeoff of picking up a few new readers this way, who might buy new books, doesn't begin to offset the enormous loss and damage to our sales and careers that massive used books sales are causing. The last figure I saw was that used books now account for 12% of all books sales, a number that grows each year.

The point is, anyone who is buying used crime novels is hurting the authors. Are you?

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i was worried about used book sales 20 years ago, but at least at that time buyers had to walk into the store or call or mail an order and check. this is a whole new world, and i think internet sales, rentals, and swaps are impacting publishing and writers in an industry-changing way.
i applaud you for taking a stand. about 18 years ago i used this on my dedication page:

Thanks for buying this book new.

it pissed off a lot of readers, and some said they would no longer buy my books because of it. I can see both sides of the issue, but no matter what side you're on it's a simple fact that new books sales have declined as used sales have increased.
Used book sales on the internet are a problem. I hope that some day we can at least convince amazon to remove the offers from the "new" book page.
I buy some research materials used. Often they are not otherwise available or priced in the over $100 bracket because they are scholarly texts. Scholars reap their rewards via teaching contracts and promotions. I also see nothing wrong with buying the top best sellers used. They are frequently not worth the original price. :)
No, I don't buy used books.

And, yeah, I'd like to see Amazon take the links off the pages. It's not like iTunes links to places you can download cheaper and/or illegally.

Also, my publisher is keen to get into some kind of e-books and i don't want it. I can see it quickly becoming like music, once it's easily available in download format, no one will expect to pay for it again.

Now, in order to make it easier on myself so I don't have to go checking sales figures and making value judgements (let's see, this was a bestseller in August when not many total books were sold and this was a bestseller in December when gift buying was at its peak, so can I buy one and not the other?) I just make this an across the board rule.
John, very interesting post and the first time I've heard direct evidence of this hurting someone's career. When people ask me if I mind them buying my books used I've always said no, it's not a problem - perhaps I was being naive (although most often this has happened from amazon in the UK where my books aren't currently available new).

Perhaps the secret is for publishers to start re-investing in the books themselves, making them things of beauty printed on quality paper, ie, the kind of thng people wouldn't want to part with in the first place.
Kevin...

I've been happy with all the printings of my hardcovers, both inside and out. So have the Internet used booksellers, which sell them over and over and over. People who buy used books don't care about the quality of the book, or they wouldn't be buying worn, tattered used hardcovers in the first place. At least that's how I see it. If nothing else, it's a case of books being sold to new readers with no remuneration to the author. I make my living as a writer, have for about forty years, so perhaps it's more of an issue to me than authors who publish as a sideline or labor of love. This is my livelihood, and it's being eroded by the Internet used book industry. And I'm far from being alone in this.
I'm not sure that's it. For one thing, few people keep books. Their homes have no space for them. They give them away or sell them and reinvest the proceeds in a new book. The trouble is that the new book is almost always one of the big sellers (Cornwell, Evanovich, Patterson) who don't miss a few sales. This culture has made a book a throw-away item.
People don't have to choose between buying books and feeding their kids. That's why we have public libraries -- to provide free reading material for the impoverished and those on severely limited incomes. Libraries are the base, the foundation, for sales for midlist writers, and we value them, even as they check out our books again and again, because their "customers" (library patrons) generally can't afford to buy books. Eventually, I suppose, it will all be e-books and print-on-demand. I'll probably be ashes by the time that is fully realized. In the meantime, I repeat: anyone who buys used books online is hurting the careers, incomes, and futures of the authors who wrote those books. If you can't afford to buy the book new, either hard or soft cover, get thee to the library!
I keep all my books, unless they're damaged. I have books here I've had for more than 20 years (and since I'm 36, that's more than half my life).
Quite a few responses on the subject here.
The 99.9% true answer: NO.

The exceptions: when books are out of print and there's no other way, but I confess I usually just don't bother then.

I'm actually well beyond apologizing for the cost of books. Every store I walk into - grocery store included - is loaded with luxury items. The ads on TV tell me how much better my life will be if I only have this or that. Hell, how many people buy a $3 coffee every morning?

Script writers can go on strike and demand more, but there's no recourse for authors affected by things such as this. I honestly don't see what the difference is. Just because some industries have so much clout, they get special protection. CDs are encoded to make it impossible for me to make my own mix - one of my much loved activities from my teen years. I don't give them away, I just like to make aerobics mixes and stuff like that, but that's becoming harder and harder to do. They actually include a special tax right at the till for blank CDs and that pisses me off - it's presumed you're using them for music mixes. I use the majority of mine for data backup of files. The Medical Examiner's Office in Calgary appealed to get the tax back (there's a process) and they were told they had to prove they didn't have music on those CDs. The staff person telling me the story said she said, "This is the medical examiner's office. Do you know what we do here? Come look at all the pictures of autopsies if that's what it will take!"

Books aren't that expensive by comparison to many of the frivolous things people spend money on, and furthermore, reading is a skill. It takes no special intelligence to watch programs on the idiot box.
So true!
taxes on blank CDs (is that a Canadian thing?

Yes. The industry has been after Canada hard-core because we're apparently shamefully lax on the legalities of internet downloads.

And what's sad is, I doubt I'm alone in remembering the anticipation of a new album, exploring the music, finding the hidden gems that never got to be singles but became your personal favourites.

I think part of what turns people off is the flagrant lifestyles of the "celebrities". J Lo, Britney... gag. And people hear that Britney makes over $700,000 per month and she squanders it, and they resent the idea of putting money in her pocket. Then the movie industry, where you can make $10 million or $20 million a picture.

I'd love it if someone had stats, but based off what I see on the day to day reports from PM at least 95% of authors aren't coming anywhere close to a seven figure book deal (and probably at least 80% aren't anywhere near a six-figure deal either, with most of the big money again going to non-fiction, self help books and diet books), and the ones that are getting big bucks are memoirs of politicians or celebrities having their books ghost written.

And the authors know the reality - low advance usually means little promotion behind the book, so more and more the authors are spending that low advance doing all the promotion themselves, right down to printing review copies, paying to mail them out, paying to attend conventions, advertisements, etc.

The interesting thing is that when it comes to selling used books, authors tend to be pretty forgiving about it (generalizing, based on the previous discussion here on the topic). But look at how the movie industry is going after internet piracy. When we were in Bali we bought a bootleg dvd (we were there when the second Silence of the Lambs movie came out - Hannibal? - and although it had just been released in NA you could buy it pirated in Bali) just to see the quality and you could see people's heads moving and hear them cough and stuff (we own an authentic copy of the movie as well, so I don't feel guilty, we didn't steal from anyone money they wouldn't have otherwise made). I'd never buy pirated having seen the quality, I'd rather just not see something. But it's become one part thrill of the hack and one part reaction to the ridiculousness of Hollywood.

I now only go to see one or two movies in the theatre per year. That's my response. The amount of money spent for such a short period of entertainment doesn't even compare to the value return I get from books, and all too often, the movies are substandard.

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