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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Yeah, I've pretty much stopped going to movies, too, but that's because if you're over forty there aren't many movies for you. By the way, we had the blank tape tax in Canada long before there were downloads or- it started with cassettes and VHS tapes (wow, I am old).

Personally I don't care at all about where the money goes after I give it up. If the movie pays its star twenty million dollars or twenty cents it costs me the same amount to see it. I've always wondered why low budget movies aren't cheaper to see.

I guess it's the same thing with books. It doesn't matter if the writer gets a million dollar advance or a thousand dollar advance, the books cost the same.

Really, I try not to think about this stuff too much...
The problem, of course, is that the great majority of published novelists get modest advances, not nearly enough to live on. We depend on royalties to pay for our time and effort. But, with used books increasing, our royalties are diminishing, and we can't collect for our work. It's a shame you don't care about this "stuff." I'm surprised that, as a reader (I assume) you place such little value on the writer. We work hard to write the best books we can and simply want to survive and make a living at it if possible. It's disheartening to hear from a (presumed) reader who couldn't care less.
You misunderstand. I said I don't care how much movie stars or bestselling novelists get paid - it's still no reason to steal from them and I still thinking buying used books and downloading pirated movies is stealing and we shouldn't do it. I meant that if publishers pay "too much" of an advance for a book or a producer pays "too much' for a movie star, I still think we should pay for the product. I thought i made that clear.

I am also a novelist.
That's unfair. It is not the reader's responsibility to ensure the writer make a living. Would you prefer he not read your book at all? So long as the reader has not infringed the copyright or theft statutes, he should be free to buy his books where and when he wants. The writer's livilihood is a matter between the writer and his publisher.
Taking this in a slightly different vein...

What about different industries?

Example: We have a satellite dish. We pay for channels to watch every month. I am paying for that service. But if we want to have a second receiver, so that we can watch the channels upstairs or watch the channels downstairs, we have to pay more for the second receiver. Why? Have we paid for our monthly service? Yes. Does it cost the provider any more money to provide service to our house? No. Does it cost us more already? Yes, we have to buy a second receiver.

Why should we have to pay an extra charge?

Plenty of people rig up cable splitters (last time I had the service you could still get charged for that). You could say that the issue of payment is between those who make the shows and the networks, but that isn't how it's enforced. Customers are expected to pay for a service. All around here, even the fast food restaurants have signs up about minimum charges required in order to take a table, or a minimum amount that needs to be spent before you're allowed to use a debit card to pay, sometimes a credit card too.

I suppose, ultimately, what I would ask is this: How important are good books to you? Even as a reviewer, who receives more free books in a year than I could read, I buy at least an equal number to that. I've made a deliberate choice over the last few years, one that involves spending less on other forms of entertainment, and buying more books. It most certainly isn't against the law to buy used books. I appreciate those who use it as a tester and will buy new books from the authors they discover that they like via that route. All I really would say if people strictly buy used by choice is that I'm not interested in hearing them complain about boring covers, typos, grammatical errors or unoriginal books. And I'm not saying that the people here who say they buy used have made those comments - I'm just saying it in general. You get what you pay for. Use the libraries - some of the funding is based on user numbers. The more people using libraries and supporting libraries help support a vital community institution and the authors of the books they enjoy.
I've always wondered why low budget movies aren't cheaper to see.

It's no different than anything else, John. Manufacturing costs are front-loaded behind new products. That's why computers and vcrs and cameras and all that stuff eventually drop in price, but they don't give a refund to people who paid the full initial rate. The cheaper version of movies is the cheap theatres, the dvds, rentals.

Just another difference: we say once someone owns a car they can resell it, so why not a book, it's their property, they can do what they want with it. But those rules do not apply when you buy a dvd. I was looking at the possibility of doing a movie night at the library and although I own the movie, you can't do that: showing in a public place requires purchasing a license. The movie was out years ago, so it wouldn't be competing with box office ticket sales. But if we decide to have story time at the library there's no license involved. We do treat different industries differently. In the UK they charge for author events in bookstores. Here, you wouldn't dream of doing it for bookstore events - nobody would go. But it probably reflects on the value - or lack of value - we put on written arts in our society.
We have the Harbourfront Reading series in Toronto, which isn't in a bookstore, but there is a charge - and the writers even get paid, I did it last winter, I was the "opening act" for Jim Crace, it was fun.

Years ago Canadian film distributors tried to show their movies in Canadian theatres and charge less than Hollywood blockbusters. They were willing to take a much smaller cut. There are two movie chains in Canada and they wouldn't go along with it. You could try forever to find out if they were threatened they might not get the blockbusters and you'd never be able to prove it. Who knows? Business is a funny place.
And if the government imposed Canadian content regulations in movie theatres, the way it does on radio, we'd see that change in a heartbeat. Force of necessity.

People here pay to attend Wordfest events, but other than that, not usually. The libraries hold them for free, and so do the bookstores. But there's a big difference between the Harbourfront series, or the festival circuit, and bookstore events. The demand just isn't there for most bookstore events.
I understand your point about DVD licenses, but it's not analagous to your book comment. I can sell the DVD is I want to; you can't swing a dead cat without hitting a used DVD dtore where I live. It's providing to a larger audience than you bought it for (in essence, copying it) that they object to.

Books can be read aloud without fee (at least here in the States), for, I presume, two reasons:
1. Book publishers didn;t get stronger licensing agreements from Congress;
2. Sharing a oovie with an audence involves a relatively short period of time, say two hours. Reading an adult book aloud to an audience in two hours (or any period that could be considered one sitting) is so rare as to be negligible.

Your point is a good one, but it's an apples to oranges comparison.
It's just that many use the argument once you own something you can do with it whatever you want.

Not true. There are restrictions on how we're allowed to use some things.

And technically, it used to be that you couldn't re-sell a book if the cover was removed. That used to be printed in the front of mmpbs.

And what if you walk into a library and they're playing the audio cd of a book? At the library here they play them all the time. How does that differ from a dvd? My only point is, there seem to be special rules for the movie industry because of the power it has.
I hadn't thought of this issue. Matter of fact, someone on here encouraged me to buy cheap, used books from Amazon and give them away. No more. But it new or don't buy it at all. Sorry.
$24 for a new book and $17 for a CD? I wish!! Here in Australia average price for a new book (trade paperback size) is $29.95 - $32.95 and for CD's it's $25 - $30. Yes, I do buy some new books. Those I know I'm going to treasure. But I also buy many used. New authors, ones I'm not sure of. I simply couldn't afford to buy all my books new. The upside is that when I do buy a used book by an author I really enjoy, I'm far more likely to rush out and buy the next one new. So I guess it can cut both ways.

I'm not a writer, and perhaps I'm a cynic, but I can't help wondering if publishers are using that as an excuse to cut their costs on books that aren't guaranteed best-sellers.

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