Buying Used books - Any guilt involved? Any authors here want to chime in?

Discussion in 'General Fiction' started by DennisC, Apr 18, 2012.

  1. DennisC

    DennisC Heritage, Not Hate

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    I have always wanted to ask an author, in private and not in public, about this.

    Following a revelation about how rotten it really is to rip off DVDs, music, books, and computer games, I have suffered from a guilt associated with my desire to buy used books.

    I am not talking used, signed copies of books. That's on my "if I ever make it big" list. I am talking about buying a used book because I am broke.

    What are Author's opinions on this? Anyone here published want to chime in - even anonymously? Anyone else have thoughts on it.

    I feel guilty about jipping the author out of cash by buying a used copy - unless the author is dead. In that case, all guilt goes out of the window. But if the author is still alive I have guilt. Even if he is madly successful. In the same breath, I don't think ill of anyone else who buys used books.

    Ugh. Decisions.... =)

    Ya'll's (yea, it's a word... not sure about the 2nd apostrophe though....) thought's? ;-)
     
  2. Loerwyn

    Loerwyn Staff

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    In the words of Neil Gaiman:
    Most authors, I assume, wouldn't mind too much as that copy has been bought at one point, i.e. they've been paid for it. But if you want to offset the guilt a little, talk about the book, discuss it, make people a bit more aware of it. If one more person buys the book because of you, you've offset the loss.

    But at the same time, used bookshops (or charity shops) are great tools, and if you have a local one you should support it, because they often sell books. You might buy book one used, and buy the next ones new, or they might turn you on to an author, yadda yadda. As far as I'm aware, authors would generally want you to buy in the manner which benefits you most. They won't kill you if you buy the MMPB of a book, they won't get annoyed if you buy the Kindle edition on sale, they just want you to read it, so buy in the manner best suited for yourself.

    Buying used books doesn't hurt anyone. It doesn't benefit the author directly and financially with that sale, but if you use things like Goodreads or sites like this, you can help the author gain sales.

    That said, I would say buy new if you can. The difference, with things like Amazon and The Book Depository around, is usually little more than a few dollars or pounds.
     
  3. DDCOrange

    DDCOrange Registered User

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    It's hard to feel any guilt in this economy. Books (and bookstores for that matter) new or used are a fast disappearing commodity. I order the majority of my books online these days and most of those are used, mainly because they are out of print and I can't find them new anywhere. Pretty soon I'll be reduced to buying a Nook or a Kindle or reading off of my computer and books will be a mythical thing that I can describe to my grandchildren gathered around a warm fire on a cold winter's night. :)
     
  4. DennisC

    DennisC Heritage, Not Hate

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    It was me trying to get an out of print book (Peter Hamilton's Misspent Youth) that caused me to write this thread. Its out of print and I thought about how I am reluctant to buy used books because of the guilt. I know authors are not rich. Hell, today even people taking in a windfall like in a hollywood movie or a video game is not a guarantee of money. Suppose you get $250k for a book - which is unheard of unless you are a big name author. That will only last about 3 years unless you are frugal and then it will only last maybe 5. If you are REALLY frugal, it will last 8.

    And I have noticed that a lot of the older books are ebook only. But I am NOT buying an ereader that will just fry one day. I need and want the semipermance of books in the library. However it may be a necessity as there are lots of out of print books I want.

    Well placed, well thought out comment, sir.
     
  5. Loerwyn

    Loerwyn Staff

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    If a book is out of print, go for it. It's the only way you'll get it.

    But I would say be careful of buying used, because you don't want to pay too much. Books are getting reissued quite frequently now, and with the prevalence of the internet and stuff it's easy to just fire off an e-mail to the publisher or author to see if it's going to come out again, or even to see if it's in print in a different country (e.g. L.E. Modesitt, Jr. who's no longer in print in the UK but is in the US).

    Last thing you want to do is spend £10 on a used book only for a reprint to surface six months later for £6 online.
     
  6. JunkMonkey

    JunkMonkey Registered User

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    I feel no guilt about buying second hand books, in fact I very rarely buy new. I just can't afford them for one thing, and most of the authors I'm interested in reading hardly ever got reprinted, or are so out of fashion you couldn't buy their books new even if you wanted to.

    There has been a trade in second hand books since even before books took the form we recognise now. I don't think any author has ever not been aware that copies of his books will change hands, be given away, lost, loaned, and stolen.

    Copied is another matter entirely. Buying illegally made and unlicensed copies of books might make me feel guilty.

    Though how would I know? James White didn't know about one 1961 edition of his book The Secret Visitors until he found a copy in a remaindered book bin in Woolworth's
     
  7. kged

    kged Gloriam Imperator

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    If a book is a recent release I'll pretty much always go for that new version. But with older books, rarer books, or in some cases with books which already own but love so much I want older and more unusual editions, I enjoy the second-hand option. Pre-owned books can have a magic all of their own. A couple of years ago I bought a copy of "Othello" during a visit to a small town in the hills, because the flyleaf has a handwritten note (in the beautiful handwriting of a bygone age) which reads

    "Alice -
    a keepsake of a wonderful evening -
    I shall be thinking of you, and longing for my next visit home -
    Simon
    RAF Hornchurch April 1940
    ".

    Did they ever meet again? Did they both survive the war? To hold a piece of someone's history like this is very special to me. In fact, it occurs to me as I write that the only guilt I feel is in not re-selling these books, and passing them on to interact with new lives.

    This fits very neatly with a rant I posted recently about why I loathe Kindles and similar abominations. No-one will ever experience that dizzying connection across lifetimes to people long gone, in the midst of great events, by buying a used e-book; they are dead things. Real books live, and they live on after us.
     
  8. JunkMonkey

    JunkMonkey Registered User

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    Yes! I love finding things in old books. I once found a letter in Swedish dated 1944. On-line friends translated it for me:

    http://anotherjunkmonkey.blogspot.co.uk/2007/04/letter.html
     
  9. cgw

    cgw Registered User

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    I like to get hard back copies of books I liked and read the paper back (or library). I can not pass a used book store by. I just like to browse. Esp. since there are so few new book stores around.
     
    Last edited: May 20, 2012
  10. Michael B

    Michael B Doomfarer

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    The internet killed the magic of bookshops for me. The week by week hunt seems pointless to me when you can do your browsing online. I still remembered it though when I got Bookmarked published on The Harrow.

    I am glad that you has not lost it so I wish you all the best indulging a pleasure I no longer have.

    *****

    I have no qualms about buying second hand books if the quality is as good as a new one. In additon, our library does not charge if we order books on line, which I frequently do. The author has already been paid so I am not stealing their work.
     
  11. Chuffalump

    Chuffalump A chuffing heffalump

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    Never, even in the the most guilt ridden depths of my mind, has it ever occurred to me to feel guilty about buying a second hand book. As JM said, I'd feel differently if it was a copy. The only reason that all of my recent purchases are new, is because finding a good second had book shop is difficult nowadays and the price difference old to new is far less than it used to be.
     
  12. MrBF1V3

    MrBF1V3 aka. Stephen B5 Jones

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    I think used books are no big deal. If I'm ever printed on real paper I wouldn't mind if someone went out of their way, even a little, to get a used copy of something I wrote. It's like being a teddy bear maker, you sell each one of them with the hope that some little kid loves it, and you don't care if it gets passed down.

    The game changes with e-books. You can't buy a used copy of an e-book (unless you buy someone's used Nook, or computer or something). Second hand e-books are all copies, and there can be hundreds, or thousands, and I'm stuck with $1.99. That gets scary.

    B5
     
  13. JunkMonkey

    JunkMonkey Registered User

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    Oh, The magic is still there, Michael B. The trick is to have no money to buy from dealers on Abebooks, or wherever. I'm broke. Five of us are living on the wages of my wife's part time job. I mean broke and I'm a book addict. Last weekend I spotted a booksale in a church. Five books for a pound. I was in heaven. I spent a fiver.
     
    Last edited: May 23, 2012
  14. cgw

    cgw Registered User

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    Library used books sales are common around here. I go to often to the local sales. At the very least I like to support the libraries. The best thing is to walk out with a few books I have been looking for. I will donate books to them also. About an hour or so away there is an semi-annual sale that is a combined sale for that county. Not only is it huge, but (and this is the best part) they arrange the books in alphabetical order.
     
  15. JunkMonkey

    JunkMonkey Registered User

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    my favourite place for book hunting is in a house-clearence place a couple of hours drive from me. They don't sort the books at all; just stack them up against a wall. Thousands of them. A couple of times a years I drive over and go through the whole lot one by one and move them all a few inches to the left. Takes me a couple of hours. I bought 60 books the last time.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/junkmonkey/7052051021/
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/junkmonkey/7052053165/in/set-72157625705544161/

    etc.
     
  16. Teela Brown

    Teela Brown I'm lucky.

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    My personal feelings on the subject are this: if an author has a decent agent and publisher, then they'll get paid for their work. Whatever deal they work out for their books is none of my concern. I buy books when I can; new if I must, used paperback if possible, but I get the vast majority of my reading material through torrent sites. I only feel the slightest twinge of guilt doing so. Look, I'm frickin' poor. Not because I want to be or because I'm stupid or lazy or any other combination of factors that make it my fault that I'm strapped for cash. The fact is, I have two small children that I stay home with and my husband's salary only goes so far. Someday when the kids are bigger and I can go back to work and have some proverbial "foldin' money" then I'll buy books. Until then, I'm not going to suspend the SINGLE hobby I can maintain that I love best and provides me with the greatest contentment. If I have to buy used paperbacks at garage sales, fine. If I have to rip them off the internet, fine. One way or another, the author is getting paid. And in turn, I do them a favor by talking books constantly and recommending their work to anyone who will listen or might be interested.

    I guess this is easy to say because I'm already broke as a joke, but if by some miracle I published a bestseller, I doubt I would care much if I got $2 million instead of $3 million just because some people got my stuff for free. I think I would assume MOST of those people were like me now: too busy with kids and work and life and too strapped for cash for luxuries like books. I read probably three to five books a week (and that's with two kids!) so can you imagine the huge budget I'd need to keep myself in actual books at that rate?? I can barely keep gas in my car!
     
  17. JunkMonkey

    JunkMonkey Registered User

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    How is the author getting paid if you are downloading copies from the internet?
     
  18. Teela Brown

    Teela Brown I'm lucky.

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    Let me clarify. There are many ways for a book to reach readers. Hardback sales, paperback sales, ebook sales, garage sales, downloads. In some of these ways, the author makes money. In others, not. So, one way or another, the author gets paid.
     
    Last edited: May 23, 2012
  19. JunkMonkey

    JunkMonkey Registered User

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    So as long as someone else pays for a copy it's all right for you to nick one? To cut to the chase and get reductio ad absurdumatic about this, if only one person buys a book, is it then all right for the rest of us to steal copies? I mean the author has been paid, hasn't he?
     
    Last edited: May 24, 2012
  20. MattNY

    MattNY Registered User

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    I have no desire to get into a huge debate over 'right vs wrong' at the moment. I buy my books, you don't (or at least do not all the time), whatever. But the logic used on your path is a little bit broken.