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Old 04-21-2010, 01:08 AM   #49
Worldwalker
Curmudgeon
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If the publishers managed to kill the used book stores, friends lending books to friends, libraries, etc., they'd be cutting their own throats.

Reading for pleasure (perhaps reading at all), like smoking, is an addiction most effectively established when the consumer is young. Very few people pick up either habit late in life. So making their products affordable to people who might become lifelong customers is not only in their own best interest, but it keeps their companies (book or tobacco) in business. I have no doubt that every tobacco company, if it was legal, would cheerfully give any teenager who wanted them a good starter supply of smokes. It would be a cheap price to pay for having that person as a customer for fifty years. If the publishers were smart, thinking "how can we make the market for our products as large as possible for the next couple of decades?" instead of "how can we squeeze the most blood out of the existing stones?" they'd see it that way too.

When I was a kid, my town had a wonderful used SF bookstore. They got most of my allowance and any other money I could scrape up. I discovered Isaac Asimov and Roger Zelazny, Andre Norton and Marion Zimmer Bradley, and all the rest of the world of science fiction and fantasy. I grew up reading everything I could get my hands on, half-off. The result? Today, my expenditures on books (e- and otherwise) exceed my expenditures on all other forms of entertainment. If those figures you see about half of people not reading a single book in the past year are just done by dividing number of books sold by population, they're way off, thanks to me; I probably read more books than everyone on my block combined. There's a bookshelf in my bathroom and books in my bed, magazines in my mailbox and ebooks on my Sony Reader.

If I'd had to buy those books new, at full (current) cover price instead of half the (old) cover price, I could have afforded maybe a fifth as many as I bought used. Without those books to fill my time, I would have found something else to entertain me. Maybe, like most of my peers, I would have committed to that for my entertainment, instead of reading. Maybe I would, like many people, never read a single book for pleasure in my adult life. Maybe, in other words, the publishing industry would have lost out on the tens of thousands of dollars it's gotten from me, and more in the future.

If a friend hadn't handed me "Hunt for Red October" and told me to read it, Tom Clancy would have lost a lot of sales, because not only did I buy all of his books (until they started to suck hard), usually in both HC and MM, but I got several other friends reading them too. If my upstairs neighbor hadn't loaned me the first couple of Harry Potter books when her son finished them, I probably would have just dismissed it as some kids' fad, and not bought them all in HC, not to mention the movies, the spin-off books, and even the occasional action figure. I could go on, but why? Probably all of us could tell exactly the same story, with just the book titles changed.

The publishing industry used to understand they were in the business of selling books, not readings-of-books, so as long as they sold a book, they were happy about it -- they didn't care if you read it, and gave it to your mother-in-law, and when she read it she gave it to her church rummage sale, where someone else bought it, and so on. They'd sold a book, just like a furniture store might sell a bookshelf. Where that book or that bookshelf went afterwards was no concern of theirs.

Now, I'm expecting any day to see dead-trees books with something in them like "This book is licensed to the original purchaser only. Reading by any person other than the purchaser named on the receipt is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison." Given that the US has a government "of the people, by the politicians, for the corporations" that's not just a possibility but a probability.

And when the next generation grows up without reading ... without buying books ... the publishers will blame everybody but themselves.

(I should point out, by the way, that I am not defending the sales of "stripped" books. Lying about having destroyed something, getting a refund of what you've paid for it, then selling it out the back door, is theft, plain and simple)
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