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Old 12-27-2008, 11:44 PM   #1
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NYT article about how used book sales are the main culprit for publishing woes

Bargain Hunting for Books, and Feeling Sheepish About It

Here (works without NYT site login as far as I can see):

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/28/we...feld.html?_r=1

Quote:

"Don’t blame this carnage on the recession or any of the usual suspects, including increased competition for the reader’s time or diminished attention spans. What’s undermining the book industry is not the absence of casual readers but the changing habits of devoted readers.

In other words, it’s all the fault of people like myself, who increasingly use the Internet both to buy books and later, after their value to us is gone, sell them."


In my opinion the article is on the spot to a large extent and as I mentioned quite a few times in other posts, this trend is one of the most compelling arguments for inexpensive e-books at least once a book hits its <1$ + 3.99$ s&h lifecycle, which is sooner rather than later for lots and lots of books today.
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Old 12-28-2008, 01:01 AM   #2
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As if used books weren't sold before?
I have haunted used bookstores all of my life.

When I was a child, one of the local hardware stores over by the grain elevator had a large used book section. I bought all of Ian Flemming's Bond novels for ten cents each there.

And then there were these things called libraries where people could actually read books without paying any money at all

Oh! The horror!
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Old 12-28-2008, 04:02 AM   #3
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To be a bit of stickler, it's not actually free. We fund it with our taxes. It seems a small distinction but I did manage to get my husband to take another look at the it when, instead of calling it 'the library", I called it "the big building full of books you already paid for." Regardless, I hope that publishers start to realize that our options as book consumers are increasing.
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Old 12-28-2008, 04:38 AM   #4
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What's changed is the search/indexing - it used to be really painful to crawl around used bookshops until finally I found one that had the book I wanted. Now I just go online, type in the name and the book is there. Sure, the post office make more than the seller does from the sale, but the buyer saves a bundle.

What we are losing is the "box of books for a buck" random introductions to new authors. Of course, that never made the authors a cent so they probably don't miss it And these days we get blogs and forums like this one instead. Which is better I think.

Again, this further devalues ebooks - I can't legally sell them once I've read them. The author can no doubt argue that the resale value is now almost nothing so i haven't lost much...
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Old 12-28-2008, 04:45 AM   #5
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But we're gaining the easy free sample concept with ebooks. Amazon is doing free sample chapters. Other sites have free online excerpts but I would be surprised if more offer actual sample downloads eventually. Many sites do free book promotions, too. It can be lesser-known authors or even fairly well-known authors with a new book. That seems to have way more potential to gain new readers than relying on serendipity.
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Old 12-28-2008, 09:03 AM   #6
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I think since the advent of amazon, combined with the recession, the used book market has exploded.

I think the book market could be like the wine market, where a large percentage of book bought are by a small percentage of people. If more of that percentage switches to library books or used books, I can see why they would be in trouble.
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Old 12-28-2008, 09:48 AM   #7
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The agony of the end of planned obsolesence....

Books are made to be durable. Paperbacks less so than Hardbacks, but the fall-apart after 2-3 reads just doesn't sell. (It's been tried several times in the last 70 years.) The internet/used book concept has just made the durability a major competitor to new, due to the new ease of location of title. (The inability to find an individual title out of literally, millions of titles, had kept down the durable used competition.) The only answer it e-book that cost less than shipping. But publishers don't want that, due to piracy fears. Well, that market is going towards the new only sells for a short term and old titles don't sell at all.

Information is not the only place this is problem. 1. Commercial airplanes. The only reason Airbus and Boeing sell so many new aircraft is that they are sufficently fuel-efficent to pay for the swap out. Otherwise, the airlines wouldn't spend the money for the swapout. 2. (Much more politically incorrect) Guns. A typical gun is engineered to last several hundred years of light use (the inherent fail point is when the barrel wears out, which is measured in number of bullets fired, usually around 10,000). That's why there are no big gun makers today. They are continually competing with their own (and other defunct manuacturers) product.

Imagine a car that lasts 30-40 years with very little maintenance (and electric cars may reach that point someday), The production of cars would drop to a 10th (or less) after the initial swapover. And CFL light-bulb that last 10,000 hours, ect. ect....
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Old 12-28-2008, 01:31 PM   #8
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Blaming publishers' woes on the used book market is downright silly.

Whether those used books are sold in a backalley store or from someone's basement, the fact is that publishers and authors never got payment from used book sales, and usd book sales have been going on for over a century. If it didn't bring the industry down decades ago, it sure won't be the vehicle to bring the industry down now.

What's bringing down publishers is their steadfast refusal to update with the times, to embrace the trends they saw coming 10-20 years ago. They've waited too long to alter their old way of doing things, and it will certainly cost many publishers their existence (while giving rise to other, more foreward-thinking publishers and independents).

Blaming it on third parties like used books is just a disingenuous way of ducking blame for their own short-sightedness.
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Old 12-28-2008, 03:23 PM   #9
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Funny thing is, I covered a related matter—an organization that wants to change copyright law to force sellers of used books less than two years old to pay royalties—on TeleRead a couple of days before this article came out.

Every publishing industry really hates the second-hand market. Computer game manufacturers tack an EULA or non-transferable account on to try to kill that market; book publishers can't do anything like that—yet.

However, e-books, on the other hand…
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Old 12-28-2008, 04:31 PM   #10
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As a child (and onward as an adult), used bookstores and libraries have given me the opportunity to try new authors for a low price. I am highly unlikely to spend $24.95 on a hardback for an author I have never read. On the other hand, I will spend a couple of bucks for a used paperback, read a free download, or play my favorite game "pick a book at random from the library shelves" .

I DO buy books from my favorite authors, and I will purchase a book I have found to be outstanding. But I cannot afford to buy books at full price on a whim.
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Old 12-28-2008, 06:45 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve Jordan View Post
Blaming publishers' woes on the used book market is downright silly.
I am not so sure.

I look at myself - I buy several thousands of $ of books per year, and more and more my money are shifting into used books and ebooks, since I hate mmpb's (and small print generally), so I'd rather buy a used hc/tpb.

I buy a lot of new books from the UK courtesy of BookDepository free s&h, but from the US I rarely buy new books for me, only children books and even for those I buy quite a lot used since the prices are so much better.

In the past it was much harder to find used books - 12-18 years ago I knew all the used bookstores within driving distance, as well as stopping at any such on vacations, while after moving to the NYC area in 96, Strand was my friend for years, visiting it several times a month.

But now it's so easy to buy used books online and the prices are so good, so I have not visited Strand or another physical used bookstore in 5-6 years at least, as well as knowing a lot of the online used bookstores in terms of how fast they ship (varies), how reliable they are (usually very), so I use Better World Books first (excellent customer service), Hippo Books next (fast shippers), avoid Owl Books as much as I can unless their offer is much cheaper (slow shippers)...

It's true I love visiting BN and Borders and every week I spend hours there in the cafe with my son reading, playing, but I tend to bring our own books to read, and we buy food and drinks, sometimes games and sale books, but rarely new full price books.
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Old 12-28-2008, 11:36 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Liviu_5 View Post
It's true I love visiting BN and Borders and every week I spend hours there in the cafe with my son reading, playing, but I tend to bring our own books to read, and we buy food and drinks, sometimes games and sale books, but rarely new full price books.
You bring your own books to read at the bookstore?

...Anyway, the fact remains that the situation you describe is not new, and the publishers could have taken steps to make new book sales more attractive to consumers, and to gain better control over the older book market (instead of essentially writing off most older books as if they never existed), long ago. The publishers wasted their own opportunities, and let the used market walk right over them. It's pointless to blame the used market for being less myopic than the publishers.
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Old 12-29-2008, 01:16 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve Jordan View Post
You bring your own books to read at the bookstore?

...Anyway, the fact remains that the situation you describe is not new, and the publishers could have taken steps to make new book sales more attractive to consumers, and to gain better control over the older book market (instead of essentially writing off most older books as if they never existed), long ago. The publishers wasted their own opportunities, and let the used market walk right over them. It's pointless to blame the used market for being less myopic than the publishers.
I agree with the points above - for me actually the NYT article is a very encouraging sign that finally publishers are waking up to the brave new world and just maybe figure out that inexpensive e-books that bring some money in are better than no money at all.

Sometimes the books I am currently reading are available in the bookstore, but most of the times they are not. Right now of the 4 main novels I am reading, one is an e-indie sf, another is an older (90's) fantasy from a very critically acclaimed author whose new books have a short bookshelf life, not to speak of the backlist, another is a fantasy that Borders did not even carry when published this summer (see the blog post on "being skipped" by Andrew Wheeler) and at BN it came and went fast, though I saw it months ago - I bought the e - and the last is an 08 hc from another fantasy author whose mmpb backlist are indeed on the shelves, but the hc even though only several months old is not anymore - this one I have from the library though it hooked me so much, I may order the next 3 books from Australia (sadly each is about 28$ with sh at the current AUD rate) since the whole 4 volume series has been published there, while book 2 is due only in July 09 here with the next in 10 and 11 most likely

So no choice but to bring the books with me - though I love reading in the cafe with my son reading his books or drawing, playing..., while my wife and her sister go shopping for hours. I shudder to think what if I had a daughter who wanted to go shopping with her mother since I dislike both shopping and staying by myself in the cafe
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Old 12-29-2008, 04:02 AM   #14
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When I was in college in the late 90's, I always purchased my books of enjoyment as well as most of my text books at use bookstores. These things been around for ages!
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Old 12-29-2008, 04:54 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SLMines View Post
I DO buy books from my favorite authors, and I will purchase a book I have found to be outstanding. But I cannot afford to buy books at full price on a whim.
You can't afford to spend $10 on an eBook, but you can afford a computer???
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