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Old 03-31-2009, 02:03 PM   #1
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Buying books in thrift shops and library sales.

I am curious how buying books in thrift shops, salvation army etc, and at library sales, for almost nothing, relates to piracy. There are numerous ways to get ebooks for free, scan your own, P2P, Websites, Irc. It is also, in the US, very easy to get real book for free or almost free. Thrift shops and book sales for as cheap as 25 cents. Either way the author gets nothing except for the first sell. How are scanned copies of books for free different from getting real books for free or almost free? I am thinking it is only illegal in the US to buy or sell books with the covers off of them, because they have already been turned in as unsold for credit.
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Old 03-31-2009, 02:06 PM   #2
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I am curious how buying books in thrift shops, salvation army etc, and at library sales, for almost nothing, relates to piracy. There are numerous ways to get ebooks for free, scan your own, P2P, Websites, Irc. It is also, in the US, very easy to get real book for free or almost free. Thrift shops and book sales for as cheap as 25 cents. Either way the author gets nothing except for the first sell. How are scanned copies of books for free different from getting real books for free or almost free? I am thinking it is only illegal in the US to buy or sell books with the covers off of them, because they have already been turned in as unsold for credit.
Is that true? You can't buy or sell books with their covers off in the US? Is it limited to just book retailers, or second-hand bookshops too? Crikey, I've bought loads of books from second-hand stores with no covers, just the pages and the glue binding them together.
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Old 03-31-2009, 02:28 PM   #3
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It is easier to price that into the cost of the first sale since there is a known, finite number of printed copies. A digital copy can be infinite. It can be many places at once. It won't wear out as long as the format is kept current.

This is one of the reasons I think the publishing industry needs to change radically. They cannot possibly raise the price of the ebooks from where they are now to compensate for an increase in illegal downloading that will likely occur when ebooks become more popular. They will only lose customers. Right now, they're huge concerns that have power through their ability to be gatekeepers to the expensive print and distribution process. They've grown beyond what the new market will sustain. If the power shifts to the authors and they become professional services providing editing and marketing, then they can still make good money as smaller firms. (Yes, a lot of people will be out of work, especially those involved in the printing and print distribution chain. It's sad but that is a constricting industry and there's no helping it.) The author can retain the rights and control distribution. The reader will know they are directly taking away from the author if the download without paying. The price can remain attractively low. Some authors may opt to even accept payments after the fact from people who did download an unofficial copy and liked the book.
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Old 03-31-2009, 02:35 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Moejoe View Post
Is that true? You can't buy or sell books with their covers off in the US? Is it limited to just book retailers, or second-hand bookshops too? Crikey, I've bought loads of books from second-hand stores with no covers, just the pages and the glue binding them together.
Technically, if the cover's missing off a UK book it shouldn't be sold, either - although I think what is meant by that is if just the cover, or just the details page (the one with the copyright and publisher info on) has been deliberately removed - which is what bookshops do to books they can't sell, either because they've arrived damaged or for other reasons. They then send the removed bits back to the publisher as proof, and are supposed to destroy the book. Certainly a few years ago the general practise in at least one chain was for it only to be destroyed if no-one had taken it home after about a month. And I wouldn't be surprised if some of those made it into charity shops...
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Old 03-31-2009, 03:54 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Moejoe View Post
Is that true? You can't buy or sell books with their covers off in the US? Is it limited to just book retailers, or second-hand bookshops too? Crikey, I've bought loads of books from second-hand stores with no covers, just the pages and the glue binding them together.
Yes and no. You (the consumer) probably haven't violated any law by purchasing the book in that condition. Similarly, the bookseller probably didn't violate a law either (assuming they didn't conspire with their source to get the books in the first place). In saying this I am glossing over questions of "receiving stolen goods" and the like, as they're too hard for me to understand when the situation is transitive.

That said, somewhere along the chain between the retailer or wholesaler who removed the cover and returned it to the publisher for credit and you the consumer, there certainly is a person or organization who has at least committed fraud. By returning the cover for credit, they are certifying that the book was destroyed. But clearly, it was not (or you couldn't be buying it)! So someone lied for money -- textbook definition of fraud!

It's up to you to decide whether or not you wish to benefit from someone else's crime. I sincerely doubt that any prosecutor would enter a case against you for traffic in stolen merchandise (or whatever the proper term is) over a book or two. A truck-load (or a bookstore full) might be a different story.

My choice is to never ever purchase such books, mostly because I know that the author/copyright owner didn't get their royalty on them.

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Old 03-31-2009, 03:58 PM   #6
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Well one of the ones I bought without a cover was an ee cummings poetry book that someone had hand stitched along the edge. I find it very fetching, and it only cost 20p.
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Old 03-31-2009, 06:44 PM   #7
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There for a while, every time you opened a book you would see in bold lettering the statement: "If you bought this book without a cover, you should be aware that it is stolen property. It was reported as "sold and destroyed" to the publisher, and neither the author nor the publisher has received any payment for this "stripped book".
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Old 03-31-2009, 06:56 PM   #8
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I wouldn't assume a book without a cover is stolen. It could also just be wear and tear, unless the rest of the book is in mint condition and it looks like it's been cut off or something.
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Old 03-31-2009, 07:00 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Moejoe View Post
Well one of the ones I bought without a cover was an ee cummings poetry book that someone had hand stitched along the edge. I find it very fetching, and it only cost 20p.
If it seems like it is an older hard back, I doubt this applies. One of my first jobs was working in the returns warehouse of a publishing house. Hardback books are shipped back in their entirety and (judged by a couple people from receipt to pallet) if in resellable condition are re-added to stock. Paperbacks are not considered economically viable enough to be sent back, between their lower value and more easily damaged condition (which can occur in the store, in transit, intra- and inter-warehouse, and finally reshipping) as well as transit costs, agreements between the publishers/distributers and retailers exist whereby removing the cover as proof (And I believe the UPC code off magazines/periodicals) is enough to receive a refund. The agreement of course being that the remainder of the text is destroyed at that point.

An interesting side note is that hard backs that were autographed in store are also considered damaged and are recycled. I probably saw a few thousand signed texts destroyed while working there. (This didn't apply of course to signed texts which were done originally like limited editions)

-MJ
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Old 03-31-2009, 07:02 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Moejoe View Post
Is that true? You can't buy or sell books with their covers off in the US? Is it limited to just book retailers, or second-hand bookshops too? Crikey, I've bought loads of books from second-hand stores with no covers, just the pages and the glue binding them together.
Books with no cover are illegal to resell in the US, and the reason is this: bookstores, when they "return" paperbacks, strip the covers off. They send the covers to the publisher and the rest goes in the trash.

Phenomshel got it.

I think you'd be able to tell if it fell off or was ripped off though. When I worked for B&N you were allowed to take the stripped books (I looooooved that, I got to read a ton of books that I would never have read, worked for the publishers too because then I'd buy more books by that author). I still have a few on my shelves that I'm trying to figure out what to do with (can't donate them and I feel bad chucking them).
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Old 03-31-2009, 07:06 PM   #11
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I once received a batch of stripped books directly from a publisher. I was teaching in a Further Education College in a deprived area. There was great rejoicing as we were able to give books away to students.
I didn't ask for the books. it was an unexpected donation. Thank you, Penguin.
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Old 03-31-2009, 07:07 PM   #12
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I once received a batch of stripped books directly from a publisher. I was teaching in a Further Education College in a deprived area. There was great rejoicing as we were able to give books away to students.
I didn't ask for the books. it was an unexpected donation. Thank you, Penguin.

That was awesome of them We always hated throwing them in the trash, but I guess they used to donate them years and years ago but it created a lot of issues.
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Old 03-31-2009, 07:27 PM   #13
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Getting back to the original point, regular books have long been allowed to be resold without compensation under the first sale doctrine:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First-sale_doctrine

This is codified law and settled in the courts. However, many argue that the First Sale Doctrine should apply to ebooks as well. Software went the "licensing" route to get around this doctrine, with some success and some not. AFAIK, no one has tested this law with ebooks.
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Old 03-31-2009, 08:08 PM   #14
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I suspect you'll find that the court will consider ebooks to be software. Which is fine by me, it means I don't own most of the data on my computers I just have a temporary, limited license to use some of it in specific ways that may change at any time (and often do). As far as I'm concerned stupid licence terms free me from any moral obligation to the people issuing licenses, much as stupid job contracts free me from almost any obligation to the employer (the latter is actually the law, BTW [1]). It also encourages me to buy books from more reasonable authors and publishers.

As far as buying second hand books, I estimate that half the deadwood books I've owned have been second hand, including many brilliant books that I would have been happy to pay the authors for. Unfortunately the deadwood sale system is almost as stupid as the ebook rental system, so that proved harder than any sensible person would expect.

What I have taken to doing is lending my liseuse to friends from time to time, loaded with books they want to read. I believe that that is within the rental contracts for the books. If not, I'd be happy to stop doing it in favour of the far more reasonable first-sale based option of giving the books away once I've read them.

[1] I have been briefly threatened with legal action on the basis of an unconscionable contract... but the threatener decided to pay me to go away after hearing from my lawyer
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Old 03-31-2009, 08:33 PM   #15
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I suggest you review the URL I provided; it cites many case laws where the "license" argument was not upheld for computer software. Ebooks are even *less* like software and *more* like traditional books. The point is this is *far* from settled legally.
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