Robert J. Sawyer

Hugo and Nebula Award-Winning Science Fiction Writer

The New York Times on used books

by Rob - December 30th, 2008.
Filed under: Uncategorized.

It’s a no-win scenario for authors to talk about the impact the used-book trade has on their livelihood, so I won’t. But The New York Times had an interesting article entitled “Bargain Hunting for Books, and Feeling Sheepish About It” recently.

All right, I’ll make one comment. One of the standard arguments you hear is that lots and lots of people buy used books when trying an author out, and then if they like him or her, they start picking up their stuff new. In my experience, having done hundreds of signings, that’s just not generally true. People often come to signings with stacks of my books to get autographed, but it’s usually either all new copies, or all used copies. I’ve almost never seen a case of a reader switching from one to the other.

Yes, yes, yes, I’m sure there are individual examples of people switching from buying an author used to buying new, but, again, in my experience, it’s not the norm, even among people who profess to loving the author’s work.

And, just in case the point is lost: when you buy a used copy of an author’s book, neither the author nor the publisher makes a cent. Yes, yes, somebody paid for the book originally, and that person did contribute to putting food on my table (and on my editor’s table) … but the person who bought the book used did not.

(And before someone chimes in and says, “Well, then, I guess you hate libraries, you Philistine!,” no, I don’t — and in Canada (and many other countries, but, as with so many things, not the US) we authors get a nice cheque from the government each year to compensate us for our lost royalties on copies circulated through libraries; read up on the Public Lending Right if you want to know more.)

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

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