Ruminating On: Used

There’s been heated debate in the author community over whether or not used books should be allowed. It comes down to two sides: authors who feel they are being robbed of profits, and authors who believe that, as long as people are reading, they don’t mind how people come across their work. I’m in the last group. I prefer to be read over not not being read. Also, I fully believe that, if I’ve done my job, readers will purchase my books new after sampling my offerings through a secondhand market. I come to this theory through experience, knowing that if I find a book at a USB by an author whom I’ve never heard of, and I like their work, I’ll buy their stuff new simply to support them. I’m like this with movies and music as well.

Then we have a handful of authors who balk at having their work available at libraries. This seems beyond silly to me, and I’ll explain why. Any author worth their salt is a reader at heart. Most of us learned a great deal of our craft among those shelves. I know that, when I was but a wee lad, I might as well have lived in my school library because I spent more time there than I did at home. Librarians have always been heroes to me, and I believe Neil Gaiman’s quote, “Google can bring you back 100,000 answers. A librarian can bring you back the right one.” to be an irrefutable truth. I’ve also purchased a great many books brand new from brick-and-mortar shops after having read them first through library lending. Some books demand a place on my bookshelf, and I’m sure many of you will agree wholeheartedly with that statement. Used booksellers are as much of a threat to author profits as ebooks are to paperbacks and hardcovers. There will always be those who will prefer new over used, and vice versa. Attempting to deny the frugal your work is a greedy venture, and you’re not harming anyone other than yourself.

Last but not least, we have authors who support DRM. I’ve heard it said that Digital Rights Management first surfaced because booksellers didn’t want readers to be able to enjoy ebooks on their competition’s devices (e.g. Amazon didn’t want fans of B&N reading Kindle books on Nook). This soon escalated to authors installing DRMs simply to keep people from pirating their hard work. While I agree that the theft of intellectual property is wrong, the fact remains that the majority of people who are out there stealing books wouldn’t have purchased them anyway. Once again, this comes down to whether or not an author is in this business for the money or as a way of providing individual escapes. Like you, I dig money, but I can work a nine to five to make ends meet. Writing isn’t my only skill, but it is my passion. I believe that a great many authors have lost sight of their true purpose. They’ve lost the magic, as it were. Me? I have faith that if I’ve provided a distraction from this maddening world in which we live to a single reader that their enjoyment is payment enough. The funny thing is, the more books I give away, the more I sell. I know that’s counter-intuitive, but it’s also the truth.

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2 comments

  1. With the opening of the indie author floodgates some years back, there has been a growth of various “camps” concerning authors’ earnings, pricing, freebies, etc. My general rule of thumb is, “Whatever works for you, use it.” Added to that, I don’t mind telling others of my own personal experience, but I shut the hell up when it comes to telling other writers what they should be doing, because it’s all different for each of us.

    That being said, I’m generally anti-extremist in all regards, and this applies to indie writers. You don’t want to give your work away for free anywhere, ever, and you have the hours to spend scouring every single torrent site for that freebie 7-page story you wrote in first grade … fine, go for it, but don’t pull me into your little neurosis. On the flip side, you want to give away for free everything you’ve ever written because you’re an “artiste” or because you’re hoping for a movie deal or something … again, fine, but don’t expect me to feel I should do the same.

    To me, it’s all perspective and a matter of balancing, and there are voices within the indie community who seem to lack both.

    And my experience on freebies has been the same as yours, Edward, the more I give away, the more money I make, at least with novels. And I can’t work 9 to 5 jobs nowadays, mainly for health reasons, my own and my wife’s, so writing is my main and often only source of income. Again, whatever works for you, use it.

    1. I still look at this as a hobby and not a career. That might prove disastrous to some, but it’s worked for me. And you’re absolutely right. What works for me might not work for anyone else. I’m just too stubborn to keep my mouth close. :)

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