Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Support your local author

Lots and lots of comments around the web on a New York Times story, "Online used-book sales concern some publishers", about amazon.com's practice of selling used books as well as new books. But most folks are concentrating on the ridiculous opening sentence: "Is Amazon.com becoming the Napster of the book business?" pointing out that there's nothing illegal about re-selling a used copy of a book. All of these "obvious Ottos" are overlooking the real objection most authors (and some publishers) have to the Amazon.com situation. While its true that there's no royalty earned on the used book sale, the real problem is that Amazon is enticing new book purchasers (part of whose purchase price is a royalty paid to the author) to buy cheaper used books (with no royalty going to the author).

Very few new bricks'n mortar book stores sell used books alongside new ones. Readers wanting used books go to specialty sellers of that product. But Amazon is, in effect, offering a title at two different prices with everything else equal. How many people will opt for the higher price? How many authors will decide that flipping burgers pays better?

It isn't legality we're talking about, but ethical treatment for authors.

I purchase both kinds of books at Amazon.com as well as my wife. (No I did not buy my wife there also.) One nice feature of the service is many "OUT OF PRINT" books are sold by Amazon.com acting as an agent for another source. These third party deals work just as well, and I am sure Amazon gets a cut of the deal, as buying directly from the third party. I do not have to go searching for the other obscure book peddler and can stop and shop just once. I also resell my college text books back to the dealer at school, and they resell them, saving the next poor student a few dollars. IMHO this is the same exact thing. It is a form of reclycling and should be encouraged.
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