Feel Guilty About Used Books?

I fully expect some of my author friends to write me about this admission. From time to time, I purchase used books on Amazon.com.  Also I purchase books on the bargain table or “remainder” location in the big box bookstores (like Barnes & Noble or Borders). Why is that such a big deal? Some people have told me that they always buy their books in a traditional bookstore (to support that particular store). Others contend they never purchase used books.

In 2002, the Author’s Guild and several other organizations sent an open letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos objecting to how the Amazon.com system allows (and even promotes) the sale of used books.  It is true that authors and publishers lose some sales from the used book market. An article in the New York Times suggests that the actual costs to the publisher isn’t that great and the gains are far greater than any loss. (If you are not registered on the New York Times website, it’s free but you have to be registered to read this article—and it’s simple.) I’d encourage you to read this article and see if it doesn’t lessen your feelings of guilt about used books.

For me, I don’t consistently purchase used books. My book buying habits include a mixture of new books and used books. Because I work in publishing and review books, I regularly receive books from publishers. It’s a continual battle in my office to keep the books on my bookshelves. Otherwise they spill on to the top of the shelf or the floor of my office.  Most people in publishing understand the market is geared toward women since they purchase the majority of the books. Years ago I read the average man reads two books a year.  Because I understand writers are readers, I’m off the charts in terms of the number of books which I read each year. Hopefully from reading these articles, you can feel a tad bit less guilt for purchasing used books. 

One Response to “Feel Guilty About Used Books?”

  1. Brenda Coulter Says:

    Although your blog is one of my regular reads, I was out of town for a week and missed this post until Chris Mikesell pointed me to it.

    I blogged about this subject just yesterday. I’m published, but far from feeling cheated by secondhand book sales, I’m all in favor of them. Here’s why.

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