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Amazon & Used Books II: Bezos Strikes Back 387

Posted by timothy
from the eye-of-the-bookholder dept.
theodp writes: "Last week's call for authors to de-link Amazon from their sites has reportedly prompted Jeff Bezos to fire off a letter to all Amazon Marketplace sellers, asking them to help out by sending e-mail on Amazon's behalf in response to the Guild's call for Amazon to stop placing prominent used book ads on each title's main web entry and soliciting new books purchasers to resell their books through Amazon shortly after purchase. Bezos wants everyone to be 'super-clear' that Amazon.com is supportive of and good for authors, indicating that Amazon's steep discounting of new titles and royalty-less sales of used books are two examples of how Amazon helps the book industry and authors. Good to see Jeff's found a new cause, since it looks like he's done with up patent reform."
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Amazon & Used Books II: Bezos Strikes Back

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  • Writers (Score:5, Insightful)

    by avandesande (143899) on Monday April 15, 2002 @02:15PM (#3344575) Journal
    Good god, I wonder if writers buy all their books new?
    • What about this well known book [indigo.ca]?

      Any author can stay in at the Holiday Inn and get a *gasp* free complimentary copy of an equivelent from the Gideons.

      This is info hoarding at its worst, IMHO. ...(insert diatribe about scientific discovery and education here)...

      It's enough to make the Baby Jes...ummm, nevermind.

      Soko
    • Ah - they only buy their own books new to pump up sales figures! :o)
    • Re:Writers (Score:3, Insightful)

      by CyranoDB (155752)
      Speaking only for myself and the other writers I work with, as an editor and a reader, we buy what we can afford, and sometimes what we can not. I collect the works of Harlan Ellison, which means I have to buy used. I very rarely buy new books, with the exception of reference books. Most of the writers I know also buy a lot of used books and tend to focus on beloved authors and reference material for their new book purchases.


      It doesn't bother me if people buy used copies of my work, share copies of my stories or otherwise get around purchasing books and magazines my stories are in (I have 20 short story sales, 3 to anthologies available at Amazon or soon to be available). I don't write to make money. Most writers (and artists) create because they must, not for any particular drive for money. While not in favor of giving all of my work away for free, the reality is I have a day job that pays my bills, enough people buy books that the publisher continues to buy my stories, and I am never going to make a living as a fiction writer, so I'd rather as many people as possible enjoy my work than to dwell in poverty and anonymity.

  • What's next? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by maelstrom (638) on Monday April 15, 2002 @02:16PM (#3344590) Homepage Journal
    A call to get rid of libraries as they damage sales? Actions like this are going to make the changes which are going to come for copyright law all the more popular with regular joes.
    • Re:What's next? (Score:3, Informative)

      by 56ker (566853)
      Libraries already pay extra for books because they loan them out (at least they do in the U.K. anyway).
      • Re:What's next? (Score:3, Informative)

        by greatsasuke (315751)
        They don't pay extra for them in the U.S. I used to work at one and we frequently ordered new books from Amazon, as a matter of fact. They (this was roughly two years ago) gave libraries a nice discount on top of the discount they already gave for anyone who happened to buy the book.
  • Bezos (Score:3, Informative)

    by 56ker (566853) on Monday April 15, 2002 @02:17PM (#3344595) Homepage Journal
    "Bezos wants everyone to be 'super-clear' that Amazon.com is supportive of and good for authors," - so that's why the Guild of authors wrote:

    "Amazon's practice does damage to the publishing industry,.."?
  • heh (Score:4, Funny)

    by Joe the Lesser (533425) on Monday April 15, 2002 @02:17PM (#3344602) Homepage Journal
    No used books? Just imagine if the car industry was going through the same thing.

    Everyone, not just the rednecks, would have used cars sitting on their lawns.
    • Re:heh (Score:2, Interesting)

      by no-body (127863)
      I had the same thought and sent off this email:

      Dear Sir,

      I heard about your recent campaign against Amazon.com and found this section on your web site:

      Amazon's practice does damage to the publishing industry, decreasing royalty payments to authors and profits to publishers. In time, as we pointed out to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos when it first began this practice over a year ago, the financial loss to the industry could affect the quality and diversity of literature made available through booksellers. If profits suffer, publishers will cut their investments in new works, and authors facing reduced advances and royalties will have to find other ways to earn income.

      Whatever your arguments and reasons for it are, in essence, your campaign is an effort to prevent trade with used goods and - if this principle would be applied to other categories, like cars, it would cause an extreme wastage of irreplaceable natural resources.

      Transposing your attempted action into car sales, the appropriate response

      would be:

      "Selling used cars harms manufacturers and therefore should be prohibited - right? Sure - get real!"

      That this type of campaigning comes from an organizations like yours is disappointing

      and puts you in the same bin as the mind set which brought the DMCA, CBDTPA and patent idiocy going on these days, like Amazon's One-Click affair.

      Couldn't the individuals standing behind the actions get less greedy, money oriented and come to their senses to see what is behind this behavior, see the consequences and become sensible?

      I see very low chances for this.

      Sincerely,

    • Re:heh (Score:3, Funny)

      by richlb (168636)
      Sir, you look like an intelligent man. Why would you spend all your hard-earned money on a brand new book. It's just going to lose its value the moment you crease the binding. Why, over here we have a previously owned copy of Stephen King's novel. It's a classic. You know, they don't make books like this anymore. Just check out that leather binding. And I tell you what I'm going to do. I'm going to throw in the dust jacket for only $2 more. What's that? You have to talk it over with the wife? Well, who wears the literary pants in this family.
  • It's small beer (Score:3, Insightful)

    by westfirst (222247) on Monday April 15, 2002 @02:19PM (#3344614)

    There may come a time when book publishing starts to think seriously about used sales. They tried long ago to capture a portion of secondary sales but failed when the Supreme Court said that the purchaser actually got something for the money.

    If Amazon gets more successful at this, we may have only a few copies flying around the country as people resell books. This would be great for the postal system but bad for the author.

    I'm not in favor of giving the copyright czars any more power, but I do get a bit creeped out by the "buy it used" button on Amazon. If authors make less money, there will be fewer books. I would rather the authors get the money than the post office.

    Eventually, Amazon and Half.com are going to really hurt the publishing industry too. We need to find some balanced, middle ground. I wish someone could suggest something.
    • Re:It's small beer (Score:4, Insightful)

      by tthomas48 (180798) on Monday April 15, 2002 @02:26PM (#3344668) Homepage
      Wow. I love fatalists like you. So you only buy books that you will sell the minute you finish reading them? There are only a small fraction of people who routinely sell their used books. Most of us have these things called "bookselves" upon which we store the books we have purchased. Be they purchased new or used. Let's be honest the problem with the publishing industry is that they try to make too much profit off of new books. Who has the money to routinely buy $30 new books? If they really wanted to compete with used book sales they would try to sell more copies of paperbacks at competitive prices ($5). When you say "destroy the publishing industry" you're really saying destroy their 99% profit margins.
      • Re:It's small beer (Score:3, Informative)

        by jaoswald (63789)
        Quality paperback and hardbacks cost about the same to produce. What you see in lower paperback prices is what is called by economists "price discrimination," that is, an attempt to cherry pick those willing to pay a higher price (hardback buyers) and still include those who only are willing to pay a lower price (those willing to wait for the paperback version.)

        The only way to get paperbacks for $5 is to print them on crappy paper, with the cheapest binding, or go the Dover route and forbid bookstore returns.

        And as for profit margins, 99% is laughable. Funny, on this marvelous invention called the Internet it is possible to look up profit margins on publishing companies and find out, for instance, that Penguin books [pearson.com], for instance, had a 12.9% operating margin in 2001. This with what they call a "record year" on the bestseller lists.
    • Re:It's small beer (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Monte (48723)
      Eventually, Amazon and Half.com are going to really hurt the publishing industry too.

      Then so is the small mom&pop used book store on the corner. In fact it seems more than a few used books I've bought from Amazon or Half have come from those same type of little stores.

      You could make the argument that eBay is killing every industry, because anything bought there is one more thing that wasn't bought new.

      From this viewpoint what's the difference between Half and a library book sale? Or eBay and a big flea market? Should we go after the garage sales and hamfests next?
    • When a book is first sold as a new book, the author gets his/her due royalty. This situation is just like when GM sells a car, when Britney sells a CD, or some home-builder sells a home. What would happen if I bought a house and when I sold it again I had to add more commission for the home builder even though I had paid him/her the first time. So, Amazon should be able to sell as many used books as they want. This Writers Guild is holding a baseless position.
    • Eventually, Amazon and Half.com are going to really hurt the publishing industry too. We need to find some balanced, middle ground. I wish someone could suggest something.

      What if used book sellers charged an extra 25 or 50 cents per used book sale that went directly to the author? That's probably as much as an author makes per copy of a new book anyway. No need to further reimburse the publisher, who has (theoretically) paid for printing and distribution by the first sale of the book.

      I'm not suggesting that it become law, just standard practice agreed on by the industry.

      I'd be happy to pay it; most authors could use the money. Though I wonder if used book sales are high enough for authors to make any serious income from such a scheme.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      "but I do get a bit creeped out by the "buy it used" button on Amazon"

      Why? Do you get creeped out by the used car lot? How about the used software bin?

      By your reasoning, nobody should be allowed to sell something used because it hurts the sale of new.

      I've got news for you. Its too damned bad. Forcing people to pay for everything they do every time they do with it will be the commercial death of books, music, and entertainment. You're advocating a place where you've got to pay a lot of money to be part of popular culture. Maybe that's for the best (because it will kill off popular culture), but in the long run it will destroy the book and entertainment industry.

      It isn't the government's job to "protect" industries (although they seem to love trying). And as to your assertion that less books will be written....GOOD! The world can live without a new stephen king novell.

      I think you're screwed up in the head or trolling for the industry.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        Do you get creeped out by the used car lot?

        Yes, indeed - don't you?
        • I don't get creeped out by the lot, I get creeped out by the salespeople.

          Actually, a friend of mine sells cars... I can't stop being disturbed by the fact that he's /good/ at it. Fun people to drink with though....

      • How about the used software bin?

        Yeah, I shudder whenever I look in them. Have you seen the games they toss in there? Ok, once in a while you'll find a decent game that got misplaced there, but the ones with two dozen copies in that bin should be taken outside and burned.

        By your reasoning, nobody should be allowed to sell something used because it hurts the sale of new.

        There are differences between used books and used cars. From the viewpoint of the auto maker and the publisher, no, they make their money on the first sale and on repeat buyers. The dealer of cars and books takes his cut. However, the used car generates a lot of side business. The used car needs gas, need oil changes, needs spare parts, needs tuneups. There's a lot of money still to be made off a used car. A used book, on the other hand, generates none of the side businesses.

        The used CD market is close, but there is the issue of people buying, copying, and reselling the CD, so it's not exact. The best example would be the used video games (like PS2 or N64) that can't (easily) be copied. Most game stores sell used games close to the new games (but not on the same shelves). Did the game publishers complain when they started doing that?

        You're advocating a place where you've got to pay a lot of money to be part of popular culture.

        Heh heh... isn't this the case already? Last time I checked my Levi's were 1/3rd the price of Ecko or Tommy.

        The world can live without a new stephen king novell.

        Well, I agree with you there.

        I'll buy a used book for reading in the tub or on the throne. To toss in my backpack when I go hiking. When I want to check out a new author. I buy used most of the time, but sometimes I want an unread book- to feel the pleasure of cracking the spine for the first time. To add it to my permanent library. To give as a gift.

        I see no reason not to display new and used items right next to each other. It gives the consumer a choice- more power to the consumer.

    • I'd say that Amazon is the middle ground, in that they sell new books, and oh yeah, have access to used versions as well.

      I'd love to see some hard numbers from Amazon, but even without any hard evidence, I'd bet that their new book sales outnumber the used book sales by a good five to one ratio.

      The only real way this hurts the publishing industry is in that hard to prove "people who would have bought a new book, had the used book not been there" catagory.

      Seriously, where do they think used books come from? Someone had to buy them new at one time. People who really want a book and can afford to buy it new generally will, and people who want the book, but go for the used book generally wouldn't buy the new book if it was all that was available.

      This is just another case of an organization who sees a small percentage of potential (not actual) lost profit and goes off annoying the people reponsible for the larger percentage of their profit, much like the RIAA and MPAA are doing currently.

      :shrug:
      • ("Hi, Lemmy, you're a broken record...")

        The problem is the fact that the purveyors of intellectual property want to get paid for our experiences, and are trying to stuff what should be a service model (the time/energy it takes to write a book/play a song/etc) into a unit-sales model (x bucks per consumer). And sadly, they, via the RIAA and the MPAA, have enough political clout to keep trying to stuff that broken model into our legislative craw. IMO, we have to communicate to our lawmakers, not merely the practical problems involved, but the very core philosophical fallacy in which the problems are based.

    • If Amazon gets more successful at this, we may have only a few copies flying around the country as people resell books. This would be great for the postal system but bad for the author.

      If this happens, it will only be because there are no books being written that are worth keeping or re-reading. If that is what the industry is churning out, maybe it deserves a kick in the shins.
    • I do get a bit creeped out by the "buy it used" button on Amazon.

      They are responding to a demand. If it wasnt a specific button it would be placed somewhere else on the site. If it was too hard to find the average consumer will shop elsewhere. Some portion of thier sales and traffic are coming from consumers specifically looking for these used book options and they would not be there without it. This was one of the problems that the early .bombs failed to realize. Other shopping sites are 5 seconds and a few keystrokes away.
    • I disagree. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by oGMo (379) on Monday April 15, 2002 @02:39PM (#3344773)
      Eventually, Amazon and Half.com are going to really hurt the publishing industry too. We need to find some balanced, middle ground. I wish someone could suggest something.

      I disagree. I think this will, in fact, help the industry.

      First, let's clear something up. If someone is buying a book used (or even selling a book used), then the author already got money for the book sale. Beyond that, they don't deserve anything.

      Second, if someone is buying a book used (or, again, selling), that means someone else bought the book and for some reason found it not to be worth keeping. They then make this book available to others at a cheaper price, who in turn may or may not feel that it is worth it, until:

      1. Someone finds the book worth keeping, and keeps it.
      2. It sits on the shelf of a used book section, and no one ever buys it.
      In any case, each time the book is bought used, it devalues the overall worth of the book to the author. This is a good thing. It means that if they wrote a crap book, then the market compensates then at the rate for crap books.

      This means that yes, we may see less books. Authors who write books may see less money. The qualifier is that these authors are the ones who are writing crap books, and the should be making less money.

      Books have been passed on and sold used for centuries. I don't think we have any fewer books today because of it.

      • Re:I disagree. (Score:3, Informative)

        by acroyear (5882)
        If someone is buying a book used (or even selling a book used), then the author already got money for the book sale.

        This is not necessarilly true. There are five states of books not in the hands of happy readers: new on the shelf; in the trash/recycle bin/fireplace; bought new then put on sale as used; considered non-sale by the store, with cover ripped off to prevent resale, and eventually either destroyed, sold in that state for dirt-cheap, or returned to distributor/publisher (rare); and finally, written off as a non-sale to the publisher, then sold in new condition anyways at dirt-cheap.

        The first two conditions we don't care about.

        Right of First Sale protects the 3rd condition (bought new, resold used). This is still, probably, what most used sales are.

        The worrysome issue is when the new-store retailer has written-off the book as damaged, destroyed, or after a limited time, unsold. Sometimes the retailer and publisher can negotiate a lower royalty rate for unsold books (books are never returned anymore because shipping costs are too prohibitive; this is unlike cds, b.t.w.)...this results in the bargain-bin setups at BN and Borders.

        But when the retailer has written off a book as unsold and the publisher doesn't want it back (as noted, they never do), the retailer is supposed to damage or destroy the book themselves. The author's guild is worried that Amazon may be taking books they've written off as unsold and selling them as used anyways (which is probably illegal under breach of contract, or at least really really bad form). This results in amazon selling new-quality merchandise at no royalty to distributor or publisher (or author), directly in competition with still selling the book at full price as it is still in their system as being "in print", but would require ordering from the publisher again.

        Or at least, that's my interpretation of the guild's concerns...

      • who cares? (Score:3, Funny)

        by poemofatic (322501)


        I think my responsibility to ensure an author's income is the same as the author's responsibility to do the same for me. Zero. If I can't afford to buy his book, then he doesn't get my cash. If he can't afford to make a living on selling copies, then I don't get his works. Simple stuff.

        Why do we always have to justify or excuse exercising our first sale rights on the grounds that this will be good for the industry?

        According to this logic, if someone can show publishers are seeing declining revenues, well then kiss your first sale rights goodbye. And say hello to the big brother world of realtime, privacy-invasive, content controls on every damn thing you buy.

        Finally, and to balance the debate a bit, we need to reestablish the legitimacy of sharing, borrowing, loaning, and conserving the things we use. Share a lawnmower with the neighbors. Carpool. Loan out the books you aren't reading, make mix compilation CD's of your favorite music and give them to your friends, invite your neighbors over for dinner. Buy a newspaper and then pass it on to your coworkers when you are done with it. Loan a friend some of your DVD's or VHS tapes. Trade videogames. Borrow that cool salad bowl the old lady upstairs uses. Loan out your fishing poles. Be part of a community.

    • Re:It's small beer (Score:3, Interesting)

      by 47PHA60 (444748)
      I buy books at a store in my town that has a huge selection of publishers' overstock, which allows me to buy books at a fraction of their cover price. If it was not for this, I could not buy as many books as I do. I also buy many used books that are out of print, which I could otherwise not obtain.

      I think I am helping the publishing industry by spending many dollars at local bookstores, which allows them to stay in business and order more new books.

      By buying at locally-owned stores instead of chains, I help the booksellers who are more willing to special-order or search out hard-to-find stuff for me, which also helps keep publishing healthy and diversified.

      And, by buying lots of small press titles, at the reduced publishers' overstock prices, I get books that I could normally not afford (university press books are often 2 or 3 times the price of a large publisher title). Presumably I am helping smaller publishers more than hurting them, because my purchase is one book that won't get returned to them for credit.

      Finally, saving money on used and overstock books means that I can occasionally get that $100 reprint of, say, Kepler's 'Harmony of the World,' which helps the small publisher who struggled to produce such an esoteric but historically important and fascinating book.

      Having worked in the publishing industry, I know that the cover price is vastly inflated, and most publishers know that they are going to end up dumping lots of books near or at cost as overstock. Maybe the publishers need to find a better balance in their pricing schemes.

      I don't feel I can criticize this amazon habit unless I am willing to change all of my own buying habits. This would mean a change in my reading habits (like buying less, and getting more from libraries), and would actually bring less of my money to publishers, bookstores, and authors. Also, I'd have to stop buying used records and CDs, used cars, used houses, used clothing. God, I just wouldn't be the same person!
    • Re:It's small beer (Score:2, Insightful)

      by eyegor (148503)
      I'd say we leave well enough alone. It's a USED book, for god's sake. I prefer to buy new, but when books are out of print (or grossly overpriced) it's the only way to get what you want to read.

      If we're to bow to the publishers wishes (and while we're bent over, take it like a good comsumer (now, didn't that feel better?)), who's to get the money?

      The Author? What if they're long dead?

      The publisher? What if they no longer exist?

      What extra burdon are the book stores and on-line merchants going to have to bear?

      They need a few less bored lawyers, I think.
    • If it wasn't for the "buy it used" button on Amazon, I wouldn't have been able to purchase a book that went out of print in the early 1970's. Not all books are always in print.
    • Eventually, Amazon and Half.com are going to really hurt the publishing industry too. We need to find some balanced, middle ground. I wish someone could suggest something.

      The book industry seems to be doing its own thing here: jacking up prices madly. So it is very appropriate to resell books used, however one wants.

    • Re:It's small beer (Score:3, Insightful)

      by oconnorcjo (242077)
      Eventually, Amazon and Half.com are going to really hurt the publishing industry too. We need to find some balanced, middle ground. I wish someone could suggest something.

      WRONG! Many people will only buy new books because they like thier books to be nice and neat. Others only buy used or go to the library. The fact is that for a ton of USED books to be posible, AN EVEN LARGER number of new books would have needed to be sold. Just face it- if a book has a huge "used" market, it has to be a great "new" market as well and therefor the publisher and author are getting well paid for their work. And hey- if used books start killing publishers, I am sure they can raise or lower the price of thier books to either kill the supply (raise price so only people who really wanted to own the books will buy them) of used books or eliminate the demand for them (lower price of new books to the extent that nobody will want to mess with possible torn pages or other blemishes incrued from other owners). But it really comes down to this: Publishers make a ton of money and until this is not a fact, then it is stupid to speculate. With speculation like this posters, LIBRARIES might have been OUTLAWED!

  • I first was attacked to Amazon, years ago, because of their ability to track down those old OOP books. It's rather nice seeing options for used books to come up in searches, although they need to police their affiliates better as some are pretty bad about delivering books or inflation grading them (i.e. torn jacket, food fingerprints/smudges on pages == Mint)

    I also know a few authors and as far as they are generally concerned they prefer to see books in print sell befor used copies, if it's out of print then they're usually more supportive of the used book market, as they'd like people to read and become acquainted with their works. It's a two edged sword, and I'd prefer not to think of anyone as being greedy, in particular authors as many don't make en entire living by it.

  • by Em Emalb (452530) <ememalb@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Monday April 15, 2002 @02:22PM (#3344633) Homepage Journal
    Ok, not in the way that you think. However, I have bought MANY MANY books online, as opposed to going to a book store and browsing. I don't have time or patience to drive to a book store and buy a book that way. So, for me at least, they have made it easier to buy a book, therefore I buy more.

  • by pmz (462998) on Monday April 15, 2002 @02:23PM (#3344640) Homepage
    The Author's Guild had their chance when the first-ever used bookstore opened however many decades/centuries/millenia ago. Just because Amazon.com can sell used books on a much larger scale than Mom&Pop Used Book Store doesn't change the fundamental issues about selling used books.

    I say to the authors, "Too bad." This whole supposed scandal just reeks of the same Napster fiasco odors, where the proposed solutions just don't fix the underlying issues. Publishers, authors, record labels, musicians, etc., just need to think harder about how to live in this modern world. If they can't deal with it, they should just become Amish or find some 3rd world country that is stuck in 1400AD and move there.
    • Yes. Why the hell should authors expect to get royalties from second-hand sales? First sale doctrine and all that.

      I support Amazon's offering to find secondhand books - I only wish they would do the same for software.

      • Why the hell should authors expect to get royalties from second-hand sales? First sale doctrine and all that.

        They weren't hoping to get royalties from second-hand sales. Please try to keep up with the issues, otherwise you'll just look like a fool.

        Dinivin
    • by Waffle Iron (339739) on Monday April 15, 2002 @03:32PM (#3345103)
      Just because Amazon.com can sell used books on a much larger scale than Mom&Pop Used Book Store doesn't change the fundamental issues about selling used books.

      But it does change the fundamental issues. It is part of a bigger trend that computers and networks cause: the disassociation of content from any fixed medium.

      Low-friction resale of used books enabled by computer automation is a way to reduce the importance of the fixed medium of the physical book. This is similar to (but not as extreme as) what Napster and its ilk have done for music.

      The problem is that all copyright laws were written under the assumption that content is always fixed in a physical medium, and furthermore, transfer of any physical medium is burdensom. This is no longer true, and will become less true in the future.

      The current laws are fundamentally broken because nobody can figure out how they should apply to the most obvious ways people want to use their computers and media equipment. Countless flamewars prove that there is no good way to apply the current laws to the new ways to handle content.

      For this controversy to end, both sides of this debate will have to change their outlooks. Content producers would have to accept the reality of end users copying content. End users would have to modify the concept that once they've got a copy of bits in any form, that it is a tangible good that they own outright.

      Right now, the content producers want to enforce the second part of the above paragraph without allowing the first part. That's bogus.

      I don't know how to solve this problem, but something along the following lines seems fair to me:

      Overhaul the entire copyright concept to not be dependent on physical media. Allow anybody to copy/share/resell any work they have, but such a transfer would require a compulsory royalty to the orignal creator (rights can't be reassigned to corporations). The fee would be a nominal amount similar to the current ASCAP system (pennies per song). Of course, any author (RMS for example) could choose to waive the royalties.

      By law, all file sharing systems would need to automatically collect these fees (probably through some kind of PayPal-like system), but the law would forbid encryption or other technical enforcement measures. It would just be illegal and wrong to share files for or resell books online for free. Cheaters could be dealt with harshly by law enforcement because they would no longer have any good argument that the publishers are ripping them off.

      How would the consumer benefit? The sharing/ resale fees would be set at pennies per work. The high markups of publishers would be eliminated. There would be no DRM hassles. They would have the guaranteed right to use the work on any equipment they own.

      How would content producers benefit? They get paid every time someone new uses their work. They might get more royalties than they do now. The only people that lose out are the publishers, but who cares about them? They'd still be around to create copies on old-style physical media, but they'd nolonger have a stranglehold over their customers or the content creators.

      If the fixed licensing scheme seems to "communist", replace it with some kind of real-time auction. Free market and all that :-).

      • by Anonymous Coward
        > The problem is that all copyright laws were written under the assumption that content is always fixed in a physical medium...

        It isn't just an assumption, it is a requirement. A work must be "fixed in a tangible medim" before copyright protection can be applied at all.

        > current laws are fundamentally broken because nobody can figure out how they should apply...

        That's not entirely true. We pretty much know how they apply, we're arguing over the looting potential to be had by expanding copyright to cover the intangible "information" content of a copyrighted work. There will never be a meeting of the minds when so much new money is in play for a taking. That doesn't mean the laws were, or are, bad or otherwise "broken". It simply means powerful interests are pushing their personal agenda.

        > there is no good way to apply the current laws to the new ways to handle content.

        Again, not entirely true. You buy a book and put it in your library. You can apply the knowledge gained to your life, pull the book itself out and let someone read it, give it to a friend, sell it. It is both tangible and severable.

        Today, Digital Content uses your disk drive as both the tangible media AND your library. You have a tangible copy, but you cannot hand that copy over to someone else without giving them your disk drive. It is tangible, but not severable.

        Content providers have chosen, for their own economic reasons, not to accept the fact the technology considers a "copy and delete" operation to be a physical transfer, just as handing a book to someone. The law isn't explicit, but sounds to me like a "good way".

        > Overhaul the entire copyright concept to not be dependent on physical media.
        ...
        > They get paid every time someone new uses their work.

        Oh God, no. You know not for what you ask.

        Copyright always, always, applies to the "tangible media" (aka, the book you buy), and NOT, ever, the content the book contains. If you remove the "media" requirement, you leave only the information content subject to protection.

        This is, however, exactly what the media companies want codified into law.

        But, information content has always been, and must forever remain, completely free (beer). And for very good reason. Everything you know can be traced to a book. Grade school through college, all books. Everything you learned from friends and word of mouth, ultimately all books and other copyright materials. Confuse copyright royalties with "use" royalties then you, I, and most everyone else must, basically, cease to exist.

        Your freedom, individuality, and right of choice and association will be replaced by whatever latitude is granted in your "right to use" licenses. Imaging a world where your first grade primers are covered by a Microsoft EULA...

        "You may not speak badly about this work"..."You may not use this information in the act of teaching another unless they own a copy of this book"..."You may not use this information in understanding books from other publishers"...

        Way, way, yuck.

        Yet this is what content providers of today claim as the only "fair" way to think about things. They seem to have convinced you. But it is patent nonsense, and remarkably dangerous thinking. But, all is fair in a "capitalist" world, if you can sell your Congressmen on the destruction of life as we know it for a few bucks, then it's all good.

        > such a transfer would require a compulsory royalty to the orignal creator.

        Again, you are selling information transfer rights. Not good.

        I do buy into the original creator thing. But, you have to cover everyone, like computer programers and system designers, architects, engineers, etc. etc. All work products suitable for copyright and grossly exploited by corporate interests. Then, you have to figure out what amount that un-reassigned payment should be. And, let's not forget that, even today, we can't stop arguing over who the "original creator" actually is.

        > By law, all file sharing systems would need to automatically collect these fees...

        "sharing" is illegal. You cannot both give a copy, and keep the one you have. What you seek is called "cumpulsory licenseing" of intellectual property. I tend to agree with you that it is a good thing, but it has never fit with the US worldview.

        >>>> And, that leads us to the answer.

        Sharing is illegal. Both giving a copy to someone else, and keeping one is illegal, be it a book, wav file, or MP3.

        Publishers need to start going after people doing the crime. Treble damages are perfectly acceptable in today's world, so your typical Napster type can be hit up for $18 x 3, plus costs for each CD they "share". Computers are generally traceable, and tools are being put into place to make that all the easier. The cost to "nail" a few hundred college kids would pr
  • Used Booksellers (Score:5, Insightful)

    by svwolfpack (411870) on Monday April 15, 2002 @02:23PM (#3344649) Homepage
    Used booksellers are one of the great things about living in small town America... You can find all sorts of books on various subjects that are out of print, because the information or whatnot may be slightly dated. Furthermore, the publishing industry was able to survive before amazon with brick and mortar bookstores, both new and used. And to claim that a website emulating what exists in the "real" world anyway is killing them is just foolish. Real authors would be happy that more people can now read their books anyway, because in theory, that's what it's all about.
  • Resale value (Score:3, Informative)

    by red5 (51324) <gired5@noSPAM.gmail.com> on Monday April 15, 2002 @02:24PM (#3344655) Homepage Journal
    A large contributer to that value of an item is it's resale value.
    This is why they can charge so much more for a hardcover.
    It's the same with cars clothing etc.
  • by MongooseCN (139203) on Monday April 15, 2002 @02:24PM (#3344660) Homepage
    How many times have you gone to a used bookstore and seen and see all the books to an entire series there used? How many times have you seen all the books by one author used? From all my used bookstore shopping I have almost never seen this. So what is the point I'm getting at? Well when people buy a book from a series of books, they tend to buy other books in the series or by the same author. If the used bookstores don't have them, then they buy the books new. I do this all the time. I buy a used book from a new author because it's cheap, so if the author is bad I didn't waste much money. If the author is good, I buy more books by him.

    And for the people that are going to say you can find all the books used online, they are all going to be from seperate dealers. Sure you will save a few dollars buying a book used but you have to pay for shipping too. If you buy a bunch of books, all from different dealers, you will have to pay individual shipping on each of those books and not save much, if any, money.
    • by zuff (72669)
      Absolutely. I very rarely buy new books by an author I haven't read before - but I'm perfectly willing to buy a second-hand copy. Then, of course, if the author is good, I go on a mad book-buying rampage. Mmmm, books...
      One publisher, Baen, sometimes makes the first book in a series available entirely online for this very reason. http://www.baen.com/library/
      The discussion there is about online copies, not used, but the person doing the library (Eric Flint, a sci-fi author) says specifically that "any kind of book distribution which provides free copies to people has always, throughout the history of publishing, eventually rebounded to the benefit of the author." Yep.
  • by ConceptJunkie (24823) on Monday April 15, 2002 @02:25PM (#3344662) Homepage Journal
    This is just another example of an industry trying to keep a stranglehold on distribution when cheap, good alternatives exist. The media tyrants want to either ban digital media or make it prohibitively restrictive to use (I'm not endorsing piracy).

    Now the book publishers want to stop a perfectly legitimate practice just because someone has made it earier? Remember when R.E.M. was whining about their used CD's being sold? If this keeps up, we'll simply start trading books, and when they ban that, we'll just have to overthrow the government.

  • Amazon's steep discounting of new titles and royalty-less sales of used books are two examples of how Amazon helps the book industry and authors.

    How?

    I mean that authors receive royalties for the books sold after the publisher takes their cut for the advance and publicity for the books.

    Now, I suppose you could attempt to claim that you sell new books cheap ... so you "help" the authors by getting to their royalty payments a bit faster (by paying off the publisher faster).

    But how does this help the authors for used books? Hmmm? They don't receive ANY royalties from these sales ... nor does the publisher. So what's in it for them if you do this? Now ... if I could find a new book for $30 (which pays royalties, and Bezos loses money) or a used book for $15 (which pays NO royalties, and Bezos gets $$$ for the listing) ... certainly the $15 book would probably get sold. Personally, I don't normally buy used book, except in very good condition, and a title that I want.

    However, the only thing this helps is your pocket, profit, and the bottom line. NOT the author or publisher.

    • there have been a few times that i bought my first book by an author used, to try them out. if i liked them, i continued buying their books, new. robert aspirin, clive barker, and several other authors mainly owe my loyalty to that first cheap used book i bought. if the author is good, i honestly think they have little to fear from used books.
    • But how does this help the authors for used books? Hmmm? They don't receive ANY royalties from these sales ... nor does the publisher. So what's in it for them if you do this? Now ... if I could find a new book for $30 (which pays royalties, and Bezos loses money) or a used book for $15 (which pays NO royalties, and Bezos gets $$$ for the listing) ... certainly the $15 book would probably get sold. Personally, I don't normally buy used book, except in very good condition, and a title that I want."

      It helps them because it gets more people to read their books. Books are like drugs. You get people hooked on your variant, and then you offer them more later. This means you are more likely to buy their books new next time, just because you desperately need your fix. Even if you don't buy the books new, you are generating demand for that author's books. This will eventually generate more fame and sales for him.

      It works this way for me, and I imagine, plenty of others. Even a bookworm like me can't afford to buy all my books new. I loan and borrow books within my circle of friends, and I feel no qualms about doing so. I'm a kind of pusher, and I generate addicts wherever I go, just by lending people books.
  • I wonder.. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Kwil (53679) on Monday April 15, 2002 @02:29PM (#3344694)
    Offering customers a lower-priced option causes them to visit our site more frequently,

    I don't doubt it, Jeff.

    which in turn leads to higher sales of new books

    Does it? Or does it simply lead to higher sales of used books?

    while encouraging customers to try
    authors and genres they may not have otherwise tried.


    Absolutely.. too bad used books give no indication to the publishers that these authors and genres deserve a second book contract.

    I've got no problem with Amazon selling used books. More power to'em. But when a book published in April 2002 already has a used book link offer up *right beside* the new book.. that strikes me as hurting the author and the publisher.

    At least have the courtesy to separate them out for a few months so that publishers can have a more accurate indication of what's selling well and what's not.

    • already has a used book link offer up

      Just because there is a link doesn't mean there are enough used copies to satisfy everybody that wants to buy the book.

      For there to be used copies, there has to be sellers.

      And if it's a new book, sellers are likely to be outnumbered by buyers.
    • Does it? Or does it simply lead to higher sales of used books?
      It seems unlikely that you could increase the sales of used books by a non-trivial amount without having the side effect of increasing the sales of new books.
      But when a book published in April 2002 already has a used book link offer up *right beside* the new book.. that strikes me as hurting the author and the publisher.
      Yeah, and when the public library has a book published in April 2002 already on the shelf for people to check out or read, that strikes me as hurting the author and the publisher. NOT!

      Next you'll tell us that people shouldn't be allowed to lend lawnmowers to their neighbors, because that deprives the lawnmower manufacturer of revenue.

    • Re:I wonder.. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by gillbates (106458) on Monday April 15, 2002 @03:03PM (#3344925) Homepage Journal
      The important part is that by selling Amazon their used books, buyers can afford to buy more new ones, effectively lowering the buyer's economic cost of new books without reducing the profits for the publishers or Amazon. A buyer who knows that he can recoup a bad book investment is more likely to buy books that he is uncertain he'll like - and hence, more willing to buy new books.
    • More power to'em. But when a book published in April 2002 already has a used book link offer up *right beside* the new book.. that strikes me as hurting the author and the publisher.

      Take a trip over to www.cars.com. You can find hundreds of barely used 2002 cars for sale, there are even some used 2003 models already. Take a look at the classified section of your favorite newspaper, tons of used stuff for sale.

      The sale and resale of real property is part of doing business and living in America. The internet has expanded this somewhat by massing larger amounts of people to barter. If a business feels threatened by this, they have two options.
      Stop selling books and move on or switch to some electronically locked one use/limited use method to milk the consumer via pay-per-read for a few years and then put it in print later.
  • out of print (Score:2, Insightful)

    by avandesande (143899)
    90% of the books I buy used are out of print!
  • What makes used books apealing to people, is that they cost significantly less than the dead-tree-publisher bloated prices of real books. A smart author, could be sell HTML copies of his book at a vastly reduced cost and make still make a profit.

    And nobody would buy a 10 cent 'used' HTML book, when they could securely and convenetly order a 'new' HTML book from the author for 50 cents.

    What stands in the way of this utopia:

    1) Preception by the masses that inexpensive=cheap crap
    2) Many authors are locked into contracts with dead-tree publishers
    3) Micro-payments are a pain in the ass.

    • And also that it's a pain in the rear to read on an electronic device.

      I could see doing this as a preview, but you're still going to want a dead-tree-publisher. Also, warez'ed copies of your html book may not make you a happy camper.
  • by ultramk (470198) <ultramk AT pacbell DOT net> on Monday April 15, 2002 @02:31PM (#3344717)
    ...but I agree with Amazon on this one. This is such a throwaway culture, it really pleases me that reselling used books has become a real, mass-market movement. Until recently, you were pretty much screwed if you lived in an area where you didn't have any good used book stores.

    ...and frankly, if you're just in it for the money, you probably shouldn't be a writer. It's just not a good way to get rich.

    reduce, reuse, recycle: even on just an enviromental basis, isn't reselling books the best of ideas? How many trees have been saved because people bought used books?

    just a thought...
    • ...and frankly, if you're just in it for the money, you probably shouldn't be a writer. It's just not a good way to get rich.

      Damn straight. I am sick and tired of these industry shills and IP lawyers whining about how no artist is going to create anything if they don't get to rake in loads of dough selling it. What author who was in it for the money created anything worth buying?

      The real artists would be working two minimum wage jobs and creating their works for free if that was the only option (not that it should be). There is certainly no shortage of talent doing just that while they hope for their big break.

      Of course, without all the profits they wouldn't be able to afford representation, and that would be a fscking tragedy!
  • The funniest thing about their call to de-link amazon is that they suggest linking to barnes and noble instead, as if barnes and noble hasn't been thorough enough at destroying local bookstores where you can actually find knowledgeable clerks.

    Books have real lives, they wear out, they get damaged, they get burned by christian fundamentalists. I fail to see the problem with encouraging people to use those books to their fullest.

  • If I were the Author's Guild, I would shut up ASAP. The only reason I read today is due to Amazon dot bomb. The ease of ordering books online beats finding a bookstore and dealing with the pretentious, egghead twits that work in the store. I never bought a book before Amazon that wasn't required for a school course. Now with Amazon, I pour through at least 12 to 18 books a year. Up from zilch before Amazon came around. I am sure I am not the only one that has gained a love for reading from online bookstores.
  • by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) on Monday April 15, 2002 @02:35PM (#3344741) Homepage Journal
    ... I've discovered by picking up used copies of their books. I'm more willing to risk $0.50 - $4.00 on a used book by someone I'm not familiar with than $7.00 - $25.00 on a new book by same. And when I discover someone whose work I really like this way, I go out and buy everything I can from them new -- because I know that's the best way to ensure they keep writing.

    I'd also talk about the number of bands whose work I discovered via Napster, and whose CD's I then bought new, but that's a dead horse.
  • by bubblegoose (473320) <bubblegooseNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday April 15, 2002 @02:36PM (#3344745) Homepage Journal
    We have found a disturbing trend among car owners, when they no longer want a car they are not just storing it on a shelf to collect dust.

    Used car dealers are actively working to divert customers shopping for new cars into their used car lots by prominently placing used car ads on websites and newspapers.

    This is affecting the quality and diversity of new cars available to car dealers.

    We believe it is in our members' best interests to de-link their websites from dealers who sell used cars. There's no good reason for car makers to be complicit in undermining their own sales. It just takes a minute, and it's the right thing to do.
  • by Hnice (60994) on Monday April 15, 2002 @02:39PM (#3344779) Homepage
    inefficiencies exist. one such inefficiency is related to locating the book that you want, used, at a price you're willing to pay. the new-book market has been determining its pricing and its revenue model on the basis of the fact and magnitude of this inefficiency for, oh, let's call it *EVER*.

    amazon is presenting The World with one way to eliminate (or at least greatly reduce) this inefficiency, by removing the fee-for-convience that is built into new books, rendering them no easier to get one's hands on than used books.

    is this going to hurt new books' sales? probably. i don't see why it wouldn't. do we, as people who have been pissed at record comapnies for the last five years, have any tolerance left for individuals who choose to whine when their business model is exposed as outmoded by advances in technology? no. because when one's business model is threatened by changes in the environment, one can either try to turn back time, or one can embrace this change, and figure out how to best serve their customers given the new set of conditions. the former approach is pathetic and doomed, the latter, in the end, both more viable and admirable.

    whether amazon, on the whole, is good or bad for authors is academic here -- although as someone mentioned above, the general increase in availability for both used *and* new books certainly has me buying more. all we need to keep in mind here is how ridiculous the RIAA looks going to court instead of updating its business model, calling on the public to pity them when a new technology makes it clear that they've been riding on an inefficiency for quite a long time.

    ladies and gentlemen of the publishing industry, the ride is over, please exit to your left.
    • Gaah! I disagree! The CD is becoming obsolete in terms of distribution, with MP3s and such now. But that is not the case with the written word.

      Unlike music, books are not "natural." One can't just look at one and understand it. One has to read it, use his brain, comprehend what the squiggles on the page mean. It appeals to our sentience, to be able to understand it. These are words on a page.

      And we can take the book with you wherever you go. The paper is portable. One can turn the pages, feel the substance of what he is reading. It feels good. No matter how hard we try, the e-book, computerized text, whatever you want to call it, is not like paper. It doesn't have the same effect as paper. Paper is here to stay for a long time.

      Paper is simply the logical representation of our mind. It can be spatially shuffled, moved around, and organized. Now, CD's can be spatially shuffled and organized, but I can safely say that one doesn't get the same sense of completion when he has stacked his CDs in a pile as compared to when he has stacked his tax return in a pile and is ready to send it off. (It's tax day today!)
  • The authors are not against used books. They are not against libraries. They are not trying to force a "one reader one book" Big Brother society upon us.

    If I go to a book signing an author I do not expect the author to tell me to check the book out of the library. I fully expect them to try to get me to buy a book from the book store they are signing in front of. I don't feel they are against libraries or used books for doing this.

    This doesn't make them "anti-library" any more than the Toyota dealer not sending customers to Tony's Used Toyota Dealer makes them anti-car-rental-agencies or anti-used-cars. It's common business practice not to recommend customers shop somewhere else!

    What the guild is saying is that Amazon by pushing used book sales on the same page as the new book sales for recently released books damages an authors sales by pushing customers to used books. Authors should consider linking to Barnes and Noble or some such site instead of referring potential readers to Amazon.

    There is no slippery slope here, move along.

    I think the guild is well within their rights to try to maximize their sales by referring potential customers to new book sellers (where they make money) rather than to used book sellers (where they don't). I think Amazon is well within their rights to push their used book sales.

    Frankly this whole thread is pretty stupid.

  • I remember way back in my college days -- that'd be the early '90s -- the same debate was raging between artists like Garth Brooks and music stores that chose to sell used CDs. Upshot being that said artists would refuse to stock their product in such stores and, even more effectively, would divert promotional money away from 'em. (You know those big cardboard standees and other knicknacks you see when you walk into your local record store? They're a halfway decent revenue source on their own... or at least they were back in my days of record shop clerking. And you start to notice the pinch when those promos stop arriving...)

    Thing is, you really don't hear these complaints from musicians any more. Why? Because: (1) someone eventually noticed that the big music boom of the '90s neatly coincided with the big boom in used CDs; sales weren't being cannibalized, or at least not noticably; (2) digital music formats continue to move the battlefield from issues of resale to those of duplication; Garth's original worries are no longer as pressing.

    I can see the whole used books thing following a similar path over the next couple of decades. I wholeheartedly believe that used books help develop audiences for authors -- hook them on older books at an afforable pricepoint and they'll be more willing to buy the newest must-have title by that author at full price. Eventually, the powers that be will realize this and ease off the "anti-used" pressure somewhat. Moreover, once a company successfully gets viable ePaper out on the market, we'll see a shift of the debate from resale to duplicaiton, just like with CDs.

    So in the meantime -- sit back, enjoy the debate, and know that this too shall pass.

  • by The Slashdolt (518657) on Monday April 15, 2002 @02:40PM (#3344786) Homepage
    WOW, look how much money I can save! Thanks to the authors guild for bringing this excellent service to my attention!
  • Go to www.addall.com to do a mass search online for the cheapest book (this includes half.com, B&N, Borders, etc.)

    Go to www.addall.com/used in order to find even better deals. This searches mom and pop sites and helps you find things that are out of print.

    I have bought so many books this way. Almost all of the prices BEAT any used price that you'll get at Amazon, Half.com, etc.
  • So so ludicrious (Score:2, Interesting)

    by dw5000 (540339)

    There's plenty of proof that used books help the publishing industry. The idea that there should be no aftermarket for books is far more ludicrious.

    In truth, the ones that are most hurt by used books are authors who either have a niche market or are so small-potatoes they only get one press run. But how much they get hurt is open to discussion; if people find a used book and find they like it, they're far more likely to buy the next one by that author new. If they don't, they recycle the book back into the used market. An author can build a pretty good following through the used market, sometimes enough to get larger print runs of new books and reprints of older books.

    What the publishing industry is doing harkens back to the Garth Brooks' boycott of used record stores. To try to curtain the aftermarket on anything is just plain silly. If this logic were to pervade, one's choices would be to either hang onto a book or bin it, and throwing out all those trees is very ecologically unsound. Imagine 10 or 11 Fresh Kills full of the contents of Powell's. [powellsbooks.com]

    If these publishers were smart, they'd come up with a simple and easy to work with system that would allow for one person to buy personal-use rights to a book and compensate both the publisher and the author, then allow for that person to transfer those rights to another person temporarily or permanently. Or, maybe they can have a group of people pool their money and buy these same rights, then house these books in a centrally located public building with a method of allowing these people who have paid to borrow these books once or multiple times. I think these are great ideas, and I'm sure the publishers will get right on it....

  • Environmental Issues (Score:2, Interesting)

    by pclinger (114364)
    By selling used books, Amazon.com is also helping to save the environment. If you are not going to use a book any more, pass it on (or sell in this case) to the next person. Don't go kill a tree just to make a brand new copy. The content isn't different.

    These authors are making themselves look like real jerks in the public light. They will only get the bad PR, and Amazon will get the good.
  • Last week I went to a bookshop and saw Rama II by Arthur C Clark for a buck (used book section). So I got it. I couldn't find the first one.

    A week later I am in Borders and I see Rendevouz with Rama (the first book in the series). So I got it new.

    If I couldn't buy used books, then I would never have gotten that book from Borders. There is so much flotsam on the bookstore shelves that I am scared to slap down a tenner these days.

    So there you go - an example of a used book sale causing a new book sale that otherwise would never have occured.

    The real problem behind this and so many other stories I read here is that the court system in this country has turned the legal system into a goldmine, and that means every business is forced to sue or be sued as a result.

    Make the loser pay for the whole lawsuit and stop having campaign funds for judges and a lot of this shit would go away.

  • OK, Bezos is trying to put a positive spin on it, but what's the big deal?

    A market in used anything is a secondary market... the original seller has been compensated, and now, the holder of the goods has the right to re-sell.

    Do the re-sales help the author in terms of unit sales of the product? No, but why should they?

    Do the re-sales help build awareness of product? Most likely (cf. arguments in favor of Napster, et al), but not terribly easy to prove.

    In any case, if Amazon can construct a profitable secondary market, good for them. That's what capitalism is all about. If the publishing houses wish to get in on the game, great -- let them build used-book marketplaces.

    If not, tough. If they feel they're being insufficiently compensated, let them raise prices. Don't suggest, though, that they have the right to a "tax" on secondary purchases of their goods...

  • by OverCode@work (196386) <overcode@ g m a i l . c om> on Monday April 15, 2002 @02:57PM (#3344886) Homepage
    I honestly don't see what the guild is kvetching about.

    I'm an author. I have a book on Amazon, and although the used price on my book is still fairly close to the new price, there's a chance that used sales will start to cut into new sales at some point.

    So, does Amazon have a right to sell used copies of a book, or not? If not, then they are breaking the law, and should be sued. If so, then the Author's Guild is interfering with legitimate business, and is exposing itself as a bunch of whiny brats.

    Books are SOLD, *NOT LICENSED*. If you buy a book, YOU OWN IT. There is no contractual relationship; it is your book. You can sell it, rent it, burn it, or make paper airplanes out of it. The only things you can't do are copy it or claim its contents as your own, due to copyright law (which I mostly agree with, except for the DMCA). If the Author's Guild wants to claim that this is not true, then they have an uphill battle against hundreds of years of tradition. But frankly, I think they're just bitching, and should be ignored.

    -John
    • This isn't to say, of course, that Amazon is the most respectable organization either... but in this case, they're just selling used books, and doing it efficiently. So are they supposed to intentionally make it more difficult to buy used books, or something?

      -John
  • There are so many reasons that disallowing the sale of used books is silly that I can't even begin to list them all.. so I'll just elaborate on my own personal experiences.

    I read a lot. And do I ever mean a LOT. I average two to three books a week, I'm a card carrying discount member of four bookstores, and I'm in two book of the month clubs. I buy a lot of new books.

    I also buy a lot of used books. Why? Because while I make a good salary, I'm far from rich. A new book in paperback costs in the range of 9 - 12 dollars canadian (first one that makes a 'what is that, 10 cents US joke?' gets a huge smack). For hardcovers, my preferred format, you're looking at 25 - 40 CDN. My book habit ends up costing me more than most addicts' crack habits.

    So where do i turn? Used books. Roughly 25% of my books are used. When I want to try a new series, or the book kinda looks ok but i'm not sure, or i'm looking for something that's out of print, I'm going to head to the used book store.

    Does this mean I buy fewer new books? nope. In fact, the opposite is often true. If I like a new author (new to me anyway), i'll often go and buy an entire series of their books, all shiny new, dropping as much as 1 - 200 CDN in a single trip, and if i don't like the book, then most likely it was under $5 so no harm no foul.

    It's a lot of money, but for a book junkie/collecter, there's nothing quite so satisfying as an uncreased, undamaged book sitting on the shelf that you know will be there for years. As great as getting a book at a discount is, they're rarely in pristine condition. They're usually dog-eared and slightly rumpled with creases in the spine. For display-phobes like me, I want that clean, crisp cover with the perfectly preserved dust jacket. A silly obsession i know, but hey... how many stero fanatics out there spend thousands on getting 'just the right sound'?

    I also lend/borrow/trade books with friends. Better place me on the top ten wanted list.
    Hell, even the RIAA doesn't try to regulate the sale of used CDs and casettes.
  • Am I breaking the law because I go to Cracker Barrel [crackerbarrel.com] and take advantage of their used audio book program?

    For those of you who don't know, CB allows you to purchase a book at any their Old Country Store/Restaurants and then return that book at any CB OCS for a full refund minus a $3 restocking fee. This works out great for me because I LOVE to audio books. My commute to work helps me complete about 3 novels a week. CB's program saves me about $100/wk over the cost of new books. That's a moot point however because I wasn't buying that many books because I couldn't afford it and didn't have the time to go by the library. In addition, I work out of the state where I reside so getting to a library to which I have a card isn't easy. Is CB gonna be sued next? How about the local library?

    When will the madness end?
  • The guild has become a victim of their own over supply. Now they are complaining when the market finds more efficient ways to undercut them.

    Amazon.com is pushing its used book service more aggressively than ever, notifying customers shortly after they purchase a book to see whether they'd like to re-sell the book using Amazon. Amazon actively works to divert customers shopping for new books into its used book marketplace by placing prominent used book ads on each title's main web entry.


    These publishes have to realize one thing: Something is only worth as much as someone else will pay for it!

    Don't whine, COMPETE! Offer us something unique with a new book that doesn't come with a used one. Think outside the box. Offer us a chance to meet the author, updates, discounts on new versions, sofware, login to web site, the chance to get connected to a community of others who bought the book, etc.

    Amazon's practice does damage to the publishing industry, decreasing royalty payments to authors and profits to publishers.


    This is just the marketplace taking care of certain inefficiencies. This is a GOOD thing! You can't expect people to not take advantage of this.

    If profits suffer, publishers will cut their investments in new works, and authors facing reduced advances and royalties will have to find other ways to earn income.


    This is not necessarily true. Publishers have other options: PDF books, digital ways to cut costs, independent publishers, etc. in order to encourage people to buy a new version.

    We believe it is in our members' best interests to de-link their websites from Amazon. There's no good reason for authors to be complicit in undermining their own sales. It just takes a minute, and it's the right thing to do.


    This is a moral appeal? Don't confuse a practical $$$ decision with a moral one. "Right" and "wrong" arguments have no place in an appeal like this.

    Authors should consider linking to other online booksellers, including Barnes&Noble.com (bn.com) and especially BookSense.com, the online hub for independent booksellers.


    Sure...go ahead and do that. I'll still shop at www.addall.com and www.addall.com/used and www.abebooks.com to get better prices on USED books than new ones.

    If you want me to do otherwise, then GIVE ME SOME SORT OF VALUE ADD FOR BUYING A NEW BOOK!
  • I've been waiting for the last installment Brian Herberts Prequel Trilogy to Dune. House Corrino. But I was clear I wasn't going to cough up the $25.00 for the hardcover given the quality of the first 2. They were entertaining but not something i'd read twice. But I've been waiting for the paperback version forever. So once this story came out, I clicked on over to Amazon and got the hardcover used for $6.00, the price of the paperback. So i got to spend the amount I wanted to (demand) for the not new version (supply). Nevermind the painless recycling.
    Now Brian Herbert didn't see a dime, but neither did Corning when i bought those used dishes from the salvation army. And I'm ok with that.
    Perhaps the quality of writing will go up, if there is more access to used books. Or perhaps they need to provide some other incentive to justify me spending $25.00
    But the authors guild would have me believe that if there was a manual on how to make dishes, I shouldn't be able to buy that used. bah!
  • I was happy to find my Photoshop book [amazon.com] [associate link] available used through Amazon. $45 new is too much for students and the book is now 3 versions out of date anyway. But at reasonable used prices people still buy and like it and the fact that its still talked about puts me in a better position to negotiate the next edition.

    The used price of a new (as in not-yet-outdated) tech book is a useful indicator of much people value it. Horrah for people's ability to dump crappy books. It will encourage better writing.

  • When you buy a new car, you know that it will have a resale value when you are done with it. You are more likely to buy a car with a good resale value. (This is often given as a reason to buy a Honda, for example.)

    If I know that I can resell my newly purchased book when I am done, then that new book is cheaper for me to buy. Once folks get used to it, this may help to increase new book sales.

    Also, publishers may start charging more for new books, to help reflect their increased resale value.

    It is actually pretty hard to predict how this all turns out in the long run.

  • There seems to be a tremendous degree of speculation in the postings I have read. Posters have variously claimed that Amazon's practice either does or does not affect the sales of new books.

    Amazon has been selling used books for some time now. Where are the statistics regarding nationwide new and used book sales, relative to Amazon's new and used book sales? Are we really talking about Amazon's used book sales making up a significant fraction of total nationwide book sales each year? If not, why is there such a fuss?

    Bob

  • Economics (Score:5, Insightful)

    by edp (171151) on Monday April 15, 2002 @03:30PM (#3345089) Homepage

    There are two components to a book's price: the intellectual property and the physical object. If you reduce the price of the physical object by sharing it, you liberate more money to pay for the intellectual property.

    When the contents of a book are shared, by reselling used books, the net average price for each user is reduced. When price goes down, demand goes up. Thus there is more demand for the contents of books.

    However, note that the price for the book contents is what went down, so demand for the contents is what increases. Fewer actual physical books are needed, because each book transports the contents to multiple users. So demand for books goes down, and the price goes up.

    Thus, in the end, an actual book will cost more, but fewer will be sold. The income for publishers will decrease. But the intellectual property value has increased, and market forces should result in authors getting more money.

    It is really a simple effect: When you make a process more efficient, both the supplier of the actual value and the consumer benefit, because they no longer have to pay for the inefficiency. It is only the supplier of the previously needed inefficiency that suffers.

  • by dirk (87083) <dirk@one.net> on Monday April 15, 2002 @03:30PM (#3345091) Homepage
    Everyone seems to think the authors are trying to outlaw used books. They are doing no such thing. They don't like the fact that Amazon is selling used books almost immediately when the new ones go on sale (and I can understand their frustration with this). The Guild's response is to encourage it's members not to link to Amazon, but rather one of the other online bookseller that does no do this. It makes perfect sense for them to do this. Why send people to site where they may end up buying a copy of your book used (and you will get no money from it) when you can send them to another online bookseller where this isn't likely to happen? They don't like how Amazon is doing business, so they are trying to send their business elsewhere. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this.
    • "They don't like the fact that Amazon is selling used books almost immediately when the new ones go on sale "

      No, they are selling them immediately when the purchaser decides he/she doesn't need it anymore. Whether it's a new release or not means nothing to the book owner - if it's a POS, or if I later receive another copy as a gift, I'm getting rid of it, and I'm not waiting for the buzz to die down. Better to go to Amazon and connect with someone who wants it, than to hope some random individual happens across it at my garage sale.

      This can't seriously be a threat to an author, unless their product is so bad that nobody wants it. Seems like the public library would be of greater concern, since more people can read each copy without buying it.
  • Here's the reality (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Argyle (25623) on Monday April 15, 2002 @03:37PM (#3345136) Homepage Journal
    "There has grown up in the minds of certain groups in this country the notion that because a man or corporation has made a profit out of the public for a number of years, the government and the courts are charged with the duty of guaranteeing such profit in the future, even in the face of changing circumstances and contrary to public interest. This strange doctrine is not supported by statute or common law. Neither individuals nor corporations have any right to come into court and ask that the clock of history be stopped, or turned back."

    Robert Heinlein's Life-Line
  • by lysurgon (126252) <joshk@outland[ ]josh.com ['ish' in gap]> on Monday April 15, 2002 @03:49PM (#3345246) Homepage Journal
    First, their assertion that used books hurt the book industry and
    authors is not correct. We've found that our used books business
    does not take business away from the sale of new books. In fact,
    the opposite has happened. Offering customers a lower-priced option
    causes them to visit our site more frequently, which in turn leads
    to higher sales of new books while encouraging customers to try
    authors and genres they may not have otherwise tried. In addition,
    when a customer sells used books, it gives them a budget to buy more
    new books.


    (Emphasis Mine)

    Actually, it sounds like selling used books is good for Amazon.com, not the lit industry. Look, Amazon uses very predatory tactics to get their remainders, which they then sell as "used". These books never made their authors any money via royalties because they were sold as remainders and the publishers took a loss.

    No one is arguing against anyone's right to sell used books. It's about treating your business partners nicely. If you're an author with a personal website, or a publisher, you'll want to link to an e-commerce site that will get someone to by your book new and make you a buck. That's only natural.

    Actually, this is more of a pissing match between the publishing industry (corpulent, unimagninative and greedy) and amazon (just greedy). Who do you think funds the authors guild? Authors. Please... what authors do you know (megastars aside) who can support a "guild". The author's guild is funded by publishers.

    In a perfect world, authors (and other content creators) wouldn't need greedy-stupid publishers and distributors to get their work out there. That's the promise of xlibris [xlibris.com], but it's yet to really make an impact, mostly because the people who publish via xlibris couldn't get published anywhere else.

    How I long for a day when artists and scientists don't need corporate patrons.
  • by mouthbeef (35097) <doctorow@craphound.com> on Monday April 15, 2002 @03:50PM (#3345252) Homepage
    Here's my letter to the Authors Guild:

    Dear Mr. Aiken,

    I'm writing today to voice my support for Amazon's innovative used-book program. I'm a professional science fiction writer and journalist, the recipient of the Campbell Award for Best New Science Fiction Writer at the 2000 Hugo Awards, and the author of two novels forthcoming from Tor Books and a short-story collection forthcoming from Four Walls Eight Windows. I also spent my adolescence working in book stores and libraries.

    I'm quite distressed at the Authors Guild's reactionary position on Amazon's used-book service. As a new author whose books will be published as $25+ hardcovers, my principal challenge will be to find a way to introduce my work to new readers. The intershelving of used and new books has been shown to be an effective means of driving sales of new authors -- I discovered this myself when I was a bookseller, and it's an experience that has been replicated in many bookstores, from corner operations like my local genre bookstore, Borderlands Books, all the way up to Powell's Books, the largest bookstore in the world.

    What's more, the Amazon used-books service does not push the bounds of established copyright law or practice *at all*. The right of a consumer to resell the property s/he's lawfully acquired (called the Doctrine of First Sale) is the reason that we are able to have used bookstores at all. Also, yard-sales, charitable donations, library discard sales, collectibles sales, etc and so forth.

    Indeed, one of the most revolting characteristics of many e-book technologies is that they abridge this right -- think of all the tens of millions of books donated to schools and libraries, sent to prisons and literacy programs, passed from friend to friend or within a family. The Doctrine of First Sale makes all of this possible.

    Amazon's used-book service only reduces the friction involved in a used-book sale. When I worked at Bakka, a science fiction bookstore with new and used stock, young sf fans with tight budgets would often request popular titles that were available new on the shelf as used copies on their wish-lists. These are precisely the readers whose disappearance that we science fiction writers lament at every sf con as we look around at our greying ranks and wonder whether the genre is disappearing. Amazon's service makes this kind of thing easier and better for those readers -- why would we, as authors, wish to stop Amazon from extending the service?

    Arguably, this is what the Internet is *for* -- connecting people at low cost, finding new market niches and exploiting them, reducing friction.

    Copyright is a bargain between the public domain and creators -- we are able to create well and profit by our creations because we are able to benefit from the commons created by the works of those who came before us, which have entered the public domain. The bargain allows us to be effective creators, and it allows others to be innovative consumers.

    Here Amazon and its customers (who are providing every one of those used books!) are building an innovative secondary market that will improve the overall economy. The bargain allows our *creative* expression, it allows their *innovative* expression.

    To quote one of my colleagues:

    > Companies should be lauded for extracting additional value from the formerly
    > fallow copyright resources that belong to the public (like first sale and
    > fair use).

    In short, keep your disapprobation to yourself -- I want to work *with* my readers, not *against* them.

    Thank you,

    Cory Doctorow,
    Former Canadian Regional Director,
    Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America
  • Royaltyless? No. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Todd Knarr (15451) on Monday April 15, 2002 @05:48PM (#3346215) Homepage

    One correction to the blurb I'd like to make: the used-book sales aren't royaltyless. No royalty is paid to the author on this sale because the author has already received the royalty on that copy of the book the first time it was sold (as a new book). The Guild is complaining not that the author isn't being paid, but that they aren't being paid multiple times for a single copy sold.

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