Monday, 26 May 2008

Second bite at the cherry

A discussion arose on one of my groups about Second Hand Bookshops. Some authors and independant booksellers do not approve of SHBs or charity shops that sell books because the author gets no financial gain from sales made there. Booksellers lose business to them. Online booksellers often sell seemingly new books as second hand, and at ridiculously low prices, though conversely some, like Amazon, as I am personally aware, sell secondhand books at comically inflated prices.

I can see why SHBs annoy authors, and publishers too. I can see why authors want payment every time a book is read by a new reader, because mid-and lower list authors cannot live on the proceeds of writing.

But as a buyer of books I want to be able to buy the book I want as cheaply as possible, because that way I can buy more books and not make an unhealthy dent in my bank balance. As a reader I want to be able to pass on a book to a friend or relative and say this was great - do enjoy it! (I gave up doing that when I found people did not return them - but that's another story!)

Authors seem to think I should not be allowed to do that. Yet they sold all rights to their work to a publisher and accepted a contract that paid them for that work. The publisher then paid to have the book printed, distributed, etc and I paid the bookshop for that book. Everyone ought to be happy. The book is now mine, to do with as I will.
If I like it, I'll keep it. If I don't like it, I'll offer it to my local library as a donation where it will hopefully be read and promote the author's skill to a new set of readers. Because I did not care for it does not mean that no one will like it. Sometimes, if it is more convenient, I'll give books to a charity in the hope that someone will buy them again. The buyer will enjoy a good read and the money will go to help someone in need.

(Some) authors would have me bin it instead so that no one else can read it. I can't do that. Not everyone can afford to buy new books, and rely on libraries or SHBs. I am not going to deny those people the pleasure that has given me so much in my life. And in these days of mounting illiteracy, it is important that everyone should read more. People who cannot read do not buy books at all.

And besides, no book, however much I dislike it, should ever be put in the dustbin. That seems like sacrilege.

The questions go on. Should we be obliged to pay BMW a fee if we buy a second hand mini? Or pay a designer if we purchase a second hand dress? What about that that sheet music, Vetriano's paintings, people who drive over Sir Norman Forster's bridge at Millau? should we start paying them a fee, too?

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