Sunday, December 24, 2006

Stealing Books

Tis the holiday season which means, if you're anything like me, the bank account as taken a serious hit. Buying presents, taking trips, and of course, going to bars has caused you to take a double take when you look at your checking account balance. This year, I was trying to be thrifty by making gifts and utilizing the sales, but there is one thing that I couldn't bear to do: buy books used.

Now, almost every DVD that you watch opens with that anti-piracy ad. You know the one. You wouldn't steal a car or rob a store. Buying pirated DVDs is theft, blah blah blah. But when you buy a book from a used book store, the author doesn't receive any compensation for that sale. Isn't that in the same ball park?

In our neighborhood there is a great thrift store, Brown Elephant, where used books are only a buck. Nicole and I have spent many an afternoon searching the shelves for rare first editions that people donated unaware of their value. But occasionally, I have felt torn when I find the new Michael Connelly or Harlan Coben paperback priced at only fifty cents. I mean, I've given them (and Barnes and Noble) a lot of my money already, what's the harm in saving myself some green? And since they are already bestsellers, how much will I, one person, hurt them by buying their book used?

I'm not perfect, there have been a few times that I gave into temptation. But 99 times out of 100, I follow this rule: only buy used books by dead authors. After all, the market is bad enough without more people buying their books on Some people look at a book and only see paper with words on it. I see the authors who wrote those words and who are trying to make a living by selling them.

Of course, my opinion doesn't count for much since I am a novelist that has yet to be published, so feel free to leave comments. But I know that when my book comes out, I better not catch any of you buying the ARC on Ebay.

1 comment:

Quinn said...

Wow, I had never even thought about the morality of buying used books, outside of my general sense that buying from the charming old guy half-buried in frayed, dusty tomes seems nicer than just buying from slick giants like Borders or Barnes & Noble. But you raise a good point.

On the other hand, the real problem with digital piracy is that you can copy it indefinitely, and thus millions of people can own the song that one person bought. Whereas with the used book, the old owner doesn't get to have it anymore, and is left clinging feebly to insubstantial memories while you enjoy it.

Still, it's probably a good idea to buy books new when you're hoping to support the author. I'll have to keep that in mind.