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[publishing] The folly of buying used books as a protest against the publisher

As long as I’m up late with chemo fail anyway, I have another observation about a meme I’ve been seeing on the Kindle boards. Kindle owners who are interested in supporting Amazon in this mess are proposing to punish Macmillan by purchasing print titles in used editions only.

Which is a deeply pointless form of boycotting. Publishers don’t see a used book sale as a lost new book sale. How could they? There’s no way to identify, track, report on or correlate that of which I am aware.

The only effect that deliberately buying a used book instead of a new one has is to drive down the author’s numbers. The publisher doesn’t see the lost sale, but they do see the author’s total sales. If the author takes too much of a hit, their next books will either be worth less in an advance, or not be picked up.

So buying used to punish the publisher only punishes the author. The publisher literally never knows the difference, except indirectly within the author’s performance numbers.

Note this is not a recommendation against buying used books. I often do it. But I’m generally buying out of print titles, or otherwise unavailable editions. And a used book is much better than no book, when the difference of a few dollars in cover price matters to your budget. It’s only an observation that buying a used book to “punish” the publisher is utterly pointless, unless you happen to have it in for the author.

In which case, buy a different book.

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