[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.

7 thoughts on “[publishing] The folly of buying used books as a protest against the publisher

  1. Honoel says:

    I totally agree. Publishers have a cushion in cases like this and it’s always the author who will get the blame for diminished sales. If people insist on wanting to hurt the publishers pocket by boycotting books, then they should paypal the author some money as well.

  2. Meran says:

    Someone who thinks used book sales go against publishers need to take classes in logic or critical thinking… Are people really doing this? (I believe you; I’m just flabbergasted)
    at this point, I’m just watching to see how things will fall out…

  3. Daniel says:

    I can’t agree more, really; used book sales hurt the publisher… slightly. In the sense that if you were going to buy the book new, they’ve lost a sale. But that individual sale, especially to a publishing house the size of MacMillan, doesn’t hurt that much (and even the collective lost sales of the tiny number of Kindle enthusiasts out there don’t hurt that much, when weighed against the huge number of people who just don’t have a stake in this slapfight and don’t care).

    On the other hand, especially for midlist authors, it does severely hurt their numbers; really great way to help the authors you love, the ones whose books you want to buy, no? Um. No, actually… not if you want them to keep getting published.

    For me, the difference between second-hand book and no book is waiting til I have the money to buy it new; I only buy second-hand books when they’re out of print, and then I do shop around for the best deal on second-hand books.

    Because I like my authors, and I like them both being able to eat and being able to get published…

Comments are closed.