Saturday, November 17, 2007

Used books

I see that the subject of buying used books has become a topic again on a few blogs. I suppose it's more relevant than ever given the per centage of books now sold used in both stores and on-line.

I know that there are some writers who feel that we should get royalties ala the way lending libraries of the Twenties, Thirties and Forties paid writers in a few countries. I also know that there are some writers who feel that used bookstores are the enemy.

Speaking as someone whose net worth is way yonder of a million dollars, the bookstore I spend most of my time in is Half Price. Selection, friendly employees and--half price.

I don't know about most of you but I grew up haunting used bookstores. They offer a special thrill because you never know what you're going to find there. My greatest stumble-upon was Richard Matheson's Someone is Bleeding in the original Lion edition, good condtion, one thin dime.

On the recommendation of Martin Edwards, I bought Green for Danger the other day at Half Price for two bucks. Wasn't available in the library nor the chains. Nor can I find Ace Doubles, Gold Medals, Zeniths, Ballantines with all the fantastic (in every sense) Richard Powers covers, the Carter Browns with the McGinnis covers, the Dells with the Maguire covers at and etc. anywhere but used stores.

I realize that I'm probably losing hundreds of thousands of dollars every day by not getting royalties from used bookstores but I guess I'll just have to live with the misery while enjoying those old Dell mapbacks.

9 comments:

Bill Crider said...

Like you, I've spent far too much time in musty old bookstores full of used paperbacks to complain about people who sell used copies of books I've written. If it hadn't been for those places, I'd never have found all the out-of-print books by Harry Whittington, Jim Thompson, Charles Williams, Gil Brewer, and on and on. Also like you, I'm probably losing big bucks in royalties, but I'll have to tough it out.

Anonymous said...

I'd rather be in a used bookstore than just about anywhere else.

Anonymous said...

Or on the other hand, count the money you do make because of book stores --- years ago I found "Murder on the Aisle" at a used book store. Then found a western, I've forgotten which, and have bought Ed Gorman new ever since. I always try out "new" writers from used book stores before I buy them new.

Martin Edwards said...

I'm someone else who haunts used book stores, and the closure of so many of them in Britain in recent years is a cause of much regret (though not to my long-suffering family at holiday time...)

I'm sure that Anonymous speaks for many people. Cheap used copies of books that may not even be obtainable elsewhere are a perfect way of sampling an unfamiliar writer. The idea of paying royalties on used copies really doesn't have any logic to it. Hope you enjoy Green For Danger, Ed, even though it's very much a period piece.

Blue Tyson said...

Quite possibly if you put a royalty on used book sales, writer royalty rates would be lowered to pay for all the overhead to administer it.

Everyone else in other industries would want in on the act, too.

Randy Johnson said...

I, too, buy used books to check out unfamiliar authors. Living on a fixed income, I have to mind the bucks. Also, used books enable me to find old books that are not available anywhere else. When I do find new authors I likw, I tend to buy their new books from then on. I can be sure I'm spending my money wisely.

Anonymous said...

A writer who doesn't like used bookshops? What's next, physicians who are Christian Scientists?

--Stephen Mertz

Clare said...

Being one of the friendly employees at Ed's Half Price Book store I must say it is a dangerous place to work and shop. So many unusual, old, and lovely books come in that regular priced stores haven't sold in thirty to fifty years. I have so many books now I'll be set when the ice age comes. If any of the old Ace Doubles or Dell's (you know, originally 45 cents each) are being tossed because they're falling apart, I like to take the covers off to turn into address book covers. Even broken fifties detective sex kitten books ("She was a Nazi double agent spy...") can live to see another day of glory.

The real danger of our bookstore is if you come up behind Ed Gorman and say, "Give me all your money old man." He'll womp ya and then say, "You want to steal my social security check?"

Ed Gorman said...

Clare, a very sweet and appealing young woman, has recently been institutionalized for her own sake--and the sake of all humanity. :)

Ed