Should second-hand book stores pay royalties?

I had not been aware of this until a LiveJournal post from Steve Miller brought this to my attention, but after checking around (and being pointed to a link by Sharon Lee) I was able to find a fair amount of supporting evidence. It seems there is a movement to require second-hand (or "used") book stores to pay royalties on books they resell.

Here is a page from the website of Novelists, Inc., a group which claims to be "the international organization of multi-published novelists" (although I have never heard of them to this point), in which they advocate amending United State copyright law to require that used book stores pay royalties on books they resell for up to two years after their publication. (A quick search also pulled up a pair of blog posts by authors who are for and against this position.)

In Europe, this idea is called droit de suite and has been in force in France for some time and over the rest of Europe more recently for resale of original works of art. (For example, it went into effect in the United Kingdom in 2006.) However, it has not been applied to books (though writer A.S. Byatt argued in 2005 that it should).

A Moral Quandary

The argument goes that, with the advent of high-tech, high-volume Internet booksellers, used (or remaindered) copies of books can compete side-by-side with new copies—even from the very moment of the book’s official release date. Thus, if a consumer sees a listing on Amazon.com of a book for $20 new, along with “7 used copies available starting at $13,” he is more likely to buy the $13 used book instead of the $20 new, and the author and publisher lose out on royalties. (The Authors Guild kicked up a fuss back in 2002 when Amazon first began offering used book sales on the same page as new.)

Some people consider this to be a serious (or, conversely, a tongue-in-cheek) moral issue. However, the Doctrine of First Sale, enshrined in American law these last hundred years, states that we can resell anything we buy—including books—without limitation (provided we don’t violate some other law by doing it). This applies not only to consumers, but to stores.

A number of people with relatively low budgets make much use of used bookstores. (My parents almost never buy any book new, for example.) Tacking a royalty onto used book resales would increase the barriers to book ownership for these people, making it harder for them to buy books in an era when many already lament that reading is dying out.

It would also mean that bookstores that don’t have to worry about tracking used books now would have to retrofit inventory tracking systems, increasing their costs considerably (and guess who would end up eating those increased costs? Hint: Not the bookstores). Some stores, such as charity stores or flea markets that simply don’t have the time or money to devote to keeping track of used sales, would either have to get an exemption or stop selling books altogether.

“Spillage” and Exposure

In the LiveJournal entry mentioned above, Steve Miller notes:

From a practical standpoint, for me and us, when one publisher gave up on us, it was the used bookstores that hand-sold our used books and kept us in front of readers, and when we went to conventions we autographed thousands of used books … for readers who wanted more. So, we support used bookstores, we sign used books at conventions, bookstores, and fleamarkets. Readers deserve the opportunity, especially in these times when jobs and cash are at a premium, to buy a used book. Yes we need to sell new books, too,but used book dealers are not taking food out of our pockets.

Eric Flint makes a similar point in his Salvos Against Big Brother column about “Spillage”—the idea that letting customers “try before they buy” ends up leading to greater sales:

What I like to see are copies of my books available all over the place in editions that bring me no direct income—whether that’s in a library, a used bookstore, a remaindered table, or simply being passed from one person to another. Because I know that that "spillage" is simply the necessary lubricant for this very opaque market that my livelihood depends upon. It’s that spillage—that penumbra of free or cheap copies, if you will—that makes everything else possible in the first place.

What I don’t want to see are those books piling up, because they aren’t moving. (Or the library equivalent, which is not being checked out.)

Flint notes that the death knell for authors is when libraries, used book stores, and remainder tables won’t stock an author’s books because there is no demand for them. He adds:

It’s the author’s job to write books that are good enough—at least, in the eyes of enough people—that no matter what form of sale or distribution any given copy of a given title winds up having, it will have enough turnover to keep making it attractive to the distributor.

The E-book Angle

These arguments over fairness of authors getting paid versus getting broader exposure echo very similar arguments over the harm that e-book “piracy” does to authors by “stealing” sales. In fact, Eric Flint often compares them directly in his Salvos and Baen Free Library Prime Palaver columns. Both of them serve to increase exposure for authors, leading to a greater chance that the person not paying the author now will buy something that pays him in the future.

And in both cases, if the used-book buyer or illicit downloader had been prevented from buying or downloading the book, it would probably not have led to a new sale for the author instead. Rather, they would probably have bought used or downloaded illicitly something else instead, and checked the author’s work out of the library—another use that would not have led to the author getting paid (at least in America; the UK and Canadian library systems do both pay royalties for library book checkouts).

I wonder whether used book sales might end up being an issue that drives publishers further toward e-books. As I pointed out a few days ago, the prospect of a second-hand sale market for digital media such as e-books is considerably dimmer. While not very exciting from the consumer’s standpoint, it is highly likely publishers and authors could see this as a feature.

Regardless, there should be more awareness of—and opposition to—Novelists Inc.’s attempt to amend copyright law to require used book sellers to collect royalties. The last thing we need in our current economic situation is to place even more burden on people who are not well-off enough to afford anything but used books—and on an entire sector of business that isn’t doing too well as it is.

99 Comments on Should second-hand book stores pay royalties?

  1. I live in used book stores. The reason I purchased the origional rocket ebook was because my better two-thirds was sick and tired of getting heavy UPS boxes from my trips.

    I have run into cases where the covers were torn off of books because they were listed as “returns”. This is not legit. However charging twice for a purchase is awful.

    Sorry – but used book stores do not need the overhead of paying more tribute to the publishers. How about charging the origional buyers extra $$$ – that would not go over well. Supposing I sell my car – should I pay the manufacturer because I am selling the car?

  2. Keep in mind that many of those “used” books you see listed on Amazon for in-print titles are simply businesses that have their own sources for new copies. And heavily discounted used books (say ten cents each for a mass-market paperback) often aren’t really that cheap when the shipping and handling is added.

    Amazon takes a big bite out of each sale, so they can’t really undercut Amazon that much on most books.

  3. Nonsense! You sell a physical item one time. The buyer can resell it if he wants to. Should you have to pay the manufacturer every time you sell a household item at a yard sale? What if you give away or sell some old furniture because you bought new? The reseller is probably already taking a loss on the item.

    They’re already selling books for way too much money, and now they want money each time the same book is sold? Ridiculous. Please tell me this isn’t going to become law.

  4. One avenue that independent bookstores are using to survive is either converting to or increasing their holdings of used books. Frequently, they can’t compete with the large discounts that Amazon and the big box sellers can give new books, but with a used book they can beat those discounts.

  5. Absolutely a good reason to move to eBooks. Used books deliver the original buyers virtually nothing (I think my nearby used bookstore pays about 5% of cover and sells for 50%). It’s all margin for the bookstore (or for the seller plus Amazon in the case of Amazon). Affordable (non-DRM) eBooks let readers have and keep their books, don’t clutter the house, and don’t pose moral dilemmas between saving money and making sure the author gets her few pennies.

    Rob Preece
    Publisher, http://www.BooksForABuck.com

  6. I believe the argument that used book stores give authors greater exposure is a valid one. I have “discovered” many authors at used books stores that I’d previously never heard of. I picked up Neal Asher’s “Gridlinked” at half price books because it looked interesting. I loved it and have gone on to buy new editions of every one of his books. I could list a dozen other authors where this has happened as well. I’d hate to see the used book stores be put out of business because of royalties cutting into their already low profit margin.

  7. Requiring used bookstores to pay royalties would pretty much eliminated the used book trade. Most used bookstores are struggling even more than independent ones are; rather than try to implement complicated inventory tracking systems most would just shut their doors. I buy most of my books used, and most of them more than two years old. Requiring used bookstores to pay royalties will backfire in a big, big way: if it goes through, and most used bookstores close, it will become increasingly difficult to find books published more than two years ago. Many of the authors now clamoring for their second royalties will find that, once their books go out of print, it’s harder for them to find new readers (as they once would have through used bookstores)… And thus many will find that their books will *stay* out of print!

  8. weyland_yutani // December 26, 2008 at 10:25 am //

    The second hand booksellers through Amazon tack on a heavy shipping charge that almost always nullifies that as a first option. Far better to buy new and in enough quantity to avoid those shipping charges. The Amazon cost is almost always a better value than what I can find at resellers.

  9. Eric Flint is right. I had never read or bought one of his books or any book by David Weber until I got my Sony Reader and found the Baen Free Library. I tried a couple of books by both Flint and Weber and have now started buying hardcover versions of their new books as they are published, as well as some of their ebooks. Used bookstores serve a purpose — they introduce readers to new authors by making books available at a price someone is willing to pay to “gamble” on an unknown-to-them author.

  10. Selling something second-handed, physical or digital, shall never be seen as a feature, but as a consumer right.

  11. Current pricing trends on used books vs. ebooks are improving. Brick-and-mortar stores sell at 50% of the sticker price, and online bookstores sell at 5-
    10$ each (with the etailer making a consider sum through shipping and handling). However, ebook prices are going down (on some books at least). Once the majority of ebooks sell for $5-10, the second hand book problem will no longer exist. My guess is that a publisher would much rather have a book that stays at a single price, rather than one that is priced exorbitantly (and is gradually discounted until it sells for nothing, at which time it increases as a rare book).

    The trend I see is for the sticker price to be closer to the long term price and for less discounting to take place.

  12. I still buy 60% of my reading material on half.com, 30% at local bookstores and 10% in ebook form (mostly not for purchase). More often nowadays, the price of discounted used books if you factor in shipping is higher than the cost of ebooks. The main reason I don’t buy more ebooks is 1)lack of availability and 2)they are dominated so far by big publishers who are afraid to offer a lower base price.

  13. Honestly, the emphasis should be on author’s being able to own any returned copy of their novel rather than the publisher pulping them. Those lost sales are more detrimental to royalties when compared to UBS sales, I would think. And how would UBS’s keep track of royalty statements? What about deceased authors? Not to mention the fact that if author’s got a slice of the pie from UBS sales, don’t you think publishers would eventually want to horn in on that game?

  14. This would make college students very, very unhappy.

  15. The second hand booksellers through Amazon tack on a heavy shipping charge that almost always nullifies that as a first option.

    No, this is Amazon’s call. If you notice, the shipping charge on all used books on Amazon is $3.99 for a standard mass market paperback.

  16. You know, come to think of it, this idea has been proposed to textbook publishers, but to date not a single one has been interested in dealing in used textbooks.

  17. Ninc’s proposal makes so little sense and is so bad for publishing, authors, readers and the economy it inspired me to write a 2,000-word blog post / rant.

  18. Nice article, though I could wish you’d linked back to this one.

  19. I can’t remember if Teleread has posted on this, but the videogame industry is considering DRM-like “features” to put kill the used videogame market.

    Today, I can go into Gamestop and buy a used copy of a game for my XBOX 360, bring it home and we’re good. That really pisses off game companies.

    So the proposed “solution” is tying key content to the original purchaser. So say I buy some first person shooter and activate it at home. I’m good — I can go through and beat the sucker.

    Then I get bored and sell the game used either through Gamestop or give it to a friend. With the online components the XBOX knows he’s not the original purchaser and say makes it impossible for him to play the final boss…instead when he reaches that point he gets a message that he can get to that final area if he ponies up $10 or something similar.

    BTW, in the book example, if a used book store selling a book is a bad idea, isn’t me giving a book I’ve finished to a friend even worse? There’s no barrier to entry there…should books ship with EULAs saying that once I open the cover I’m not allowed to retransmit, etc., etc??

    This is getting to sound a lot we’re living in Richard Stallman’s “The Right to Read” world…and here I always thought that was a bit on the histronics. I guess not.

  20. Chris:

    Apologies for not linking to this post in my blog post; there were a number of blogs where I read about this issue, including this one. Nothing intentional about the exclusion.

    Best,

    Matthew Wayne Selznick

  21. Well, then I could wish you’d linked to them, too. :) I only saw a couple of other recent blog posts about this, and they were both inspired by this one. I’d rather like to know who else is talking about it.

  22. The drive by publishers/writers to milk royalty fees from second hand book buyers is another insidious effort in a continuing tyrranical money grabbing campaign by artists and writers who are not satisfied with the extraordinarily generous control they already have over their product – and want even more.

    No other field of human activity offers this kind of control and beyond the grave earnings.

    We need to go back to first principles in this whole argument and ask what kind of world we want to live in. Are we seriously suggesting that every person who produces any object or who writes any item of original writing is then imbued with a lifelong, and 70 years beyond their lifetime, right to make money each and every time it is sold ? to follow it down through it’s lifetime through each and every individual passing of the object ? what an utterly appalling, big-brother and nonsensical vista this is, and what a shockingly greedy and grasping attempt this is to earn more and more and more money.

    Yes, we need to go back to first principles and go back to the principle of the one-off sale. You sell something and it now belongs to the buyer. Simple. You get one chance to earn whatever profit you believe you are entitled to and then it ends. If you do not earn enough from this sale then it is up to you, the producer/writer, to persuade the buyer to pay more, or to produce a better product in order to earn a higher price. Whether it is a book, a painting, a carving, a painted saucer, a model airplane etc etc.

    This is basic, simple, fairness and justice and it leave everyone knowing exactly where they stand. It allows individual people to get on with their lives without the long grasping arm of the producer reaching down, perhaps from the grave, to pick pocket yet another dollar from us.

    Howard

  23. Are the book publishers returning the royalties to the people selling the books to second hand shops (or records/CDs, since record companies have talked about the samething)? If they’re not returning the royalties that they were paid before, they can get stuffed.

    This is not about receiving fair payment, it’s flat out greed. Just as a customer can only have one copy of a book, computer program or song paid for, the company selling it has no business asking to be paid twice for the same single item.

    All they will accomplish or cause is justifying piracy of ebooks by readers the same way DRM justified it for music listeners. I say screw ’em – honesty begets honesty, and ripping off the customers in this way cost them profits. Trust pays more than distrust ever will.

  24. I am a published author some of my books are given away for promotional reasons. I do not receive royalties on books given away for this purpose. Some of these are sold as used or rare copies.

    Should I receive royalties on books I did not get paid for?

    I have no problum when I have been paid you can sell a book a hundred times it’s when I haven’t been paid.

    If they want to give the book to someone else without payment, I do not have a problum. But if you are going to profit from my work shouldn’t I recive some of that profit?

  25. As an owner of a used bookstore , This topic really upsets me .

    Every used store is different .
    The increased costs of inventory management and so forth would be prohibitive , for my store
    It would simply not be feasible to pay royalties to authors on used books . If it were to come into effect ,we would simply refuse to carry books by authors who were part of what ever organization that was policing the law .

    Or if the law was to pay royalties on books newer than 2 years we would simply not take newer books . This is not much of an issue , as it normally takes 6 to 12 months b4 a current issue paperback book will show up with any regularity anyway . some categories like science-fiction , and children s books it takes even longer .

    Furthermore , I doubt very much that the new bookstores would seriously support this . We have an excellent relationship with the local new bookstore in my area ,and we often refer our customers back and forth between one another . People often discover an author in my store , and once they have tried them , go to the new book store to buy them , sometimes they will have us order the book in from the new store .

    We rely on having a good new bookstore in the area , to put new books into the pipeline , and keep our stock fresh . We share the same customer , many of whom have told me they are more comfortable buying new books , because they can get something out of it after they have read the book by trading it into my store . This adds extra value to the new books , which are getting prohibitively expensive for many customers .

    In my system , we give a trade credit of 50% of what we price a book in the store for as an in store credit which you can use to buy more books . This quasi cash system would be a major problem as well , I am not going to pay a royalty on a book i did not get cash for .

    The access issue is a serious one , used bookstores really are a huge part of the book industry , and provide access to a much bigger variety of titles than any new store can , thus keeping authors works available to the consumer . I was in a Chapters bookstore recently , ( I like chapters ,I am not trying to criticize them but using them as an example ) you could fit my books store into their store 10 times over , it is huge , and they have tons of books , but not many titles . The thing that struck me is that while they have huge quantities of books ,they are all the same few books . they do not have a huge selection of titles ( for a new book store they have a good selection ) but compared to even a small used bookstore they do not . I have way more titles than they have , even though they are 10 times bigger than me .

    Authors who think they are being cheated because they don’t get a cut of the used business , would be surprised how much they would loose if the used industry was not there . Used bookstores keep authors current . without us , there would be an awful lot of authors who only ever get to publish 1 book , and never get discovered in the 6 month window where that book is available on the new shelves , then fade away into obscurity .

    Most authors take years between writing books , and their books usually are off the store shelves long b4 their next book comes out .Authors should look at the used book stores as either a 2nd chance to be discovered by a new reader ,and keep interest in them high enough that someone will buy their next book . They should view the used book stores an bonus publicity , once the new stores dump them , for what ever is hot this month.

  26. Not my real name I don’t want to irritate the people that sell my books.
    I am a published author and I like used bookstores. When I look up my book on the net I find used copies for as much as three times the new price on the same web page. I write because I love to write. I receive $0.40 for one of my books sold for $4.00 wholesale, my book retails for $12.00 and on the same web page used $40.00 (the numbers are rounded). What are Chapters, Amazon and others doing? I wonder how many of the books marked as used on the net really are used, or are these sales technique to boost there profits or to promote making used bookstores pay royalties to put them out of business.

    Used bookstores sell books for as little as ¼ the price of new. This promotes my new work and sometimes my old work as well. Used bookstores should not be paying royalties on books that the royalties already are paid. Although tracking used sales would give authors an idea as to how many people read there work. As it is now only royalties keep track of how many people they touch. I believe each person we touch we influence, each person we influence we become a part of. When we touch another with words that we write, we influence them. Should what we write survive our demise, our ability to influence others survives and for all intent and purposes. A part of us lives forever in those we touch we remain a part of the circle of life.

  27. Frank Sirett // March 21, 2009 at 10:25 am //

    I have read the article and the replies with great interest. Wouldn’t have done it otherwise, I just like the pomposity f that statement.

    I was looking for wholesale second-hand book suppliers to add to the selection in my (soon to be relaunched) bookshop in Spain. I would like to get my oar in the water before it freezes over even if it is superfluous.

    As I understand it, the publishers, at least in England, maybe elsewhere, give large bookshops books on credit and do not claim for ninety to one hundred and twenty days. At that point, the large bookshops return all of the unsold books, thereby leaving the publisher taking all the risk and all the financing.

    The books returned are no longer considered new and farmed to remainder and overstock wholesalers. They want, and need to get at least their costs back and they do not always get that. Part of that cost is the author’s royalties or advance.

    The author has been paid for every copy sold and maybe even some extra if it did not make its advance. If the system worked as (here) proposed, pulping would be the cheapest solution.

    Let us not fool ourselves, the power of the large shop is pressuring the producers and the producers have to pressure their suppliers. The farmer that wants more for their milk may be speaking about one sent a litre, but if that is a five per cent increase, everybody else takes a five per cent increase and the end of the game includes a twenty five per cent increase on the retail price and the farmer is still struggling. Meanwhile, Tescos is posting huge, record breaking, new profits on retail milk.

    A S Byatt is asked for in second hand bookshops, (here in any case) and she has decided she is losing something. Success often brings the view not of “I am doing well”, but that “I can be doing so much better for the same effort.” The previously mentioned Tescos put on discount copies of Harry Potter when it came out. They offered a price that the independents could not match and the chains did not try to. I was open then and I remember the hype and pressure the publisher gave me to get my order in early, knowing full well they had a sweetheart deal with Tescos and were prepared to slit my throat with a dull razor; as they did to so many bookshops in England. Tescos is a large food shop chain that has no social conscience, or at least does not seem to have.

    But, doesn’t the United States still have Reagan’s inventory tax in place? Doesn’t it still cost text book publishers to store extra textbooks they produce? From what I have heard it nearly doubled the price of textbooks.

    It might also interest the readers to know that the copyright laws in most of Europe still restrict the royalties to the authors’ children and grandchildren (50 years) and have not allowed them to spread to the great grandchildren (70 years).

    I remember the plant breeder’s rights wars that so bothered so many governments.The USA won that fight and now you have process patents that mean not only do you pay if you produce the same medication, but you have to pay if you use the same process anywhere along the line in doing so for a different medication.

    Imagine taking a patent on fire. The process patents would cover picking up two sticks, A bow and string, lightning, even if you are not responsible for it hitting your property, even smoke and heat if they have a good lawyer.

    What exactly do the writers of this law really want? What do they really have in mind? I think it may go well beyond second hand books; just like it went way beyond cross ferilisation in flowers.

  28. Ben Cambell // June 21, 2010 at 8:56 pm //

    Most writers are given a bad deal. Each book they write takes a huge amount of time and effort for which they receive very little in return unless you are Dan Brown or John Grisham. Until Amazon and other online bookshops came on the scene books were sold at a higher price which allowed publishers to take on more writers and pay them halfway decently. Now with Amazon and others pushing down prices it’s the author who take the brunt. Publishers have now become very reluctant to take on new writers and pay them very little if they do.

    This is bad enough and now with the on-line selling of second hand books the writer is really trampled upon. Amazon still profits but the author get’s nothing and this is unfair. It after all was the writer who put in the hard work and not Amazon.

    One thing often misunderstood here is that books are not items like a tv, a radio or a car. If you sell a tv second hand you are giving up something. You can’t watch tv anymore until you buy a new tv. You don’t buy a tv, watch it for a month and then are finished with it (unless you give up watching tv altogether).

    A book is more like food. It gives nourishment for the mind. Unlike a bag of potatoes however it doesn’t loose it’s nutritional value. It can be resold and somebody else receives the nourishment without giving proper due to the author who created it for her.

    Imagine a farmer who produces potatoes and these potatoes could be resold indefinitely. The farmer, who already makes very low profit on the potatoes now makes even less, because most people buy them second-hand, third-hand, a.s.o. Eventually the farmer will say enough is enough and pack in farming. What’s the point? He has to feed a family.

    The author has to feed a family, too. If people don’t buy new books, he doesn’t get paid. Is it right, to eat potatoes and not pay the farmer? Is it right to profit at the expense of those who do the hard work? I think, it’s morally wrong. Authors deserve to be paid for doing hard work like everybody else. If nutritional value is given, the person who worked for it should be rewarded. It’s not about the paper but what’s written on it.

    How would people here feel if they had to work for no or very little money? How do you feel if you work yourself to the bone and at the end of the day it’s other’s who profit from your work and you have to take to driving the bus in your spare-time just to get some food on your plate?

    I’m all for second-hand book shops but let them pay royalties where royalties are due. It’s the same as with software. You don’t have rights to it only because you own the media like a CD or DVD. You’re not allowed to resell software unless specifically given permission, why should it be different with books? The same argument applies as for software. It is not the media but about intellectual property right.

    If you buy a book, you don’t buy the paper, but what is written on the paper. This cannot be compared with commodities but are intellectual property. Selling on books is like installing software on a computer and reselling the media to others. It’s illegal and for good reasons.

    Once a book has been read, it’s installed in the mind of a person. Passing the book on allows the same creative ideas to be installed in another person’s mind. This process can be repeated indefinitely, like software can be indefinitely installed from computer to computer. Why should we have two standards. Isn’t that hypocritical? Why should software houses have the right to ensure, that for each installed software they receive payment but not authors and publishers?

    The book is merely a container for an intellectual good. When Amazon or other on-line bookshops sell second hand books they should be obliged to pay royalties from the profit they make foremost to the author but also to the publisher.

    Concerning charity and other second hand shops I don’t think they are really the problem. It’s mainly the on-line booksellers where for each new book they often already have second-hand books available. There are many people who would buy new but buy second-hand now, because it’s so easy. They don’t have to go out the house to hunt books down walking from one charity shop to another. If it’s as easy to buy second-hand as buying new, than royalties should be paid or the writers go without food. Why should writers work for others to eat and themselves going hungry? I mean, as I said before, Amazon like other on-line bookshops still profit from the second-hand sale. They grow fat from the work of others. Come on guys, give some respect to those who write books, what would we do without them? Do you really think it’s fair they should not get paid when others profit from their work?

  29. Ben, I have to disagree with you. There are tons of businesses where people secondary to the original customer benefit. For example I can watch free cable at my parents (I do not have cable) and maybe I will enjoy a sow enough to buy the DVD. Maybe not. They have to win me just like any other entertainment purchase. Or how about my job, I am a teacher and my students often go home and tea h stories and songs to parents or siblings. Such is life. I got paid the first time I taught it, to the kid. Authors too get paid, on first sale. What happens after that is up to the purchaser. If you try to control every scenario, you will control yourself into obscurity. Just let people have as many channels to get the book, that is how authors grow audiences.

  30. Ben Cambell // June 22, 2010 at 7:36 am //

    Dear Joanna,

    This is not about forbidding people to read books at their parents house or even passing on a book to a friend. Of course there will always be secondary benefiters.

    What this is about is people profiting from selling the works of others without passing any of the profits on to the author and publishers. A book can be resold hundreds of time. This means, even if it is sold cheaper, it can make lots of profits for the resellers.

    If you buy a book second hand, you can resell it for the same price again and so can the next person. This means, you are actually getting the book for free.

    Through on-line sellers like Amazon, this process is made so easy now that more and more people who normally would buy new now buy second-hand and after they read it put it back on Amazon for resale. Economically this makes sense for the buyer, of course, and for Amazon, but it’s very bad for the publisher and especially the author.

    It is for good reasons, that software houses have protected their interest by not allowing people to resell the software they buy. The same should be for books. It only makes sense.

    Of course, like in software there are those who believe that everything should be free. If a publisher or author is happy that his books can be freely distributed or resold, he should have that right. But it should not be automatically assumed. If in a book the permission is given to resell it, than fine, resell it.

    In software we have people who develop programs in their spare-time. They are happy to share their applications with everybody and put them out with an OpenSource contract. This means, they are giving explicit permission to use their software for free and forbid anybody to resell it for profit.

    Writers should have a choice if they want to allow people to resell their books or not. At the moment too many take it for granted, that writers should go hungry and that it’s just their tough luck.

    Who in their right mind would want to go to work and see other people who don’t contribute get paid for the work they do? This is what happens to writers. They spend months, years on a book and then have to see how their books are sold profiting others but not them. Publishers who put out enormous amounts of sums upfront to support and promote a book for the writer have to watch how less and less new books are bought because it’s so easy now to buy second hand. They struggle more and more to recoup their costs unless they get big deals with TESCO or ASDA, who only buy what sells and don’t stock less known writers. This is bad news for bookshops who offer a wider range, bad news for writers of more demanding literature and bad news for the reader.

    Of course, there might be just the saving grace for our book industry, let’s put advertisements in books. Let’s have free books and an add on every page. Let’s have them on electronic readers than they can even be animated. Wouldn’t that be fun to read Jane Eyre, Lord of the Rings, Oliver Twist, Harry Potter with McDonald and Burger King competing for your attention between the lines. God, I rather die then live in a world where books are becoming like TV owned by the big businesses to sell their products through them. But this is what’s going to happen if the current trend is not stopped.

    Of course, many writers don’t primarily write for money. They have a passion for what they do and receive pleasure if their books are read, no matter if it was bought new or second hand. But at the end of the day, taking pleasure out of one’s work being read doesn’t put food on the table.

    If somebody benefits from their work, they should say thank you buy paying for the book in a way that the author get’s paid through it and not just the distributor. But because many people unfortunately don’t yet think like that, we need regulation to protect the publishing industry. They need to be protected through price-regulation and clear laws protecting the interests of the writers and publishers. We already have it in the software industry, it is only fair, that the same protection should be given to writers.

    If we don’t control the selling of books we condemn the writers and their books into obscurity. If we want to have good quality books in the future we need to protect our artists and honour them. It’s only right and fair.

  31. Right now Ben, the issue is that people have property rights to things they buy and own. If you want people not to own the books, and not to have those rights, then you need to charge them rental prices, not ownership prices. Personally, I would be happy with that—pay $4 a book and have no rights at all to it other than to read it and be done. And in the e-era, this would certainly be easier. I’d be happy to pay $3 and have it go away (like library books do) after 30 days, the same way I do with a video rental. But if you are going to charge me an ownership price, then you can’t take away my property rights to it. I guess as authors, you have to gamble on whether you’ll make more money selling the book to an owner, or renting it to a renter where the sticker price would have to be so much less.

  32. No way do I buy into this nonsense. And nonsense it is. Writers have been published successfully for centuries and have made good income from it while 2nd hand book shops have also been successful in parallel. The idea that writers ‘suffer’ in some way is totally false and is driven solely and exclusively by greed.
    We have had a ‘model’ in operation since the beginning of writing, whereby a writer gets paid for each hard copy of his works sold. End of story.
    I bough my car from Toyota five years ago and then sold it to my brother. We did not and never intend to make an additional payment to Toyota. Writers need to get a grip on this sparkle of greed they have in their eyes. They should also wake up to realise that 2nd hand book sales spread their reputation and lead to increased sales overall for them.
    We already have the outrageous laws restricting copyright until 50 or even 70 years after a writer’s death. This appalling law is what we need to rid ourselves of and stop allowing this uber-control of the writer.

  33. Ben Cambell // June 22, 2010 at 10:28 am //

    Well, Joanna, I guess you own the book as it concerns the paper and ink, in the same way you own a CD or DVD. But when it comes to the content, you don’t own it and never will, it belongs to the author.

    Book rental might be a good idea for the future instead of libraries letting people read them for free. I wouldn’t be quite for that, for I like that I can go to the library and have free access to books. But I can also have a good conscience here, because as far as I know there is a system in place that authors still get paid through it. Either the library acquires the books at a much higher price or they keep track how often a book is lend out and pay royalties. In one of the writers magazines I read a few months ago they advised not to sell books second hand but to give them to the library as this way the author still will be paid.

    There is of course an argument if library services need to be overhauled. We don’t see yet many software freely available in libraries. If we want to play games on the computer or use Microsoft Office we still are expected to pay for it. There are not many voices who say that Microsoft should allow their software to be given away for free or to be resold once a person made a first purchase. And in software we have the same process of development, an author (or group of authors) who write it, a publisher/software house and distributors.

    Games for example are as creative as novels and we don’t expect that they should be passed on for free. That’s why they constantly develop new security measures to prevent software piracy. And just the fact, that copying a piece of software is illegal should tell us something. Why do we have two different standards here? If copying and reselling software is wrong then so is reselling a book without the express permission of the author and publisher.

    As I said before, the problem here are more the on-line bookshops like Amazon then the small second-hand and charity shops in the street. Before Amazon came on the scene I had to get out of the house and hunt for books. If I wanted a specific book I usually had to buy it new as there was no guarantee to find it second hand quickly enough. But now, within a short period of time when a book is released, it can be easily acquired second hand from Amazon and other on-line book stores. This means that where before people would have bought new, many now buy second-hand.

    I think, it’s OK to sell second-hand, but Amazon and other on-line book stores have the capability to track the sales and should be obliged to pass on profits from each sale to the authors and publishers.

    There is actually a positive slant to it. It’s a way of recycling books and protecting the environment. Through on-line selling it has become possible to print less and sell more. It’s the same when bottles used to get recycled. They were washed out and filled again with juice, milk, etc. But those who provided the juice were still paid . The juice is the content. If Amazon decides to recycle old books by encouraging people to send them back to them once read, that’s great. But please pay the author each time you sell it again. It’s not that much the author get’s from a book anyway, usually between 10 to 15%. If a book is sold new for £10, he gets maybe £1. If Amazon decides to resell that same book again, they should pay this £1 again.

    Amazon charges £0.86 plus a referral fee (17.25% of the sale). If a book is sold at £10 they make a profit of £1.75 + £0.86 = £2.61. Of course, second hand books are sold cheaper, so say it sells at £7 then Amazon makes £1.23 + £0.86 = £2.09.

    The point is, that Amazon should continue paying the royalties at least to the author but also to the publisher. Amazon, like other on-line book stores, does the least work but makes the most money. This is not right. By all means, let them sell the books new or second hand, but prevent them from undercutting the market and ripping off the writers and publishers.

  34. Scottish Writer // June 22, 2010 at 10:47 am //

    Ben, you seem to have wavered from the debate somewhat when you say:
    They struggle more and more to recoup their costs unless they get big deals with TESCO or ASDA, who only buy what sells and don’t stock less known writers. This is bad news for bookshops who offer a wider range, bad news for writers of more demanding literature and bad news for the reader.

    But back to the point – and Joanna has made an excellent point above, once a person has paid for an item, be it a book, a car, a house…..that person has the right to sell it on for a profit or not.
    Your arguement suggests that the original creator/manufacturer/designer of a product should continue to make a profit through the entire life-span of the item. If I privately sell my car to someone, should I give a percentage of the profit I make to the garage I originally purchased the car from and a percentage to the company Ford?

  35. Scottish Writer // June 22, 2010 at 11:03 am //

    PS Ben, re your comment that begins: Most writers are given a bad deal. Each book they write takes a huge amount of time and effort for which they receive very little in return unless you are Dan Brown or John Grisham………

    do what most of us undiscovered lesser-known writers do, go into teaching and stop sounding so hard done to man. There’s only one thing worse than a struggling writer and that’s a struggling writer who whinges about it!

  36. Dear Ben, are you being serious when you write:

    Who in their right mind would want to go to work and see other people who don’t contribute get paid for the work they do? This is what happens to writers.

    This is what happens to everyone!!!! It’s called having a boss.

  37. Bemused Scribbler // June 22, 2010 at 1:20 pm //

    This comment is directed to the commenter Ben Cambell,

    in one of your statements above, you have written:

    I guess you own the book as it concerns the paper and ink, in the same way you own a CD or DVD. But when it comes to the content, you don’t own it and never will, it belongs to the author.

    This is a very mis-guided statement to make.
    If you buy a book, you do own it and you always will, unless you sell it or give it to someone else,
    in the same way if you buy a chair from IKEA.
    A designer has created the design for the chair in the same way an author has created the story/novel/poem he has written.

    You’re trying to talk about intellectual property (IP) but I think you’re getting a bit confused.

    Intellectual property (IP) is a term referring to a number of distinct types of creations of the mind for which property rights are recognised–and the corresponding fields of law.[1] Under intellectual property law, owners are granted certain exclusive rights to a variety of intangible assets, such as musical, literary, and artistic works; discoveries and inventions; and words, phrases, symbols, and designs. Common types of intellectual property include copyrights, trademarks, patents, industrial design rights and trade secrets in some jurisdictions.

    IP refers to the copyright and not the physical book itself.

  38. Bemused makes a good point. I own a couch from IKEA which somebody has exerted intellectual effort to design, but my purchase of it has compensated him or her for it. And now I can keep the couch forever (and as a result not spend money on further couches if I don’t want to) or give it away. And how about all those decorating blogs out there? Does Apartment Therapy have to pay royalties to IKEA if they photograph my apartment and thereby expose non-paying eyeballs to the design of my couch? No. The creators of the couch got their compensation when I bought it. Once I buy a physical object, it is MINE. If you want to remove that right, you need to remove the physical object. Ebooks might be a way toward that. But then if the people have fewer rights, they will expect commensurately to pay fewer dollars…

  39. Ben Cambell // June 22, 2010 at 9:19 pm //

    Howard, I guess you’re not a writer, otherwise you wouldn’t say that they are driven by greed. A writer works extremely hard for each book that they publish. They are driven by their passion for the art and enrich our lives. It is only right that we should look after them and not let them go hungry. Your accusation of greed is directed at the wrong people. Think about it, who makes the most money out of the books? Who are the people who get wealthy on the back of the writers? And you can’t compare books with a Toyota, but I already explained this.

    ScottishWriter, you like many here seem to not quite understand the dilemma. As I already explained, you can’t compare books with buying a car or house. Read my reasons. If an identical copy of a car or house could be resold over and over again, I’m sure the manufacturers would seek to protect their interest. But anyway, manufacturers make sure that they make enough money for themselves on a first sale. This does not happen for most writers, only very very extremely very few like J. K. Rowling with Harry Potter. Most writers get peanuts and are required to work at other jobs for a living. If car manufacturers had to work for peanuts they would quit their jobs, and so would Architects, builders and estate agents. A question: would you work eight or more hours for your boss and not get paid enough to pay the rent and buy food? Would you think, that if you work all day on a buliding site and somebody else cashes in your checks, that this is acceptable? This is what happens, when books get resold. It’s work for which money is exchanged but the worker is not paid.

    Anon.Says, as I said to ScottishWriter, would you be willing to work and have somebody else get paid for it? Of course I understand that in most job situations the employer profits from his employers. But we’re speaking here about the exploitation of writers, where online-booksellers profit and become extremly rich while the writers who do the hard work don’t get a share in it.

    BemusedScribbler, I don’t see what mis-guidance should be in my statement. Do you really think that five, six pounds/dollars or whatever you pay gives you ownership of the content of a book? Of course not. The price you pay for a book is in no relation to the work a writer put into it. Depending on the book, many require months and even years of hard work to get written down, often in isolation and difficult circumstances.

    The content of a book will always remain owned by the author. He gives permission to have it printed and sold. Any person who wants access to the story should be required to pay the author royalty either directly or via the reseller. This cannot be compared with reselling a car.

    If you resell a chair from IKEA you stop owning it. If you resell a book, you already have installed the content in your mind, so by reselling the book you practically copy the content into another persons mind and thus violate the copyright. This is the equivalent of physically copying the IKEA chair and selling it on. If you do this IKEA will have a problem with you, for you stealing business from them.

    Books are containers for stories. It’s the stories that need to be protected, not the books. He who buys a book gets the right to install that story into his mind. The same way when you buy a game you are allowed to install it on only one computer. If you install it on yours and then give the installation CD to your friend, you are breaking the law.

    What you said about IP, it is exactly that, referring to intangible assets like musical, literary and other artistic works, etc. What I meant to say is that the content of the book is such an intangible asset, like the software on a CD. Owning an installation CD does not give me ownership over the software and neither does owning a book give me ownership of the story.

    Guys, think about it. If you see a book on Amazon new for £10 new and £6 second-hand like new, which one would you go for? I guess moust of us would go for the cheaper option. Of course, it makes economically sense. We save money. But, if this option wasn’t there we would have to buy it new. This means, simply by having the option to buy second-hand, the author and publishers will miss out on royalties that they should be getting. This is a huge loss and creates problems for the publishing industry. If this trends continues, we will soon have to say good-bye to good books and hello to easy selling junk. Already publishers are taking on less new writers than they used to and cut payments to them.

    Joanna, again, you can’t compare things like an IKEA chair/couch with books. If you sell your couch, you would need to buy another one to get into the benefit of owning one. It’s not the same with a book. Once you read a story you have it embedded in your mind. The reason you might want to sell the book is because after having read it you have no need anymore for it. You now know the story. Maybe you want to read the book again in a couple of years, but it’s not like a couch, which, if you sell it, would require you to have to sit on the floor. Same with a car, you can’t drive unless you buy another car. Or a house, you don’t want to live on the street so you buy or rent another one. With a book, once you read it, you can discard it. It’s now just a shell for you because you already know the content. Not so for the next person who buys it. For her it’s full of mysterious content that she wants to explore. And for that content, that experience the writer has created for her, she should not pay thanks to you, but the writer. You haven’t created the story, it’s the writer who did.

  40. Wow, I wonder why this article has suddenly gotten so popular over the last couple of days. Did someone link it from somewhere?

    It seems like a lot of authors don’t like the idea that a book they write might be resold without them taking a cut of it. But the fact is, they’ve already been paid for that book.

    A used bookstore making money off that book is not so much profiteering on the writer’s hard work as it is making money by providing the service of collecting and organizing used books in such a fashion that consumers can search through and find what they want.

    It also helps drive the sale of new books by ensuring that customers have a way to sell them when they no longer want them. If you didn’t know you could resell a book, you’d be less likely to want to buy it. That’s part of why a lot of people think e-books should be cheaper than paper ones.

    And requiring that used stores pay royalties would only serve to drive used-book stores out of business and drive up the prices of used books at the ones that remain. That wouldn’t do anybody any good.

  41. Chris – some of the confusion in this thread is because the re-sale of physical books is being mixed into discussion of the re-sale of digital books. If I purchase a physical book and sell it after reading it, I no longer have possession of the book. If I buy a digital book, I could produce and sell an infinite number of perfect copies of the book.

    The re-sale of digital books worries publishers (and authors), so publishers are tending to use digital locks to prevent easy copying. Readers don’t like digital locks because they make it difficult to “lend” a digital book to a family member or friend and because there is a nasty history of vendors departing the business and in so doing causing the consumer’s library to fail (cf. Microsoft, K-Mart and others abandoning the online music business). Try to imagine what might happen if Adobe were to fail.

    The music and video industries are pushing for ever-tougher laws to prevent the unlocking of digital goods. Canada has a new bill before parliament that wool make breaking a digital lock a criminal offense; other countries are being encouraged to enact similar law.

    So consumers have I think a good argument that digital books are really rentals, not purchases, and that prices should reflect this. Publishers are not sure they want lower prices – they are still unsure of the business model for digital goods (printing, shipping, and warehouse distribution costs go away for digital, but new costs including software locks, secure servers, digital distributor fees, not to mention author requests for higher royalty percentages, are being added).

    It will be a while before the dust settles and we have a stable business in digital books. Before that happens, I expect there will be as much confusion as there was when music went digital. And quite a lot of casualties.

  42. Chris – some of the confusion in this thread is because the re-sale of physical books is being mixed into discussion of the re-sale of digital books. If I purchase a physical book and sell it after reading it, I no longer have possession of the book. If I buy a digital book, I could produce and sell an infinite number of perfect copies of the book.

    The re-sale of digital books worries publishers (and authors), so publishers are tending to use digital locks to prevent easy copying. Readers don’t like digital locks because they make it difficult to “lend” a digital book to a family member or friend and because there is a nasty history of vendors departing the business and in so doing causing the consumer’s library to fail (cf. Microsoft, K-Mart and others abandoning the online music business). Try to imagine what might happen if Adobe were to fail.

    The music and video industries are pushing for ever-tougher laws to prevent the unlocking of digital goods. Canada has a new bill before parliament that wool make breaking a digital lock a criminal offense; other countries are being encouraged to enact similar law.

    So consumers have I think a good argument that digital books are really rentals, not purchases, and that prices should reflect this. Publishers are not sure they want lower prices – they are still unsure of the business model for digital goods (printing, shipping, and warehouse distribution costs go away for digital, but new costs including software locks, secure servers, digital distributor fees, not to mention author requests for higher royalty percentages, are being added).

    It will be a while before the dust settles and we have a stable business in digital books. Before that happens, I expect there will be as much confusion as there was when music went digital. And quite a lot of casualties.

  43. Ben wrote:
    “If you resell a book, you already have installed the content in your mind, so by reselling the book you practically copy the content into another persons mind and thus violate the copyright. This is the equivalent of physically copying the IKEA chair and selling it on. If you do this IKEA will have a problem with you, for you stealing business from them. ”

    This is truly the daftest, most idiotic argument I have encountered in MANY a year. A daft argument that is clearly driven not by logic or rational thinking – but by a new kind of greed that is gripping some of the writing community who see the new ebook development as a golden opportunity to leverage a new cash cow.

    Ben talks about “A writer works extremely hard for each book that they publish. They are driven by their passion for the art and enrich our lives. It is only right that we should look after them and not let them go hungry.”

    For goodness sakes that goes for all kinds of people all around the world. Writers are not any more deserving than any others. If they are good they will earn good money, if they are crap they won’t. Simple as that.

    If writers are smart enough they should realise that Publishing as an industry is undergoing a massive change and writers who have real talent can start to look at bypassing publishers and going straight to the public to sell their work. This is the future, not trying to leverage some idiotic and irrational sob story as a justification to tap into money they don’t deserve.

    We have too many new books being published as it is. Too many really ordinary books that would be no loss if they were to be lost to the world.

  44. Ben Cambell // June 23, 2010 at 9:57 am //

    Chris Meadows, the idea that if you buy a book you can do with it what you want is an idea that needs to be challenged. In the past before the internet it was no problem. You bought a book, read it and passed it on to a friend, charity or resell it. Books then were a lot more expensive so that writers got a bigger cut from a first sale. Now online bookstores push down the prices for first sales and on top of it offer second hand versions of the same book on the same page. Now, make the math.

    The publishing industry is, as Howard said, undergoing a massive change. The writer needs to be protected from those sharks who use their work to make themselves rich.

    What does a writer get? 10 – 15% for each first sale. That’s basically it. Sometimes publishers give them an advance payments, but this has become less and less over the years. Publishers are pressured by supermarkets and online-bookstores to lower their prices. To recoup the loss, they therefore are forced to pay less to the writer.

    What does Amazon for example get for a re-sale? 85p plus 17.5% referral charge. That is nearly twice the amount from what a writer gets for a first-sale. Amazon gets it each time a book is re-sold. The writer gets his pay only for the first time his book is sold.

    This is big business for the boys from Amazon and other online bookshops. And yet, people here accuse writers of being greedy. Ridiculous.

    A book is not the same as it’s content. The book is just a container for a story so that it can conveniantly read. What we pay for when we buy a book, is the benefit to hear the story in our mind. It’s not the paper and ink but the wonderful experience of being transported away for a period of time into another world.

    A writer could simply just read out their book in a concert hall. We all would have to pay for that privilege and it would be difficult to pass it on to another person after the event. However, who would want to attend a concert that lasts days and weeks? It’s just not practical. So we have books that we can read at our leasure.

    Writers don’t have the same choices as musicians. They don’t get revenues from concerts but only from the sale of their books. They depend on them. And because prices have come down so much, they depend on high volume sales.

    I think you’re wrong that it would drive prices up if bookstores would pay royalties on their books. They just have to split their profits which I think is only right and fair. As I said, Amazon takes 17.5% of each second hand sale plus 85p. If the writer would get half of that it would mean, Amazon makes less money, but they still make a lot. Those online sellers just have to stop being so greedy.

  45. Ben: Did you even read the article you’re replying to?

    A number of people with relatively low budgets make much use of used bookstores. (My parents almost never buy any book new, for example.) Tacking a royalty onto used book resales would increase the barriers to book ownership for these people, making it harder for them to buy books in an era when many already lament that reading is dying out.

    It would also mean that bookstores that don’t have to worry about tracking used books now would have to retrofit inventory tracking systems, increasing their costs considerably (and guess who would end up eating those increased costs? Hint: Not the bookstores). Some stores, such as charity stores or flea markets that simply don’t have the time or money to devote to keeping track of used sales, would either have to get an exemption or stop selling books altogether.

    Even leaving aside the additional costs from retrofitting inventory tracking, given the choice between “splitting its profit” and raising prices to keep making the same profit, what business is going to choose the former? Businesses are in business to make money, you know.

    And bookstores are under siege from online firms like Amazon already. Did you know there are no longer any used bookstores at all in Kansas City? Imagine that, a metro area the size of KC without a single used bookstore.

  46. Chris Meadows, the idea that if you buy a book you can do with it what you want is an idea that needs to be challenged. In the past before the internet it was no problem. You bought a book, read it and passed it on to a friend, charity or resell it. Books then were a lot more expensive so that writers got a bigger cut from a first sale. Now online bookstores push down the prices for first sales and on top of it offer second hand versions of the same book on the same page.

    The idea that when you buy something, it is yours is not simply an idea, it’s a definition. If an author doesn’t like it, well, then the author can choose not to sell his books. “In the past” books were a lot more expensive, but you had a lot more of middle mans, and each of them had a lot more power (so, they got a bigger slice). I won’t accept your argument that authors nowadays get less money in a first sale, if you don’t show me numbers to prove it.

  47. Bemused Scribbler // June 23, 2010 at 1:04 pm //

    Ben, you come across as a very angry and bitter person. Perhaps you are an unknown writer, perhaps you have not honed your craft enough or you do not have the talent to ‘make it’ big.
    Either way, you sound quite silly in some of your points, as noted by Howard you say:
    “If you resell a book, you already have installed the content in your mind, so by reselling the book you practically copy the content into another persons mind and thus violate the copyright. This is the equivalent of physically copying the IKEA chair and selling it on. If you do this IKEA will have a problem with you, for you stealing business from them. ”

    The line that really got me there was: you practically copy the book into another persons mind….

    Let me suggest this, if you are a writer, you should spend more of your time working on your craft instead of writing reams of comments on here, because in practice the original statement: should second-hand book stores pay royalties, would only apply to you, as a writer, if you are actually selling books.

  48. Good post Bemused :-)

    I would just say to people here that this concept that Ben is banging on about is not one that will go away imho. The music industry has managed to get into the offices and heads of legislators in both the US and Europe in the last ten years flogging their fraudulent woes about file sharing. They have been ridiculously successful in getting Governments onside. In addition the writer’s lobby has managed to get copyright laws extended to a ridiculous length beyond the death of the writer.
    Unless ordinary people call a halt and do it loudly we will find ourselves subject to even more appallingly stringent and punitive copyright and royalty laws in the future.
    Writers see the current changes in technology as a cash cow they can raid. They have been emboldened by their success and that of the music industry.
    We need to pay attention to what they are doing and take it seriously.

  49. But my mother can buy a paper book, loan it to me and to her husband and to whomever she wishes and not have to pay anybody royalties—because she paid the royalties when she first bought the book. You just can’t regulate this sort of thing. IF you move to an all-digital model where you CAN regulate this type of thing and you want all books to be one-use things, I would accept that argument—IF you lowered the price to take into account that it is a rental and not a sale. If you continue to charge full retail price for what is essentially a rental, I fear you won’t have many takers.

    I strongly disagree with the notion that writers are any more ‘deserving’ of societal support than anybody else is. Personally, I think it is wrong that a model can make more in a day than a daycare worker makes in a year, but if there are people willing to pay the model that sum, who am I to stop them. That’s what we call a free market economy. And as part of a free market economy, I have the right to sell or give away physical items I have purchased.

  50. Ben, in response to your post –

    1. Have you read the article you are debating on?

    2. You write: we’re speaking here about the exploitation of writers, where online-booksellers profit and become extremly rich while the writers who do the hard work don’t get a share in it.

    3. You write: would you be willing to work and have somebody else get paid for it?

    In response to these comments – the article is about second-hand book stores paying royalties, you make an unsupported and outlandish statement about online book sellers making fortunes.

    And again, as I stated previously, I do work for someone who puts no effort into the job I do, yet makes a very tidy profit from the work myself and my colleagues do, daily.
    You ask if I want to do this, yes I want to do the job but of course I would like to be paid more for it. I teach. I put my creative and intellectual self into my job everyday, should I be expecting some monetary compensation from the kids when they pass their GCSEs because I have imprinted my knowledge onto them and they have reproduced it?

    A job is a job: teaching, working in a bank or call-centre or writing books and yes Ben being a writer is a job.
    As a writer you must work, produce a product, market yourself, advertise your work and sell your work. Just like the rest of us. The key point is that you sell your product. You sell it once.

    You say of writers:
    It is only right that we should look after them and not let them go hungry.

    Nonsense statement. It seems you have a romantic idea of the starving, writer penning away by candle-light into the night.

    Romantic maybe but very deluded.

  51. Ben Cambell // June 24, 2010 at 5:35 am //

    Anon,

    1. Yes I have read the article and I disagree vehemently with it. It completely fails to understand the current problem writers today are facing. It makes a call to oppose ammendments in copyright law requiring used book sellers to collect royalties. For this it quotes some points in support but fails to give a balanced view by also quoting those who are in favour of those ammendments.

    You say you work for somebody who profits from your labour. Does this mean he gets paid but you don’t and you still keep working? Or do you mean, you get paid a relativ decent wage and therefore tolerate that your boss benefits from your labours, too?

    What you fail to realise is, that you are getting a guaranteed wage, but writers rely on royalties. Imagine you would only get paid for each child that passes the GSCE. In a way, that would only be fair, because why should a teacher get paid if they do a bad job? Now imagine, you do a great job, all your students pass the GSCE, but you only get paid on a quarter of them, because some of the parents of those children found ways to get your teaching indirectly so they can avoid paying you fees. You were relying on those fees to pay your rent and buy food but now you have to worry all year how to make ends meet. You have to find another job as a bus driver just so you can continue teaching those children. And on top of it, if you complain, you’re told you’re greedy. It’s just your tough luck if you choose to be a teacher, shut up and drive the bus. That’s what people here are basically saying to writers.

    Writers deserve to be paid royalties each time their books are sold. They deserve like anybody else to live of their work and not to have to take on second jobs to pay rent and get food on the table. It is shocking to see the attitudes displayed in this forum about writers as if they are less deserving people.

    You as a teacher, do you think you could do a job well if you had to worry each day how to pay your rent and what to eat? Do you think you could give your best in teaching if you had to work several jobs on the side? If most of us are not willing to do this, why do we think that writers should?

  52. Ben: numbers show that now more than ever there are more and more books being published. Do you say that writers are facing today new problems? Besides competition – which is a good thing to the market – I don’t see any other problem. If you are talking about used books, then let me just point out that that is not new talk, I has been disputed for years and years now. There are several arguments for one side and the other, but all of your arguments will fall short if you actually understand the purpose of copyright – which is to incentive creation and distribution of knowledge. Studies show that the second-hand books market helps to keep old books in circulation, including old, rare, first edition, antique, or simply out-of-print books. When you’re talking about reading copies (non-collectibles), there are also studies pointing out that buyers of reading copies tend to end up buying more books – used and new. So what’s exactly your argument?

  53. Ben Cambell // June 24, 2010 at 6:15 am //

    Howard,

    “Unless ordinary people call a halt and do it loudly we will find ourselves subject to even more appallingly stringent and punitive copyright and royalty laws in the future.”

    Who exactly are these “ordinary people” and who do you call unordinary?”

    “Writers see the current changes in technology as a cash cow they can raid. They have been emboldened by their success and that of the music industry.
    We need to pay attention to what they are doing and take it seriously.”

    LOL, this says it all. You clearly have no clue. How many writers do you know that are “emboldened by their success” and “see the current changes in technology as a cash cow they can raid”? How many writers do you actually know? When even booker prize winners can’t make a living on writing how can you say such things?

  54. They ARE paid royalties each time a book is sold. And then the owner of the book owns it and can do what they want with it. What you are saying is like saying is like sayign that if you sell your house you must pay royalties to the original architect, if I sell my chair I must pay royalties to the chair’s original designer etc. It is an absurd argument.

    As to the ‘writers deserve to be able to pay their bills’ that is debatable. There are different types of jobs in the marketplace, for all professions. For example, there is a teacher surplus in my area so some teachers must substitute teach and there is no assurance of how many hours they will get. So many of them tutor on the side or do have to take other jobs. Other teachers have a contract. I work at a private school where there are some perks I do enjoy, but a union pay scale is not one of them and I do supplement my work.

    Writing a novel is almost like working a commission sales job. It is not, nor has it ever been, a guaranteed proposition. If you are a writer and you *want* a guaranteed proposition, you can get one by taking a corporate job or taking a staff position at a newspaper, website, magazine or trade publication. THAT is the path to a salary position as a writer. I do not believe that anyone has the RIGHT to expect their bills will all be paid by writing novels though, any more than anyone has the right to expect their bills will be paid by selling anything, because sales is generally not a salaried job and if you want a salaried job, there are other paths open to you.

  55. It seems that hardly anybody here has any idea what it means to be a writer or they wouldn’t say some of the stupid things they say. Only because writers expect to be paid royalties doesn’t mean they’re greedy bastards who just want to raid the current technology as a cash cow. What a silly notion. I wish some of you would make a bit more of an effort to find out what writers really get paid. Seems to me that most of you just read celebrity tabloids where the only writers ever mentioned are those who made it big time. And those writers are often not really that great, just very clever in playing towards the market.

  56. Ben, you ask:
    You as a teacher, do you think you could do a job well if you had to worry each day how to pay your rent and what to eat? Do you think you could give your best in teaching if you had to work several jobs on the side? If most of us are not willing to do this, why do we think that writers should?

    I do not get paid a massive salary for teaching, anyone in the teaching profession will tell you this.
    I have two jobs. I am a full-time teacher and a poet coach. I currently work both jobs, fitting my coaching around my school working hours.
    On top of this I am also a published and performance poet. The money I earn from coaching poetry and writing does not sustain me, therefore I have to have a full-time job. And trust me when I say this, I would far rather simply write all day and be paid a decent, livable wage for it, but hey, I’m living in the real world; it ain’t going to happen.
    You said as much yourself when you say: ….unless you’re JK Rowling or Dan Brown…..

    So you could in fact say I have three jobs to pay the rent, make the ends meet etc. But I do put the best I can into each one and I don’t moan about it, because that’s the type of person I am.

    If you feel you cannot perform to your best with your writing because you are too worried about what you may or may not earn from it, then it sounds to me like you may be trying to carve your way in the wrong profession.

    Whatever happened to writing for pleasure, where is the joy in what you do? Perhaps you should try to love what you do and your success may spring from that.

    Good luck.

  57. Ben:
    “Who exactly are these “ordinary people” and who do you call unordinary?” ”

    The customers and readers are the ordinary people I refer to.

    Ben:
    You clearly have no clue. How many writers do you know that are “emboldened by their success” and “see the current changes in technology as a cash cow they can raid”? How many writers do you actually know? When even booker prize winners can’t make a living on writing how can you say such things?</blockquote
    The problem here is that I actually DO know what I am talking about. I have been involved in Commercial Financial management for decades and my Mother and sister are both writers. With another three in my extended family. So I know quite a lot about the business.
    You appear to believe that just the very act of being a writer entitles you to an income. Rubbish. The problem is we now have too many ordinary and average writers and too many borderline talented writers. When writers have problems earning, they need to ask themselves if the reason is because they are simply CRAP and should move to another profession. Society does not owe them a living.

  58. By the way people … if you want to put a quotation like mine above you just need to start and end the quotation with
    and

    Take out the spaces.

  59. ooops sorry … they system blanked the codes…

    and close with adding a / after the first bracket

  60. James Wood:
    It seems that hardly anybody here has any idea what it means to be a writer or they wouldn’t say some of the stupid things they say. Only because writers expect to be paid royalties doesn’t mean they’re greedy bastards who just want to raid the current technology as a cash cow. What a silly notion. I wish some of you would make a bit more of an effort to find out what writers really get paid. Seems to me that most of you just read celebrity tabloids where the only writers ever mentioned are those who made it big time. And those writers are often not really that great, just very clever in playing towards the market.

    Who here is disagreeing with writers being paid royalties ? I see no one at all. So much for that accusation of yours.
    The issue in this thread is about additional royalties when 2nd hand books are sold.

  61. Here’s a solution. When you buy a used book, Amazon and half.com should offer a donation button for the author (how that could be arranged might be a problem, but that’s an implementation problem and it doesn’t seem insurmountable).

    I think most literary people would gladly add $.50 to $5 to a used book sale to benefit the author’s estate or account.

    Ponder this case. I wrote about jack matthews for Teleread a few months ago . Brilliant author of 20 books, but a sad case. All of his books are for sale for less than a $1, and Amazon imposes a $3.99 handling charge. All of his books are out of print, and so he isn’t making anything. Does that stink? Of course. I’ve bought all of his books on used book sites for peanuts. Amazon is profiting handsomely from it from ecommerce software they invented years ago. Amazon is helping me and helping the marketplace, but they need to do more. Or else literary types will abandon them!

    Because ebooks never go out of print, it’s possible for authors to receive royalties over time. There is no such thing as an ebook going “out of print.”

  62. Ben Cambell // June 24, 2010 at 7:49 pm //

    Robert,

    I fully agree with you, that Amazon needs to do more, which is to share their profits with the writers. It’s not right that they make profits with other peoples’s work and not giving them a share in it. A donation button I find insulting, though, as if authors had to beg for money.

    Howard:

    “Who here is disagreeing with writers being paid royalties ? I see no one at all. So much for that accusation of yours.
    The issue in this thread is about additional royalties when 2nd hand books are sold.”

    It does make no difference if books are sold first-hand or second-hand. The author has a right for royalties each time his story is re-sold. Buying and reselling second-hand books results in giving the story away for free. You buy a book second-hand for £4 and then resell it for £4, why don’t you just go into the library and get the book there? At least in the library the author will be paid royalties in some form.

    Joanna

    “They ARE paid royalties each time a book is sold. And then the owner of the book owns it and can do what they want with it. What you are saying is like saying is like sayign that if you sell your house you must pay royalties to the original architect, if I sell my chair I must pay royalties to the chair’s original designer etc. It is an absurd argument.”

    An architect is usually paid very well for his job. I don’t know many who have to take on second jobs to make a living, in fact, I know none. IKEA staff are all paid wages, too. And yes, if you copy a chair design, you are in violation of the law. If you re-sell your chair you usually only do this when you have no use for it any more because you bought another chair you can sit on.

    Of course, there is the possibility for the writer to sell the books at such a cost that calculates the loss through re-sale into the price of a first sale. But who will buy those books then? Who wants to pay £50 for a book that at the moment costs less then £10?

    A car manufacturer has calculated how much a car needs to cost to make a decent profit out of it. The same cannot be said about publishers and writers. We do have a retail price for books, but if you look at Amazon and Tesco and many Bookshops now, you will find that those books sell often way below the retail price because their is no law anymore to protect the price. But this is another issue for debate.

    Mind Booster,

    “When you’re talking about reading copies (non-collectibles), there are also studies pointing out that buyers of reading copies tend to end up buying more books – used and new. So what’s exactly your argument?”

    Maybe I haven’t made myself clear. My point is that when you buy a book it doesn’t mean you automatically own the story. If you resell that book, then the author should be paid royalty on his story which you give to somebody else. Stories require some kind of media through which they are being made accessible to the reader. This can be a book or ebook or Audio CD. The writer has a right to be paid royalty each time his story is being bought, no matter, what media is being used or re-used. Amazon basically recycles books by re-selling them. You can recycle by pulping the books and then use the pulp to make paper on which to print the story again or, to save cost and the environment, simply re-sell it without going through that process. It doesn’t matter. At the end it’s the same story, a book is being sold which contains the writers story and for this story the writer should be paid royalty.

  63. Ben: Why do you find a donation button insulting? What is this “negative feeling” more important than having a mechanism to give some tangible token of appreciation?

  64. Ben Cambell // June 24, 2010 at 9:23 pm //

    Robert,

    I find it insulting because it looks as if he should be grateful if he get’s anything. An author has a right to be paid for the story he has written.

    Now, I don’t mean that a donation button is always a bad idea. I have seen some doing it where they give something away for free, like authors of OpenSource software. What is insulting is when third parties decides to provide a donation button because they’re too greedy to share their profits. This patronises the author, makes him appear that he is just a charity case and not somebody worthy of his wages.

  65. Ben Cambell // June 24, 2010 at 9:54 pm //

    Howard,

    “The problem here is that I actually DO know what I am talking about. I have been involved in Commercial Financial management for decades and my Mother and sister are both writers. With another three in my extended family. So I know quite a lot about the business.”

    Good. Do your mother and sister live from their writing? Having family who write I’m surprised that you’re not in favour to protect them from exploitation.

    “You appear to believe that just the very act of being a writer entitles you to an income. Rubbish.”

    I have never stated that I believe that being a writer entitles one to an income. So, please, be careful what you accuse me of. What I say is that the writer needs to be protected from people who use their work to make profits for themselves through the re-sale of their work, thus harming them on the one side because they have less first-sales and on the other by not sharing the profits with them.

    “The problem is we now have too many ordinary and average writers and too many borderline talented writers. When writers have problems earning, they need to ask themselves if the reason is because they are simply CRAP and should move to another profession. Society does not owe them a living.”

    You’re right, society does not owe them a living, but they owe them royalties if they buy their books. Many writers suffer because too many people think they should have things free and cheap. It’s not only a problem with writers, but a common malaise in our society. As long as we don’t see people suffer in our back garden we don’t care how we get our food and goods. That’s why I’m all for Fair Trade and like to see laws change to make it obligatory. And Fair Trade is not only about helping people in third-world countries, it’s about fairness everywhere. Our mentality has to change that we stop looking for the cheapest price but ensure that the people who provide us with goods are well compensated for them. Authors provide us with stories and deserve to be paid each time somebody benefits from them. This is only fair.

  66. Ben I have written about tipping already :

    Will tipping ever catch on? And isn’t it a little condescending? In the United States, most people tip their waiters and waitresses 15% of the check as a matter of habit. Why then would Americans refuse to do something comparable after downloading a phenomenal set of songs? When you buy a CD or some Itunes song, you are paying for a digital product set in physical form. . That is an exercise in capitalism. When you give money to the musician after downloading a song, you are expressing what moves you. You are letting the artist know that you as an individual have found the song to be valuable. That is an exercise in appreciation (and that is why this kind of tipping might be more viable

    For me, there is a more practical reason to support a donation button. In the US you can’t just order two (or three) private parties to give a portion of the transaction fee to the artist just because it seems “fair.” The writer already made an agreement to let the publisher sell and distribute the book, and the consumer has already bought the book with the understanding that he or she has the right of resale. You are trying to reverse things which were already agreed upon to the satisfaction of all the parties. And couldn’t the publisher claim it has just as much right to these alleged royalties as the author (since they invested time and money to produce these books)? In the US, we don’t have the concept of moral rights which we find in EU countries. Perhaps we should change this rule (I’m neutral on that question). But the right of resale has already existed for so long that it seems unfair to reverse previous agreements.

    I don’t necessarily disagree with your position. I just don’t think it is reasonable to apply this rule on books which have already been published.

    That said, I think society needs to address the very real problem of writers signing agreements without understanding fully the consequences of the rights they have given up. For example, if a book is out of print, then hopefully the writer will have retained the right to publish the same book as an ebook. many writers did not anticipate that eventuality, or if they did, may have chosen not to exercise that right to compete with copies of their books on the used market. If writers kept this right and sold ebook versions of the same books for 3 or 4 dollars, there wouldn’t be a problem.

  67. (When I refer to moral rights , I am referring to a European concept in copyright which “includes the right of attribution, the right to have a work published anonymously or pseudonymously, and the right to the integrity of the work…Even if an artist has assigned his or her rights to a work to a third party, he or she still maintains the moral rights to the work.”

    This kind of power doesn’t exist in US copyright law for the authors. Authors in the US have a lot less control over their artistic works after it is sold to a publisher.

  68. Ben Cambell // June 25, 2010 at 7:00 am //

    Robert,

    “Will tipping ever catch on? And isn’t it a little condescending? In the United States, most people tip their waiters and waitresses 15% of the check as a matter of habit. Why then would Americans refuse to do something comparable after downloading a phenomenal set of songs? ”

    Just wonder, if we tip the waitress, wouldn’t that not be comparable to tip the seller? I mean, the cooks are not tipped but paid wages. It’s those who serve the food that are being tipped. In a sense the writers would be the cooks who should get a guaranteed cut, but the seller should be tipped according to how well they do. Imagine, Amazon gives it’s referral charges to the author and puts a donation button up to allow us to tip them for being so nice in serving us the books. Now wouldn’t that be nice? And I think, I would tip them, after all, if I don’t they stop serving me books.

    “The writer already made an agreement to let the publisher sell and distribute the book, and the consumer has already bought the book with the understanding that he or she has the right of resale.”

    I don’t think that writers made that agreement. They enter into that agreement because they don’t have a choice. There’s currently no law to protect them against unsolicited resale of their work.

    And also don’t forget, that at one time there used to be a retail price that was enforced. Now publishers are forced to sell the book for less and less because of the pressure put on them by the market. They cannot afford to turn down deals with large supermarket chains like Tesco, ASDA and large on-line sellers. This means, the author gets less and less for each book sold, making him even more relying on higher volumes sold.

    With second-hand books sold alongside new books the volumes however are reduced. Many people who before would have bought new, now buy second-hand, because it’s so easy now. They don’t have to go out of the house to hunt from one second-hand store to another to find that copy they’re looking for but they just click a button next to the new book. If they see new £10 and second hand £5 it’s a no-brainer, many go for the cheaper option.

    Let’s not be naive here. This practice by on-line sellers like Amazon does harm the writer and it’s this practice that needs to be addressed. Amazon cannot on the one side dictate lower prices for books and prevent higher volume sales of new books at the same time. It completely defeats the purpose that on-line selling had in the first place, to increase, not decrease the sale of new books.

    “That said, I think society needs to address the very real problem of writers signing agreements without understanding fully the consequences of the rights they have given up.”

    I don’t think that this is the problem. Most writers do understand the rights they give up but don’t see a choice in not doing it. It’s either getting the book published or not published. Unless the government steps in and protects the writer, there is very little she can do. And this will be even more relevant when it comes to ebooks.

    “For example, if a book is out of print, then hopefully the writer will have retained the right to publish the same book as an ebook. many writers did not anticipate that eventuality, or if they did, may have chosen not to exercise that right to compete with copies of their books on the used market. If writers kept this right and sold ebook versions of the same books for 3 or 4 dollars, there wouldn’t be a problem.”

    Most writers I know don’t even consider ebooks. They already get such bad deals that they fear an ebook will make it even worse. With a publisher they at least have some form of protection, lousy as it may be, but what protection will they have once their work is available in digital form? At least a physical book can only be passed on, an ebook could be copied and mass distributed without paying anything to the author. Somebody simply needs to make an ebook available in a country that doesn’t care about copyright and everybody can download it for free. If we can’t even protect the author from unsolicited resale of their work in bookform, how on earth will we do it with ebooks? Even if we put digital locks on them stronger than Fort Knox, it only takes one person to buy it and remove the protection.

    And anyway, how do we argue about ebooks? Can they be passed on once you have bought it? Can Amazon resell second-hand ebooks? I mean, why shouldn’t they? An ebook is just another media through which a story is being sold. If we argue about books, that we own the story once we purchase it, than the same can be said about ebooks. Once I buy an ebook and have finished reading it, I can simply resell it through Amazon, after all, it’s ‘my ebook’.

    I think what we all need to realise is that when we pay for a story, no matter through what media, books, ebooks, Audio CD or a Reading in a Concert Hall, we pay for the right to read or hear that story. We do not buy the right to the story and therefore cannot re-sell it without the express permission by the author. This is what we need to have enshrined in our law to protect the writers. The story belongs to the writer and nobody else has any right to it apart from reading it against a compensation to the writer through royalties. Only because we had taken certain things for granted in the past doesn’t make them right (or they might have been right in the past but are not right anymore because of changes in the world like the internet)

  69. Ben, I see what you’re saying about Amazon. That might be a separate issue from the mom and pop selling books at their garage sale. But three things you cannot get around:

    1) This will be impossible and impractical to police. Are you going to go to every garage sale and respond to every Craigslist sale posting? Are you going to expect the college kid selling his textbooks to track down the copyright holder and cut them a cheque?

    2) Writers did sign a contract. It might not be a fair contract, and they might not feel like they have a choice, but they DID have a choice and they DID sign it. If writers want a better deal from the publishers, that is a completely separate issue and maybe they need to band together and form a union or something to get one. There ARE options—signing a bad contract is one option, selling them out of your car trunk is another (and the Eragon kid did that to great enough success that he had some leverage when Big Publishing came calling). You can’t blame the customer because YOU made a choice.

    3) There are competing interests here such as property rights, which the buyer went into their book purchase expecting to have. You can’t negate that. If you really and truly do want every story consumer to pay, you have two choices: launch a career as a one-man live show and limit your audience solely to people who attend it, or launch an ebook rental business where here is no sale at all and people pay a rental fee (lower than a purchase price) for one-time access to a book which expires like a library book.

    Perhaps there is a need to regulate royalties for things like Amazon poachers. But to regulate every single used book sale is simply impractical, unrealistic and unfair to the customer who has in good faith paid the royalty on first purchase and now owns a physical object that has historically been his to do with as he pleases.

  70. Ben Cambell // June 25, 2010 at 10:26 am //

    Joanna,

    1)No, I don’t expect to police every garage sale, etc, and I don’t expect the college kid to track down copyright holders. This is the job of the intermediate agent, the second-hand bookshops. And as I said before, I don’t see the local second-hand bookshop or charity shop as the main threat to the writer, but the on-line sellers like Amazon and Abe. They are professional sellers and should, if they decide to recycle old books through re-sale, continue paying royalties to the authors.

    2) The choice is between being published and not being published. This gives too much power to the seller, especially those who can buy from the publishers in bulk and dictate prices. The only way to protect the writer is through a change in law. Writers should not have to make choices where all the bargaining power is on the side of the seller. The government have to protect the weaker site – which is the author in this case.

    3) I disagree with you on this one. Maybe the public thinks they own a story when they buy a book, but this is a misconception. The ownership always stays either with the author (preferable) or the publisher (if the author was forced to sell it to them). As I said before, by buying a book you buy the right to read the story, not to the story.

    This misconception was allowed to settle amongst the public because in the past there was no need to point this out. Writers were then not worried so much about the resale of their books because it was possible to calculate this into the price of a first-sale. It is only through the internet that this misconception needs to be tackled where professional sellers force the first-sale prices down and sell second-hand books next to new one’s, thus reducing the volume of first-sales.

    “Perhaps there is a need to regulate royalties for things like Amazon poachers. But to regulate every single used book sale is simply impractical, unrealistic and unfair to the customer who has in good faith paid the royalty on first purchase and now owns a physical object that has historically been his to do with as he pleases.”

    I agree to a degree with this one. But bear in mind, we should foremost consider the interest of the writer while he is alive. We should ask, is it fair to the writer. Now, the public always has access to the books through libraries. They get to read the books for free and the writer still get’s royalties this way. So, I don’t think you need to worry about the reader, they are well looked after, it’s the writers needs that are neglected and ignored.

  71. No Ben, the choice is not ‘being published or not being published.’ As I have pointed out to you, others have gone alternative routes with great success (Paolini for example. Or the e-only folks, some of whom do well). Or authors can band together and collective bargain—nobody’s tried that yet. Or, you can market and promote yourself to sell more books. There ARE alternatives. If an author does not want to consider them, that is their choice.

    Also, I am nowhere saying that the public owns the story. I am saying they own the physical book. As I said, if you don’t want to deal with legal establishments such as property rights and rights of resale, then limit your dissemination of your creative work to public performance and charge per head. Once you embed your ephemeral idea into a physical form, it becomes an object which people DO own. I can keep my secret chair design to myself, for example, and own the idea of it. But once I build the chair and a customer buys he, he owns that chair. He can’t reproduce it (that would violate my intellectual property) but he can take the chair he has as a physical object and handle it the way he does other physical objects in his life.

    You DO have choices. Don’t sign the contract. Bargain for a better one. Self-publish and sell the book yourself. Limit yourself to public performance if you are so terrified that unpaid eyeballs will lay themselves upon your work. Personally I think you will sell less books that way, but that;s your problem, not mine.

  72. Ben Cambell // June 25, 2010 at 11:54 am //

    Joanna,

    You keep on repeating the chair example but as I already pointed out, this comparison is misleading. A chair, once you used it, doesn’t become redundant. You don’t sell a chair because you sat on it once. You sell it usually because you bought another chair. A book on the other hand, once you read it, is like an emptied bottle of milk. You can keep the bottle or return it to be recycled. The difference here of course is that a book keeps it’s content once you read it, a bottle of milk becomes empty and needs to be refilled.

    Maybe we should invent books that once you read them they become emptied. Maybe with new technology like the I-Pad, this becomes possible. But wouldn’t that be terrible if books become redundant. I like books and want them for the next foreseeable future.

    However, no matter if we have the technology or not, it doesn’t change that stories belong to the author and books are simply containers through which they are made accessible to the reader. Only because the technology doesn’t allow a book to be emptied of it’s content, by being absorbed in the brain, doesn’t mean they can be sold on to a third party without paying royalty. If it were, then, taking the milk bottle analogy again, if I own a milk bottle, I can now freely milk the cow after I drank it and pass it on to the next person? What would the farmer say to that? If the farmer complains I just say “Well, I bought the bottle, I own it now and can pass it on to whomever I want.” He would say, pass on the bottle, but not the content (or something much more unpleasant).

    It was simply very gracious of writers to allow the re-sale of their books in the past. Many are passionate of their writing and are content with very little income and glad if people read their work. But let’s not take advantage of the good naturedness of writers. They deserve to be treated better. They deserve to be paid royalty on each sale.

  73. Joanna:
    Also, I am nowhere saying that the public owns the story. I am saying they own the physical book. As I said, if you don’t want to deal with legal establishments such as property rights and rights of resale, then limit your dissemination of your creative work to public performance and charge per head. Once you embed your ephemeral idea into a physical form, it becomes an object which people DO own.

    This is the core of the issue and you are 100% right Joanna. Ben’s revisionism is trying to reinvent the principle of selling and I don’t buy it for a moment.

    When I buy Joe Bloggs book I buy the book itself, the object. I own that object. I don’t care if I own the story. I know I cannot use the story to make money eslewhere. I cannot copy chunks of it to make money. We all know this. But I DO OWN THE BOOK.

    Ben wants to rewrite the history of publishing and change an age old contract between the writer and the reader because of the supposed new threats posed by the arrived of the internet.

    I say it changes NOTHING. Books have been passed on and sold second hand in commercial bookstores for decades or even longer. It is a perfectly acceptable process and a perfectly acceptable business model.

    What is happening is that a group of struggling writers who feel they cannot persuade readers to buy their book are no disgruntled and have turned their eye to the internet. They are looking for someone or something to blame for their predicament. They have focused on the second hand book selling and are trying to persuade us to throw away a century of history and persuade us that the book was never ours… it was just ours to consume. This is a complete fallacy and a totally unpersuasive argument.

    What is needed here is a bit more effort by writers to get a grip on the realities of life and on what they are doing when they sign contracts with publishers. Ben tries to persuade us that they are strong-armed into signing unfair contracts. This is such a pathetic argument. They are completely free to say no. The problem is they become so obsessed with the chance to make a fortune that they will sign anything to get published.
    If there is a growing concern by writers, they should put their efforts into better scrutiny of contracts and a better awareness of the real world and how it is changing.
    I own the book I bought today in my local bookshop. I own it. I didn’t lease it or borrow it. I didn’t enter any other agreement other than one that gave me 100% ownership of that book. If I want to sell it to my neighbour for a dollar that is MY business and no one else’s !

    As I said above this is a very real danger to the consumer. Allowing writers and composers to reach out into our lives to control what we have already bought is a slippery slope that could lead to an appalling vista in the future. We need to draw the line on what we buy and insist that what we buy is ours … PERIOD.

  74. Robert Nagle
    That said, I think society needs to address the very real problem of writers signing agreements without understanding fully the consequences of the rights they have given up. For example, if a book is out of print, then hopefully the writer will have retained the right to publish the same book as an ebook. many writers did not anticipate that eventuality, or if they did, may have chosen not to exercise that right to compete with copies of their books on the used market. If writers kept this right and sold ebook versions of the same books for 3 or 4 dollars, there wouldn’t be a problem.

    I agree with your send point about writers and contracts – but I strongly disagree with your first statement. I simply do not believe it is society’s task to address the inability of writers to sort out their own contractual situations.
    As i posted above elsewhere – writers have only themselves to blame. They dive into signing the first contract offered to them out of a blind dream of making a fortune and a fear of not being asked by another publisher. They need to wake up and start taking care of their own lives, careers, contracts.

    Some may say I am being harsh or I have something against writers. Absolutely not. I am close to too many of them. But society is not a welfare state, ready to change it’s laws and contracts and accepted contracts just to make life easier for one group of individuals.

    Writers as a whole do well. Some don’t. Some have a lot less talent than others. Some have a lot more. Life is like that.

  75. Howard: By “society addressing the problem” I simply meant arts grants, awards, “jawboning” people to read and perhaps ensuring that the legal system is equipped not to unfairly disadvantage individuals vs big publishers.

    I think we all agree there are inequities in the system and that in the US at least the solutions to the used book problem may end up harming certain parties.

    The implication here is that authors should always retain ownership over their works and should never grant exclusive right to a publisher. (This is my position, although it hasn’t resulted in more profits for me).

    The problem for DIY authors is publicity and getting yourself known and read. Authors argue about that all the time. That’s one thing I like about the blog strategy: it makes you accessible to an audience (even if they still ignore you).

    A quibble: You said, “writers as a whole do well”. I don’t think I know any writer who seriously believe that :). I think there is a lot of anger and resentment by legitimate writers at books by nonwriters being marketed everywhere and the celebrity-writer being invited on Larry King and the Today show. I feel this resentment all the time (and wrote about it here .

  76. Robert Nagle:
    A quibble: You said, “writers as a whole do well”. I don’t think I know any writer who seriously believe that :) . I think there is a lot of anger and resentment by legitimate writers at books by nonwriters being marketed everywhere and the celebrity-writer being invited on Larry King and the Today show. I feel this resentment all the time

    Well look. Writing is a tough process. I agree. But I really believe that there is a traditional sense of resentment among writers that is handed down from generation to generation. A feeling of being taken advantage of; of being under appreciated; of being under paid. I am afraid that this seems to be a constant whine among the writers fraternity that I personally believe is not based on anything in fact.
    As far as your point about the legal system and publishers taking advantage of writers I have to take with a pinch of salt. Writers can always say no. Writers have excellent access to their union legal advice. At some point they have to walk away from this victimology they embrace with such glee.

  77. For Ben Campbell, who asks:

    What you fail to realise is, that you are getting a guaranteed wage, but writers rely on royalties. Imagine you would only get paid for each child that passes the GSCE. In a way, that would only be fair, because why should a teacher get paid if they do a bad job? Now imagine, you do a great job, all your students pass the GSCE, but you only get paid on a quarter of them, because some of the parents of those children found ways to get your teaching indirectly so they can avoid paying you fees. You were relying on those fees to pay your rent and buy food but now you have to worry all year how to make ends meet. You have to find another job as a bus driver just so you can continue teaching those children. And on top of it, if you complain, you’re told you’re greedy. It’s just your tough luck if you choose to be a teacher, shut up and drive the bus. That’s what people here are basically saying to writers.

    1. I get a guaranteed wage because I get up every morning and I go out to work, in a very demanding job.
    Every writer I know, myself included, supplements their writing income with another job or two – teaching, private tutoring, running night classes etc.

    2. You ask why should a teacher be paid if they do a bad job?
    Why should a writer be paid if they do a bad job?
    Let’s be honest now Ben, there’s a lot of drivel out there in published novels.
    As a writer you must read a lot and a fair few times you’ll say to yourself “God, that was terrible, I can do better then that!”
    But if a publishing house decide to publish a book, the writer will be paid even if the book is regarded as a flop by it’s readership.

    You say: imagine you would only get paid for each child that passes the GSCE.
    In response: imagine a writer would only be paid if the book was a success. We know this is not the case – a publishing house will pay the writer a set fee whether the book sells in the shops or not!

    3. You say:
    Now imagine, you do a great job, all your students pass the GSCE, but you only get paid on a quarter of them, because some of the parents of those children found ways to get your teaching indirectly so they can avoid paying you fees.

    There are thousands of free resources online for parents to source in order to support their child’s education. The resources on the AQA or TES websites are all created by teachers e.g worksheets, assessments, lesson plans, schemes of work…and they are all 100 per cent free for parents to access and download.
    Who do you think puts all the hard work, research, hours of time into creating these resources?
    Yes Ben, it’s teachers and we do not get paid for it.
    It’s akin to file sharing, where all anyone needs is an email account to download hundreds of free resources.

    The last point is that parents do not pay teachers (unless it’s a fee-paying, private school) – so in the case of your arguement, the parents receive all of the tuition, including GCSEs free.

  78. Ben Cambell // June 27, 2010 at 9:19 pm //

    Anon,

    “1. I get a guaranteed wage because I get up every morning and I go out to work, in a very demanding job.
    Every writer I know, myself included, supplements their writing income with another job or two – teaching, private tutoring, running night classes etc.”

    You are right, most writers do have to supplement their writing income. Do you think this is right? Of course there are those who write as a hobby. If people are happy with their job and want to write on the site, that’s perfectly OK. Take programming, there are many people out there who write software for fun, are we therefore to expect that all developers should take on other jobs to supplement their income? It could happen if software wasn’t protected the way it is.

    “2. You ask why should a teacher be paid if they do a bad job?
    Why should a writer be paid if they do a bad job?”

    Did I say they should be paid for a bad job? I only ask that they get their fair dues.

    “But if a publishing house decide to publish a book, the writer will be paid even if the book is regarded as a flop by it’s readership.”

    That’s the risk publishers take each time they go ahead to publish a book. They do however minimise this risk by focusing on writers who have been successful in the past. It’s those who get relative decent advances, the majority of writers don’t.

    “You say: imagine you would only get paid for each child that passes the GSCE.
    In response: imagine a writer would only be paid if the book was a success. We know this is not the case – a publishing house will pay the writer a set fee whether the book sells in the shops or not!”

    The writer, if he’s lucky to be taken on by a major publishing house, receive some advance payment but this is usually very modest, especially for upcoming writers, and can hardly count as a decent wage.

    “There are thousands of free resources online for parents to source in order to support their child’s education. The resources on the AQA or TES websites are all created by teachers e.g worksheets, assessments, lesson plans, schemes of work…and they are all 100 per cent free for parents to access and download.”

    Every analogy breaks down at some point. I still believe that you got the gist of what I’m trying to say.

    “Yes Ben, it’s teachers and we do not get paid for it.”

    Most teachers I know do not have to work a second job to make a living. And I’m sure that if the government decides to cut their wages they’ll all be up in arms. I worked for the NHS and I still remember the furore when wages were frozen.

    “The last point is that parents do not pay teachers (unless it’s a fee-paying, private school) – so in the case of your arguement, the parents receive all of the tuition, including GCSEs free.”

    As I said, analogies to break down eventually. Also consider that in some places teachers do suffer the same fate as writers, they do have to supplement their wages (often not even having that), like in many third world countries. Should we deem those conditions as acceptable or would you not agree that it is something that needs to be addressed?

  79. You are right, most writers do have to supplement their writing income. Do you think this is right?

    Sure it is. There are writers that are writers as their profession, they have a work contract and a monthly salary. There are other that write as you do. If you don’t want to be of one kind, well, fine – move. You just have to remember that, like a software writer, if you decide to go on contract, you might be expected to write what your employer wants, and not really what you want to write.

    It could happen if software wasn’t protected the way it is.

    What the hell are you talking about? What kind of protection? You have lots of people writing free software, for instance, and that doesn’t make them unemployable (on the contrary).

  80. Ben Cambell // June 28, 2010 at 7:31 am //

    Mind Booster

    “You just have to remember that, like a software writer, if you decide to go on contract, you might be expected to write what your employer wants, and not really what you want to write.”

    Which is the equivalent of a genre writer who has to keep in mind, what the public wants to read. Those who do will sell likely more volume and therefore make more royalties. Those who don’t do sell less copies, making them more vulnerable if their books are sold second-hand.

    “What the hell are you talking about? What kind of protection?”

    http://www.microsoft.com/resources/documentation/windows/xp/all/proddocs/en-us/lic_how_protected.mspx?mfr=true

    “You have lots of people writing free software, for instance, and that doesn’t make them unemployable (on the contrary).”

    I never said they were unemployable, or did I? There is no problem with people writing free software or writing free books, if they choose to do so. It’s up to the writer, if he wants to give something away for free or not.

  81. Those who don’t do sell less copies, making them more vulnerable if their books are sold second-hand.

    We’re in a circular discussion, aren’t we? But first, I’ll have to ask you to give me numbers to support your allegation that the second-hand books business have a negative effect in new books sales. Then, you’ll have to justify why should copyright measures be extended in a way that would make consumers not being able to buy books but instead have a license to use them under certain conditions (like not being able to resell them). When doing this second task, please remember the purpose of copyright — you’ll have to find a balance between what’s best for authors and for consumers, in order to maximize the spread of culture. If you want some help in finding the proper math models to achieve that calculation, feel free to ask me.

    http://www.microsoft.com/resources/documentation/windows/xp/all/proddocs/en-us/lic_how_protected.mspx?mfr=true

    Yes, software is covered by copyright, but books also are. Your point being?

  82. Mind Booster,

    If you buy a book for £10 and resell it for £5, there are now two people who got the book for half the price. This means, the writer get’s only half of the royalty. If this doesn’t harm the author, I don’t know.

    If the second person sells the book for £5 to a third, he had the book for free – the author get’s nothing – why not go to a library instead where the author does receive money each time their book is borrowed under the Public Lending Right. A right that needs to be extended to second-hand sales of books.

    Do the math. With the onslaught of on-line selling of second-hand books buying and selling second-hand has become so easy that a book could easily be resold hundreds of times.

    A writer receives between 10 – 15% per sale (nowadays often less then that, sometimes even below 5%). If you buy a book for £8, the author receives maybe £0.80. However, if a book is sold second – hand, the author effective only receives £0.40 for that book per person. Each time it is resold, the effective royalty the author receives is split further. If ten people read the book without paying royalty to the writer, the writer only receives 8p instead of 80p on that book. How could this not harm the writer?

    Knowing human nature most people are likely, if given the choice between two near equal products, to buy the cheaper option. Most people I asked buy second-hand on-line if the same book is available in good condition. They often go with the intention of buying new but choose second-hand because it’s so easy available. Each time a person chooses second-hand over new, the author is deprived of his fair dues.

    Do the math, do the math:

    1. Prices are constantly pushed down by supermarkets and on-line sellers.
    2. Publishers buffer the reduced income by paying less royalties to authors.
    3. Second-Hand sales reduce the volume of first sales.

    How can you say, that authors are not harmed by it?

  83. I really cannot see the progress in this thread. We have a group of writers who offer no justification to want to fundamentally change the contract and principles behind the sale of books and those who believe that the present system is just fine and needs to stay in place.
    I see no worthwhile argument in James Woods’ post above. I see no harm to authors. Authors get paid by book sale. They got their payment. End of story. This is the contract they signed, this is the way the system has worked for more than a century and I see no evidence or convincing argument that it should be changed except unsupported general statements about suffering authors and ‘harm’ to authors.

  84. Ben, it is not the analogy that is breaking down in this discussion, it’s your arguement.

    You say:
    You are right, most writers do have to supplement their writing income. Do you think this is right?

    I think that if a person has to earn a livable wage they must do what they can to earn it. If a person chooses to go into an industry that is notoriously ill-paid and precarious in terms of earning potential, the individual should expect to pursue other forms of income. For anyone who wants to pursue a life of writing, it’s childishly naive to think otherwise.

    Do some research Ben. Look at the abundance of Creative Writing courses available throughout the United Kingdom, all taught by household name writers and poets. Currently the T.S.Elliot award winning poet Sean O’Brien teaches at Newcastle University.
    Carol-Ann Duffy CBE, poet laureate of 2009; currently teaches at Manchester University.
    The fantastic Tom Leonard was one of the founders and former tutors of the MLitt at Glasgow University.

    I wrote:
    “There are thousands of free resources online for parents to source in order to support their child’s education. The resources on the AQA or TES websites are all created by teachers e.g worksheets, assessments, lesson plans, schemes of work…and they are all 100 per cent free for parents to access and download.”

    Your counter-point to that was:
    Every analogy breaks down at some point. I still believe that you got the gist of what I’m trying to say.

    Yes Ben, the gist of what you are trying to say is that writers should be paid multiple times for the same product but unfortunately – as stated by several of the commentators above, you are offering no justifiable reasons for this.
    To end your arguement with: analogies break down, is lazy.

    This practice of multiple payments does not occur in any other industry. To suggest that it should be the case for writers is naive and unfortunately greedy.

  85. If you buy a book for £10 and resell it for £5, there are now two people who got the book for half the price. This means, the writer get’s only half of the royalty. If this doesn’t harm the author, I don’t know.

    What? If the author has one book for sale at £10, and it sells, he earns royalties for one sale. No matter if the buyer ignores the book, sends it to garbage, offers it, reads it, eats it, resells it or anything else, the author still sold one book and got royalties from that sale. There’s nothing the buyer can do with the book to take that royalties (or half of it, or whatever) from the author. Trying to subvert this calculations with illogic maths is a deceitful way of trying to confuse your readers, but it won’t make your arguments true.

  86. Ben Cambell // June 29, 2010 at 7:15 am //

    Howard,

    “This is the contract they signed, this is the way the system has worked for more than a century …”

    You write as if the internet revolution never happened. Can’t you see that there are many things that worked in the past but don’t work any-more? Before the internet second-hand books were not offered alongside new ones. Is it so hard to see that it is this practice that changes everything. With your argument one could say, why ebooks if printed books worked for centuries? Why selling over the internet when bookshops were working in the past? If you like it or not, Howard, but times are changing and with it practices and laws need to be adapted to cope with it.

  87. Ben Cambell // June 29, 2010 at 8:26 am //

    Anon,

    “I think that if a person has to earn a livable wage they must do what they can to earn it. If a person chooses to go into an industry that is notoriously ill-paid and precarious in terms of earning potential, the individual should expect to pursue other forms of income. For anyone who wants to pursue a life of writing, it’s childishly naive to think otherwise.”

    This isn’t the argument. Of course you are right that anyone who wants to become a writer has to consider that it is a notoriously ill-paid job. Regulating the sale of second-hand books will not change that but it can make a difference for some writers between worrying how to get the money to pay the next rent and focusing more on the Art of Writing. They won’t likely not get rich from it but it will hopefully allow them to live a little bit better than they currently do.

    “Do some research Ben. Look at the abundance of Creative Writing courses available throughout the United Kingdom, all taught by household name writers and poets. Currently the T.S.Elliot award winning poet Sean O’Brien teaches at Newcastle University.
    Carol-Ann Duffy CBE, poet laureate of 2009; currently teaches at Manchester University.
    The fantastic Tom Leonard was one of the founders and former tutors of the MLitt at Glasgow University.”

    It’s fantastic that we have creative writing courses and Tom Leonard lives in my neighbourhood as does Alasdair Gray, my favourite writer and the other founder of the MLitt course alongside James Kelman. It was James Kelman who made me first think about the unfairness with which the writer is being treated. I would recommend reading his book “And The Judges Said”, it contains some very interesting and thought-provoking articles.

    “Yes Ben, the gist of what you are trying to say is that writers should be paid multiple times for the same product but unfortunately – as stated by several of the commentators above, you are offering no justifiable reasons for this.”

    Of course I have given justifiable reasons. Why do I constantly have to repeat myself? The writer has only one product, his story, which of course needs to be distributed multiple times and for which he should be paid.

    “This practice of multiple payments does not occur in any other industry. To suggest that it should be the case for writers is naive and unfortunately greedy.”

    Of course it does. If you sell your Microsoft Office CD or give it to your friend, if she wants to be legal she will have to pay Microsoft a license fee. She might own the CD at the point you give it to her but she has no right to use it unless she also pays Microsoft. Microsoft receives multiple payments for the same software, for each person who uses it, not just from the first-buyer of an installation CD or DVD. If you install software for which you haven’t paid a license fee, you are breaking the law (except where it is explicitly stated, that you’re allowed to do this). Here the rules are clear. The software owner (in this case Microsoft) decides if he wants to be paid or not, not the public. The same applies to freelance software developers. They can decide if people can pass on their software for free or are required to pay further licence fees. Shouldn’t the same right be given to writers? Think about it.

  88. Jack Tingle // June 29, 2010 at 2:12 pm //

    ________________

    “This practice of multiple payments does not occur in any other industry. To suggest that it should be the case for writers is naive and unfortunately greedy.”

    Of course it does. If you sell your Microsoft Office CD or give it to your friend, if she wants to be legal she will have to pay Microsoft a license fee. She might own the CD at the point you give it to her but she has no right to use it unless she also pays Microsoft. Microsoft receives multiple payments for the same software, for each person who uses it, not just from the first-buyer of an installation CD or DVD.
    ______________________

    Actually, in the US, Vernor v. Autodesk probably governs, and you may sell original software disks, so long as you don’t keep a copy, and it was understood at the time of the sale that you did not have to surrender the software at a given time. It may be different in the UK, but in the US, software vendors who don’t keep permanent control of their software don’t get paid multiple times.

    Regards,
    Jack Tingle

  89. Ben:
    Of course I have given justifiable reasons. Why do I constantly have to repeat myself? The writer has only one product, his story, which of course needs to be distributed multiple times and for which he should be paid.

    I say you haven’t given any justifiable reason whatsoever.
    I also sell my software to others regularly and am perfectly legal to do so. I sold my Photoshop a month ago to a neighbour for €$20. I sold an email program just after Christmas to my friend for $10. You are talking nonsense.

    Ben:
    You write as if the internet revolution never happened. Can’t you see that there are many things that worked in the past but don’t work any-more? Before the internet second-hand books were not offered alongside new ones.

    I see no significant change whatsoever. In my city we have had many large reputable second hand book stores within walking distance of our largest bookstores. It is part of traditional life and the net has made no difference.
    This is greed pure and simple, trying to concoct a false justification for screwing more money out of readers who already own a purchased object fairly and squarely.

  90. Regulating the sale of second-hand books will not change that but it can make a difference for some writers between worrying how to get the money to pay the next rent and focusing more on the Art of Writing.

    You still didn’t show the numbers.

    The writer has only one product, his story, which of course needs to be distributed multiple times and for which he should be paid.

    That’s why you don’t sell your manuscript, but instead you make an edition of the book, and sell copies of it. You’ll earn for each copy sold.

    If you sell your Microsoft Office CD or give it to your friend, if she wants to be legal she will have to pay Microsoft a license fee.

    That is not true. It is legal for you to sell your Microsoft Office CD (with it’s license, of course) second-hand. Actually, there’s an huge market of Microsoft software second-hand licenses (most seen for those versions that Microsoft isn’t selling anymore, just like an out of printing book has more people looking for its 2nd-hand option).

  91. The main incentive Microsoft has to encourage the purchase of “licensed” copies of their software is the need for endless patches to fix security risks; there is not a legal obstacle to selling your copy of the software, except that you may not keep a copy, because if you do keep a copy then you are pirating the software.

    The idea of author royalties on used book sales is about as likely to happen as GM getting a percentage on used Chevy sales.

  92. Let me just leave you a quote of a section of Cory Doctorow’s book “Little Brother”. BTW, This is one of those writers I buy each book they write, and yet you’re be able to read more than just this because the books are distributed for free (and he lives from it).

    This chapter is dedicated to BakkaPhoenix Books in Toronto, Canada. Bakka is the oldest science fiction bookstore in the world, and it made me the mutant I am today. I wandered in for the first time around the age of 10 and asked for some recommendations. Tanya Huff (yes, the Tanya Huff, but she wasn’t a famous writer back then!) took me back into the used section and pressed a copy of H. Beam Piper’s “Little Fuzzy” into my hands, and changed my life forever.

    Here’s an example of how used books helped a writer being born, thus accomplishing the end for which copyright exists.

  93. Ben Cambell // July 1, 2010 at 6:50 am //

    “Let me just leave you a quote of a section of Cory Doctorow’s book “Little Brother”. BTW, This is one of those writers I buy each book they write, and yet you’re be able to read more than just this because the books are distributed for free (and he lives from it).”

    Whao, that’s amazing. It’s nice to hear that some authors manage to live from thin air.

  94. You’re such a troll.

    From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_Brother_%28Cory_Doctorow_novel%29 :

    “The book debuted at No. 9 on the New York Times Bestseller List, children’s chapter book section, in May 2008.[2] As of July 2, it had spent a total of six weeks on the list, rising to the No. 8 spot[3]. Little Brother has also won the 2009 White Pine Award[4], the 2009 Prometheus Award.[5] and the 2009 John W. Campbell Memorial Award”

    He gives the book for free, and still he manages to have it be a best-seller. I won’t bother to explain you why, since you obviously are in no mood to listen.

  95. Ben Cambell // July 1, 2010 at 7:38 am //

    Mind Booster,

    Sorry, I couldn’t help saying that above, it was just too tempting. Anyway, for the record, I’m not against second-hand bookshops or selling books second-hand. It would be a shame if those wonderful second-hand shops would disappear, often run by passionate people who sincerely love books and don’t do it for profit, often hardly making a living out of it. They are the complete antithesis to the greedy on-line sellers like Amazon and Abe who don’t care about books and writers apart from profiting from them. They are listed companies under pressure from investors to constantly grow and show more profits. By selling books second-hand on-line listed next to new ones they found a way to profit even more by not having to pay royalties to the writer. If people can’t see that this is wrong and harming the writer (plus the local second-hand bookshops) then I see a very dark future for writing ahead with more trash being sold and cheap celebrity writing instead of good and more demanding literature.

  96. DensityDuck // July 1, 2010 at 4:51 pm //

    @Mind Booster:

    A: Cory Doctorow gets paid by BoingBoing to write. Long-form books are a sideline for him. He can afford to give them away for free.

    B: Wow, he made number nine on the kids’-book section. Did that actually make any money for him?

    @Anon:
    “Yes Ben, the gist of what you are trying to say is that writers should be paid multiple times for the same product…”

    Congratulations, you’ve just argued that e-books should be free. Good luck with that.

  97. DensityDuck // July 1, 2010 at 4:55 pm //

    As for the original post, I think that the whole affair will be OTBE. The big debate over e-books is not whether to do them but what format. e-books are here to stay, and we won’t care about royalties for used books because before too long almost every physical book will be a “used book”.

  98. Ok. Here’s the deal with writers and royalties. A writer can take years to research and write a book. He/she does not get paid for the time it takes to do so. The amt of time and labor it takes to write a book is tremendous and the return is entirely dependent upon royalty sales. The author takes most of the risk while the publisher has minimal risk since the publisher determines how many volumes will be published and how wide a distribution it will be. If the first run does well, then the publisher can do another print run/ distribution knowing that it will sell well. If it doesn’t sell well, then they can refuse a second run. Very little risk for the publisher.
    Nowadays, a writer can get published at his own expense, usually it is an on demand printing and can cost a lot to get even one volume published. My friend spent 20 years writing his novel, spent $1500 to get it published and received a royalty check of $1.13 for the first month his book was out. Yes, that is a dollar and thirteen cents after selling 20 copies the first month.
    For some reason, people think that writers want to work for free, give their work away and be grateful when someone else can make a profit off their work. Second hand book stores usually make more off the second hand sale of a book than the author makes on the original.
    I would challenge anyone to work a job for free for 1-2 years in hopes that someone will value your work enough to pay you for it. Even writers have bills and need a roof to sleep under.

  99. “All they will accomplish or cause is justifying piracy of ebooks by readers”

    Yes, I think this would be what pushes me over that line. I am a voracious reader. I try to buy new when I can, but with many paperbacks and ebooks approaching $10 or more I cannot buy all that I want. The library is my next stop, and if that fails it’s on to the used book stores. If I still can’t find it, or borrow from someone, I just don’t read it. But asking to be paid twice for the same item makes me really not want to even try to pay you the first time, and if something like this eventually kills the secondary market then it’s off to the black market for me.

    What other manufacturer of *anything* tries this? Can you imagine if Ford or GM tried to insist on a cut of every used car sale? Or furniture companies or appliance manufacturers for every used sale in the classifieds? Does the concept of personal property not matter to authors? If I paid you for it, it’s not yours anymore, understand? You don’t get to keep reaching into peoples pockets over and over again, grubbing for every dime. If this *job* doesn’t support you in the lifestyle you want, get a different job. That’s what us mortals have to do.

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