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Friday, December 18, 2009

Christmas Parade Guest Blogger Susan Wiggs

Where Do You Get The Books You Love?

It’s nothing new (pun intended)–used book sales have been a part of the publishing equation ever since the first undergrad sold her first college textbook back to the bookstore in order to get money for Christmas presents. A book is one of those things that is the same whether new or used, content-wise, anyway.

With online swap sites making it ridiculously easy to acquire books for little more than shipping costs, the impact is finally taking a heavy toll on publishers and authors. The book you buy for a penny + shipping is a sale that will never show up on a royalty statement. No one except the reseller and the post office will see a penny from the transaction. Yet it’s not the reader’s job to care about this. Like any responsible person, the reader is probably looking for the most economical way to indulge her passion. I don’t blame her. I’ve bought plenty of second-hand books in my time. The used book I buy today was once manufactured and sold new, and the publisher, bookseller and author each got their cut. Now the book has been released into the wild, and any further readers it finds are simply a bonus. In my genre, books go out of print quickly, often within months of their release, so having them available used is a way to keep the backlist alive. I don’t make money from those sales, but I might find new readers.

The New York Times weighs in here with “Bargain Hunting for Books, and Feeling Sheepish About It” by David Streitfeld. The headline sums up the dilemma. We love books so much that we can’t get enough of them. But we’d go broke, buying everything at premium prices, so we buy used books, even knowing that some publisher’s sales are going to slip, and some author might find herself out of work.

Streitfeld is frank about his motives and methods. He’s an avid reader whose appetite for books conflicts with his sense of responsibility. I do wish the article had offered the obvious solution. People who want books at no cost should borrow them from the library. That way, everybody wins. The reader pays nothing for the book, the library wins a patron, the publisher sells a new book and the writer gets her royalties. Okay, so maybe the independent bookstore is left out of the equation, but in my community, the library and bookstore often cooperate.

These days, many libraries offer the option of downloading an audio or e-book directly to your home computer, so you don’t even have to go anywhere. My new novel, Lakeshore Christmas, is more than a love story featuring food, friends and family. It is also a passionate drama involving an institution near and dear to my heart–the public library. I don’t have to tell you that this most precious of resources is facing serious economic troubles. Please support public libraries this season. See my blog (http://www.susanwiggs.wordpress.com/) for suggestions.

Where do you weigh in on the debate? Do you buy books new to support the industry? Do you buy them used to save money? Or do you use the library?

I clicked the used-book aggregator link in the NYT article to look up my own books. Somebody’s charging $292 for a copy of my novel, The Lightkeeper. Good gawd. I’d sell it to you for half that price.


Tammy Faris said...

First of all, let me say that I LOVE your books!! I haven't read Lakeshore Christmas yet...(it's killing me btw, but my 16 year old son wanted to buy me a book for Christmas and I told him I wanted your newest one...even though every time I have entered a bookstore since it's release, I have wanted to slap myself for forcing myself to wait until Christmas!) ;)
I can honestly say that I am an Equal Opportunity Supporter! I definitely support our local public library, and my small town has one "used book/book exchange store that I support regularly and of course we don't really need to get into how much I support book stores to purchase "new" books! lol

Thank you for such a lovely blog!

Merry Christmas! :)


Sarah S said...

What an interesting blog topic!

Like Tammy, I am an equal opportunity book reader. I'll buy second hand, I'll go to the library, I'll buy new and I'll swap with friends who read similar books.

What I find is that for the most part, if I buy a book used, and like the author, I will try to find their newer books in the store and help support the author that way. I usually will not buy a new to me author new, BUT once I read a book by that author, if I liked them, I will go back and see what else I can find in the store.

I AM also a big ebook reader and this causes me a lot of angst since legally I am not allowed to share my books with friends like I would a paper back. I have a group of about 10 women whom we all switch our books around. We will all buy the books new, but if we all buy 3 or 4 books, we can share them and not have to buy 40, that's a huge difference that we wouldn't be able to afford other wise. Many of us have switched or are changing to ebooks, and this has caused some issues internally.

We all love our books and reading, especially when talking about reading an average of 125-175 books a year.

Terry Odell said...

I'm reading Lakeshore Christmas now. Although I don't normally go in for holiday-themed books, your name and the "Lakeshore" made it an auto-read.

I got it from the library. I love libraries. As a matter of fact, one of my publishers targets libraries. I agree totally with you that a book in the library is a win-win for all.

When my son was tiny, there was a used bookstore between our apartment and one of a friend, so I'd always stop in with the stroller as I walked to or from her place.

I can't throw away a book. I'm always reading. I can't afford to buy all the books I want to read, or have the space to store them, so book swapping has always appealed to me.

Reduced-price books, whether swapped or bought at a store, are the perfect way to find new authors. And once Lakeshore Christmas is out either in digital format for my e-reader, or in paperback, I'll be adding it to my collection.

I also belong to the Mystery Guild, and buy all my hard cover auto-buy authors there.

Carol S said...

I LOVE to read! I usually buy my books at the local retail store; then I pass them on to my daughter; when she's done I donate them to the local thrift store. I believe everyone should read and sometimes folks cannot afford to buy their books (at even discount store rates). I'm an avid supporter of the public library system also. Susan Wiggs is one of my favorite authors. Merry Christmas everyone =)

Livia said...

Welcome Susan! I can't save worth nothing, I buy books new and support the author. But, if I've missed the book and can't find it in the store I go to the trade sites or the Used Bookstores.

I do not support the local library because I read romance as does every other woman in this city. When a book I've been waiting for hits the shelves, I want to read it now and not go on a wait list. So I just don't bother with the library.

I've just started the Lakeshore Chronicles and I think it is a wonderful series.

Great Blogging subject. Happy Holidays!

Lori said...

I am a big fan of the library, especially their books on tape/CD. But sometimes I just have to have a book as soon as it is released, so I buy them new. But the best part of having friends is the ability to share books with them, which I do quite frequently.

Rosemarie said...

Susan, I also enjoy reading your books!! Most are kept in my book collection!! Each one was acquired either by new purchase, passed on to me by friends, or bought used from our local public library's small bookstore. Looking forward to reading Lakeshore Christmas - in the near future.
Thanks for the many hours of pure enjoyment.
Merry Christmas!

Louise said...

If I'm honest, I will admit that I buy most of my books at the cheapest prices I can find. Most of them I buy for a library in Saudi Arabia that I run out of my own pocket. That said... for authors who have written to me, whom I have reason to like, those who have sent goodies (bookmarks, etc), those who leave sex out of their books ).... I want to help them! So I am willing to pay the retail price for Susan Wiggs, Brenda Novak, Wendy Corsi Staub, Carlene Thompson, Stephanie Meyer, a couple of others.

I'd like to mention, also, that I enter the various authors' sweepstakes to win free books, & in the process have discovered authors I hadn't read whom I really like.

So, like Sarah mentioned, then I want to have their other stuff and am inclined to pay for it :) Meg O'Brien falls into that category. And I wish she would start writing again!

Thanks for letting me have my say. This is an issue that concerns me a lot, too. Even though I feel like I have an excuse to buy books cheap, it does bother me somewhat.

Hope y'all can find some reading time during this busy season!

geri said...

Susan: First of all, many, many thanks for blogging for TRRC. I'm the reviewer of Lakeshore Christmas and you know that I am one of your most loyal readers. Your books are always evocative and fascinating!

To answer your question, I have to admit that I do all three activities to get books. I probably go to the library less than in the past, but I buy at the UBS, I have get books at the Goodwill, I sometimes buy new at full price. I am addicted to books in all forms, received in all formats. And yes, I'm getting a KINDLE for Christmas and maybe this will cut down on my piles in my house (at least my hubby hopes this!).

As the editor of a professional journal published by Wiley Blackwell (in my real life) I'm very aware of the earthquake-like shifts that are occuring in the publishing world. E-journals, electronic access, etc, etc, are shaking up companies that produce the written word.

Your blog was thought provoking and really interesting. And honestly, I love the picture of you in the snow with your pooch! It makes you a real person rather than just a famous author :)

Have a wonderful holiday and thank you! geri

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