Second-hand books – unfair to authors or an enticement to buy?

Some authors don’t like second-hand book stalls, whether run as a businesses or for a charity fête. In fact, they hate them. The author gets no royalty or secondary right or anything. The books are toted around, exchanged or traded like a lump of former tree for a pound/euro, so virtually free. I heard one say it was verging on piracy. A bit strong in my opinion, but I respect his right to say it.

However, consider this…

If you live in a non-English speaking country with no easily obtainable books in English, whether from a chain or an independent, bookstalls are an opportunity to discover new reads, new authors and to talk about books.
That’s the cultural argument.

But it could be that having discovered a new-to-you author, you are entranced by them, you want to read more of their work. Chances are the bookstall doesn’t have any more by that author. You go home, clutching your new treasure and dive on to the Internet and, notwithstanding the postage, order two or three more by the same author. I did exactly this after buying one book for 50 cents in a barn sale and promptly spent another £35.00 on Amazon.

So perhaps the second-hand bookstall or exchange, sprawled in boxes on a trestle-table once a month, isn’t a demon from hell, but a spur to a buying frenzy by keen readers.

Or have I set a cat among the pigeons?

2 comments to Second-hand books – unfair to authors or an enticement to buy?

  • Cat

    Actually if you live Downunder and there are what are known as “parallel import restrictions” the same arguments apply. I have also picked up many out of print books at second hand book sales – rather that than see them thrown on the tip!

  • alison

    As an aspiring author, I’d like everybody to buy my books new, at cover price, of course. But as an avid reader, I support any channel/method/initiative to get books to people.

    Hence the dilemma.

    I cringe at the idea of books being thrown away, even an old dictionary/encycopedia that’s 30 years out of date.