Wednesday, September 2, 2009

secondhand sales revisited

Nathan Bransford, an agent at Curtis Brown, urges his readers to buy new books because authors don't get money on secondhand sales. We-e-e-e-l-l-l-l-l......

I'd just like to take this opportunity to thank all the readers who bought secondhand copies of The Last Samurai and sent a token of their esteem to the author via PayPal. I'd especially like to thank the reader who generously sent $150, thereby enabling me to buy a decadent sofa on eBay (you know who you are) and the five readers who sent donations of $50, enabling me to splash out on Michael Crawley's The R Book, Deepayan Sarkar's Multivariate Plots in Lattice and other indispensable works of reference. But I'd also like to thank the hundreds of readers who took the time to send a donation of a dollar or so, when it would be easy to think the amount was so small it would make no difference. It does make a difference. In this case, the difference between buying BonaVista's MicroCharts and prudently deferring in the interest of more or less manageable credit card debt.

I seem to have fallen into a humorous tone which does not really express my feelings. I'm always touched when a reader takes the trouble to do this. You didn't have to do it. It's completely optional. You're absolutely entitled to buy a secondhand book; it's not obligatory to send something to the author, it's just an unbelievably nice thing to do. So thank you all very much.

[For those new to the topic, the original post on secondhand sales, global warming and authors' finances is here.]


Andrew Gelman said...

I just hate to think of those people downloading pirated pdfs of my books from peer-to-peer software. I just think it's so much better to have a physical book, especially for a technical subject. When you're working in your R window and you're text editor, the last thing you need is to be flicking a pdf window in back and forth.

Unknown said...

FWIW, I'm more likely to buy a book these days because I know that I can sell it second hand on Amazon. Doesn't the second hand market help sell new books in this way? Or am I just a freak?

Nathaniel said...

As a poor university student, buying my books secondhand is my best option for numerous reasons on which I will not expand. Suffice it to say, if the authors of my textbooks had a secondhand donation option, I would be more than happy to send a buck their way considering how much money I saved by buying secondhand in the first place.

The Steve said...

Secondhand book purchasing is part of book culture, isn't it? Something not possible with the Kindle. By the way, is TLS available on Kindle? I have a feeling your novel would break it what with the idiosyncratic typefacery and such.

I'm willing to possibly donate another dollar if you'll have coffee with me in Berlin someday. Otherwise, I will have to second the poor university student and extend that to poor graduate students. Indeed, the poorest among us seem to be the most well read (because we aren't wasting our time making money?).

By the by, it seems a strange argument that buying new books supports *writers* if you're only getting a buck or so out of it. Must be doing much more to support advantageous product placement at Borders, nicht war?

Helen DeWitt said...

Happy to meet for coffee if you're in Berlin, Steve.

I don't think TLS is available on Kindle, but haven't checked.

Andrew, I certainly prefer a physical book, especially for technical subjects. Something to do with the ease with which one can move around in the book to fill in necessary background, I think. Anyway, wd just like to say that I will never download a pirated pdf of a Gelman book. Ever.

Nathaniel, I'm guessing the royalty on a typical textbook wd be higher than a dollar - the example I gave was based on the price of a paperback work of fiction. Not that any gesture of support isn't welcome.