How The Used Book Market On Amazon Helps The Sale Of New Books

from the facts-instead-of-freaking-out dept

A few years back, the Authors Guild positively freaked out when it discovered that Amazon.com offered links to sellers of used books right along side the new books. They sent a nasty letter to Jeff Bezos about how he was harming authors and publishers and told authors that they shouldn't link to Amazon.com as it would take money out of their wallets. Unfortunately, just like with the entertainment industry the actual data shows a very different story. Research on used book sales suggests an active used book market helps, not harms, the sale of new books. There are a couple of explanations for this. First, an active used book market means that newer books have a higher resale value (effectively allowing people to estimate how much it costs to "rent" a book). Secondly, it turns out that many people simply don't view used books as a substitute for new books. That is, many people only buy used books or only buy new books. On top of all of that, giving customers more choice tends to increase the overall size of the market, whether by giving them more reasons to come back or by introducing them to something new that encourages them to buy more. For example, people will buy a used book from an author they're unfamiliar with, but if they like it, they may then be willing to buy new books by that same author in the future (when, without the used book, they would never have been willing to buy the new book). Once again, though, the kneejerk reaction from a group in the content industry is leading those they represent in the wrong direction.


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    Adam Szymczak, Jul 28th, 2005 @ 6:18am

    Trade Associations Suck

    What do you expect? Most trade associations focus on the negative not the positive. In this case they did not view the used book market as a way of building a larger book buying population. The trade associations also forget that most people have a fixed and limited amount of discretionary spending dollars, and for the most part people will go with the lowest cost item. If that means a used book, so be it.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 28th, 2005 @ 10:34am

    HOW DARE THEY!

    Someone should tell the Authors Guild that there's this new place that actually will let you borrow a book from them after they buy it just as long as you bring it back by the 'due date.' How can we stop this abomination??? People can get books for free and decide if they want to buy their own copy or buy the new works of the author at a later time???

    Word on the street is they plan on calling this evil organization a "LIBRARY."

    UNREAL!

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jul 28th, 2005 @ 11:24am

      Re: HOW DARE THEY!

      OK, that's pretty funny and everything, but obviously that's apples to oranges. What they were saying, rightly or wrongly, is that used books were offered for sale alongside their product. That's not how a library works, it's not a store. And, you know, there's really no difference between a new book and a used book as far as the value you will derive from your purchase, but library books need to be returned. So your comment is fairly equivalent to saying "Wow, really? Did they not know that gasoline smells funny?" While, technically, correct, it's unrelated.

       

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        thecaptain, Jul 29th, 2005 @ 5:02am

        Re: HOW DARE THEY!

        Hate to tell ya, but most libraries sell books on a regular basis. Usually 2-3 times a year, but some like the one around here, has weekly sales.

        Good stuff too. I'd rather pay 50cents for a used book (some recently published) than full price.

        Doesn't mean I won't buy NEW books (I do...quite a bit, I'm a voracious reader) but it means that I buy MORE books total.

         

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    Kub, Jul 28th, 2005 @ 10:59pm

    amazon and the mysterious 'research study"

    can you guide us to the research study and its sponsors who determined such things about amazon? It is interesting to think that such a 'study' or series of studies would have to track down huge numbers of people (not via amazon, who wouldnot release customer contacts) and then get them to fill out a form, AND then send it back. It would lend credibility to the statements if we could know the study citation and its sponsors. Measuring Apples against oranges is not a statisically sturdy procedure to rely on. Speaking of Amazon, and just my two cents worth, more likely the Guild was talking about NEW books that are being sold by USED BOOKS sellers, as well as what are called pre-pub Reader's copies that are supposed to not be sold, but rather given away. I think, again, just my two cent's worth, that the debate about content and how it is offered can rely on hard facts in the best arguments. That means, it may be far more convincing to name sources specifically rather than to allude to them.

     

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      emichan, Feb 23rd, 2006 @ 10:15am

      Re: amazon and the mysterious 'research study

      can you guide us to the research study and its sponsors who determined such things about amazon?

      you're obviously NOT paying attention. Mike directly links to the NYT article that talks about this SPECIFIC study. The articly directly links to the full text of the study. what else do you need?

       

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    Bob Merrick, Sep 18th, 2007 @ 4:07pm

    Used books

    My publisher's sales of my book, Stand Alone, Inventor! have dropped off to almost zero since the used book sellers have taken over. If you go to my listing on amazon you will see dozens of used book sellers offering my book at prices ranging from the full price, $19.95 down to $3 or $4! New books are stagnating at my distributor and I will soon be in remainders after 6 printings and nearly 10 years of sales, mostly through amazon. Thanks a lot for killing this book!

     

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      Revel, May 23rd, 2009 @ 10:03pm

      Re: Used books

      Here's a thought. To the extent that your publishing contract allows, purchase several of your own copies from the publisher, and then list them (autographed) as collectible copies. You'll get more yourself than your publisher would for themselves.

       

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    Bob Merrick, Sep 18th, 2007 @ 4:14pm

    Used books

    My publisher's sales of my book, Stand Alone, Inventor! have dropped off to almost zero since the used book sellers have taken over. If you go to my listing on amazon you will see dozens of used book sellers offering my book at prices ranging from the full price, $19.95 down to $3 or $4! New books are stagnating at my distributor and I will soon be in remainders after 6 printings and nearly 10 years of sales, mostly through amazon. Thanks a lot for killing this book! Robert G. Merrick, Author.

     

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