Used Book Buyers Are Not Bad People

BlogHer Original Post

I read used books. I buy used books. I've been doing so since I was a child. I buy them at yard sales, flea markets, used book stores, library sales and yes, even church sales. So imagine my surprise when a book blogger recently posted about used and bargain books and was chastised in the comments on her post because authors don't get money from them. The message and tone was that she had done something wrong. Yes, by getting books at a bargain and proclaiming it to the internet she was doing a bad thing.

I had seen Molly's post on her recent bargain purchases and didn't think much of it, aside from that she had gotten some good deals. I hadn't looked in the comments so I was surprised to see a post called A Wish and An Apology. She said she has posted about her bargains because she thought that other bloggers and readers might appreciate them. Molly then goes on to say:

I am TRULY sorry if I have offended any publishers, authors or advocates out there. That was not at all my intent. I LOVE to read; I am in awe of the writing talent of authors and constantly seek to not only enjoy the book for entertainment, but to learn how to be a better writer myself (and pass along those writing tips to my students).
[...]
Please know that it was done with the purest intent of celebrating my love for books - and not with any ill-will towards the community I most admire.

I've purchased many a used book in my day. When you look at my used book buying habits you have to go way back to my childhood. I was an avid reader, not close to a local library, and certainly my parents could not feed my book loving habits with new books constantly. We hunted around in secondhand bookstores, yard sales and flea markets for books that I'd enjoy. I have memories of picking up a lot of books for a quarter. Those used books opened up worlds to me. Brand new books were more rare and special and all the more appreciated. Flash forward to university when I didn't have much money and what little money I had certainly should not have been going towards books for entertainment. I honestly don't know if I bought a single brand new book in university that was not a textbook or a cookbook (and even then those cookbooks came off the bargain shelves). Every now and then I'd squeak a few extra bucks from my budget and head to one of the many used bookstores near me. Books were no longer a quarter but I still managed to build my library. Life immediately after university wasn't much better. It's only been in the last four years or so that new books have outpaced used ones on my shelves. And trust me, there are a lot of shelves.

I can think of many reasons why people buy used books - budget restraints, out-of-print or rare editions, because they are thrifty, because they are environmentally conscious. I also know that personally, used books have paved the way to new books in my house. There are authors I've first become acquainted with in a used book store that I'll now buy first fun copies of their newest releases. I might have if not for that used copy.

Used books made me a reader - a reader that now spends a significant portion of her disposable income on new books. And yes, I still do buy used books. And no, that does not make me a bad person or reader. It does not mean I do not support authors.

I appreciate authors and all that they do. They've kept me entertained for most of my life and if I had to choose between keeping my bookshelves or my television it would be bye-bye tv. Buying used books doesn't negate that. Whether or not authors should be compensated for sales of secondhand books isn't the issue here. It certainly is an issue, and one better argued by them than by me. My issue is the calling out of people who do buy used and bargain books or borrow from libraries as bad readers. All I can say to that is if I heard an author saying as much to a reader that author would immediately get crossed of my buying list and any books of theirs would promptly leave my house. Making someone feel bad about buying used books is just plain low.

More reading on used books:
Chris's Book-a-Rama on the used book hullbaloo.
Pickle Me This's thoughts on used books.
Sara Reports on whether it is really morally dubious to buy used books.
Kate's thoughts on used books and the economy.
Why Stephanie loves used books.
Secondhand - stinky or sweet?

Contributing Editor Sassymonkey also blogs at Sassymonkey and Sassymonkey Reads.

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