I was just cogitating (very agitating) about the entire buying books/used books/ Google books deal.
Hubby sent me this link to an article that satirizes it all–of course he WOULD–by panicking about library sales and how they’re hurting authors. But authors have traditionally not felt hurt by libraries that buy their books. Authors have seen their sales rise and their longevity helped by having their novels in libraries.
When I was younger, in the 1970s and early 1980s, I pretty much didn’t know anyone who bought all the books he or she read. In fact, most of my schoolmates didn’t buy books at all, but occasionally got one as a birthday gift from a misguided aunt. My parents and their friends generally didn’t buy a book unless it was one they felt they’d re-read or re-use. On occasion a book was so BIIIG and IMPORTANT that my mother would get the paperback as soon as it came out, but it wasn’t her “thing” to amass a library, and she still dislikes “dust-gathering paperback trash.” In general, I did not try to buy a book unless I loved it and knew I would re-read it often.
There weren’t that many bookstores, either. There was Brentano’s at NorthPark, and there were a few bookstores in the malls, but I don’t remember B. Dalton and Waldenbooks being in every mall until well into the 1980s. Maybe that was just Plano/Richardson. Anyhow, it was tougher to buy books back then. I got most of my fun reading from the racks at the supermarket or the drugstore. When I was really little, the supermarkets carried the Whitman editions of the Bobbsey Twins and Nancy Drew series, and Mama would get me a book every week. Little did she know that I planned to collect AND KEEP them ALL.
But most people used the library. There were long waiting lists for many novels when they first came out. People were conscientious about turning in the books within the 7 days they were supposed to keep those waiting-list books. Only on occasion would someone say, “I’m going to buy a copy of that book.”
During the 1980s and 1990s, bookstores became much more accessible, it seems to me. I drove past Barnes and Noble, Bookstop, and other freestanding chain bookstores on my way to and from work. The Half Price Books stores were expanding. Finally, amazon.com came along and made it one-click easy to order just about anything that’s in print or out of print. Now it’s more common for people to buy the books they read and then pass them along (or hold on to them).
We all started buying more books and visiting libraries less often–or so it seemed to me. Maybe it was just because the people I rubbed elbows with were now employed rather than students. But we also started buying books that we knew nothing about just to have something to read. This is totally the opposite of the old way, in which I would have to know that I really loved the book in order to go out and buy it.
Now that money is tight, people are buying fewer books. The library doesn’t HAVE as many books as it used to have. Ours has lots of copies of whatever’s the Big New Thing, and racks of DVDs and books-on-tape, but not as many different books as it used to have. People are turning to e-readers, or so it is claimed. If they read a book on Google Books, does that mean they would have bought a copy if they hadn’t found a copy online for free? Or would they just never have discovered the book? Are they passing around those digital copies, depriving writers of royalties?
Are e-readers making authors poorer? It could well be. I know that three of the people who bought one of my novels on the Kindle have told me they’ve passed the Kindle around or have lent the book to someone else–which is fine with me, because I want to be read and am not depending on the forty cents I would get from the $1.99 sale–and I can see where that might impact the incomes of those authors who need to make sales in order to keep their contracts. But I don’t know the solution to the problem. DRM is something that people are very touchy about, and that may not be the ultimate answer, either.
We’ll have to see how it all shakes out.