The Downside of Used Books

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I’m toying with an idea, but I’m not really ready to commit. Just thinking about it, so don’t go holding me accountable yet. I sort of feel like I only want to whisper it.

I never thought I’d say this, but I’m thinking of ending my love affair with Used Books. Or just declare a break. Sort of like Ross and Rachel. Or more sort of like a post-Easter Lentish thing.

Let’s not go crazy—I didn’t say I’m done with books all together. Just Used Books.There’s so much to love about used books, for sure. The dog-eared pages, the notes in the margins, the softened pages from someone else’s reading, and above all, the price. There isn’t anything much better than Amazon-One-Clicking my way to filling my bookshelves, one penny plus shipping at a time.

I know myself well enough—and I’ve certainly tested the pattern—to know that I’ll buy and buy and buy Used Books for the right price. I just like filling my home with them, surrounding myself with all the words and possibilities. But then I may or may not actually read them.

When I moved into my home, a friend was helping me unload boxes and boxes of books and books. She read one title after another, often asking me what I thought of it, only to hear me say, “Oh, that one? I haven’t read it yet.” Perhaps I could begin by reading the books on my shelf rather than obsessively buying more of them.IMG_2168 2

Maybe. Like I said, I’m not ready to commit.

But here’s the greater thing I know now: Used Books don’t benefit the author. If ten thousand people read the book but only one thousand people bought it, then the publisher doesn’t make the money, and until the publisher recoups their investment, the author doesn’t make any money. I’m learning this. Intimately.

Here’s what I know about myself: I would easily spend $25.00 on a night out, on tickets to a movie, on a concert ticket in an intimate venue, and those proceeds go to the ones who actually created the art, the environment, and the experience. So perhaps I can take the same approach and choose to spend $14.99 on a book that will change my life, as most books do to at least some extent.

Plus, if I’m more intentional about the dollars I’m spending, then I’ll be even more intentional about the books I’m buying. When I’m invested to a certain degree, then I’m more likely to actually read the books.

Anyway, I’m thinking about it.

But if you happen to see me walking into a Used Book store, please don’t tackle me.  I only said I was thinking about it.

Tricia Lott Williford

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  1. Wow, I never thought of it like that. I will definitely be more aware the next time I think about buying another used book that I might read some day.

  2. Those are good thoughts, Tricia! I’m all for supporting artists/authors for their work. Here’s a couple thoughts that might help you with your used-book-or-not dilemma: if you see a used book for a current author and can tell it’s one you’d want in your personal library to keep, then you could buy it new to begin with. But, if you aren’t sure, go ahead and buy the used one (which supports the used book store and their employees, too!), read it (maybe set yourself a deadline for doing so?), and if you really love it, buy yourself a new copy and donate the used one so someone who can’t afford to buy new can read it and be a fan, too. I love browsing in used book stores and finding gems that I might not know of otherwise.

    • I really like this idea!!!
      I’ve done this before, although I didn’t think it through so well. I’ll pick up a cheap copy of something, but when I realize it’s a Deep Love Forever book, down the road I’ll often pick up a nicer edition.
      Another plus, in my experience at least, is that with used books you often don’t know really exactly what you’re getting/don’t have much choice. I don’t mean condition, since that’s usually pretty accurate. But if it’s an older book at all, you don’t know what edition you’re getting, what cover, etc., if you buy on Amazon, or even at a used bookstore you take what’s there. I LOVE beautiful books and ones that feel good in my hand. It’s fun to “upgrade” old mass market paperbacks for trade paperbacks or hardbacks or beautifully illustrated editions.

  3. You just make me smile! I see so much of myself in your writing! Thank you for that perspective btw, on giving the other the money for their creation!

    • *author

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