Saturday, August 12, 2006

Books... to buy new, buy used, borrow, give away ... oh my.

Last week there was a lively debate on the chicklit loop on buying used books and/or swapping used books.

One woman claimed that it was terrible karma to read anything but books that you buy new, if you were an author or wanted to be an author some day.

*sigh of defeat*

On one hand, I definitely agree. I feel guilty buying used, I feel guilty getting freebies, I feel guilty reading through part of a book at Borders, and I feel guilty selling my old books to a secondhand store.

On the other hand, I definitely disagree. (I'm a Libra, give me a break.)

What about those that can't afford to buy as many books as they read? Would you prefer they found a new hobby and STOPPED reading altogether???? Do you really think that would help authors out?

Okay, I agree that authors would benefit the most by everyone buying their book new.

BUT, I can't afford it. I simply cannot afford it. As it is, my very tiny royalties don't even cover a week's worth of reading. I swear to God, I would fill my house to the brim with books if I had the money.

I know I don't make my living solely from writing, so what right do I have to speak? But if anyone told me, "I really want to read your latest story, but I just can't afford it," I'd give it to them for free. If my choice were having them NOT buy my book and NOT reading it, or NOT buy my book AND read it, then I'd choose the latter.

But I still feel guilty.

One woman went so far as to say that she burned her books once she ran out of room, because if she donated books to a shelter, she would buy them new. Burning them? Why can't she just give them away? At least drum up a new fan or two for an author.

Then one woman posted about how she had two children that she was raising, and buying new books was a once in awhile luxury. So authors, would you rather she NOT read because she can't afford it?

There's the library, I'll give you that. A few authors felt it was bad to use the library, a few felt that one should never buy used but one may use the library.

Yes, I think everyone would rather buy shiny new books, but the reality is that if you are an avid reader, it's nearly impossible to buy all the books you want to read. I spend about $40 - 200 a month on books--money I can't afford in the first place--and that doesn't even begin to cover my reading habits for the month.

So I'm very sorry. But I just can't afford any more than that. If I ever sell a book to a "real" publisher, and everyone runs out and buys my book who can afford it, then I'll run out and buy the whole store and then some.

I HAVE read a book at Borders, and later bought it when I had the money because I was so entertained.

After an unlucky week, one author responded to my post by offering to mail me a copy of her book for free. I got tears in my eyes. Hey, I wanted to run out and buy her book just then, but eight clients owe me money and who knows when they'll take the time out of their busy schedules to pay me. (How dare I have the audacity to actually need the money I work my tail off to earn??)

My computer broke, my lawn mower broke, and my piano broke.

And one author offered to mail me her book for free. It was so unexpected and so nice, I didn't know what to do. I can't get the money I earn, and to randomly get a free gift??

I swear, as soon as people pay me, I'm going to buy five copies of her book and give them to people. And then I'm going to buy every book she writes for the rest of her life.

So tell me again ... giving away an old book: is that really such a bad thing?

4 bonus scribbles:

Steven 8/12/2006 08:54:00 PM  

Like yourself I buy more books than I can afford. I have more books than I have bookshelf space to hold them, I have books stacked up inside my wardrobe where my clothes should be. I even have books on the floor because I can't find anywhere else to put them but I could never ever burn a book. I would rather just give them away and allow the story to be shared and appreciated once more.

Although authors write for a living I doubt their primary reason for writing is to make money. It's a hard way to make an income. The reason most authors write is because they have a story to tell. They want to share that story with as many people as possible.

Van Gogh did not paint for money. He only sold, I think, one painting in his lifetime. He painted because he had to.

Personally I love to read, when I was younger that meant going to the library and using their resources. One year I was reading a new book every two days, I read 187 books in that year. Now that love of books involves buying new books. I love the process of going out choosing a few books worth buying, taking them home, reading them when I have the time and holding on to them. The chances are I might never read them again but I like that option. I used to act like a library and share my books with friends and family until I never got them back again. Now I'm not so eager to share. I've become somewhat selfish, I'll only share with people I know will return them again. I rarely give books away to the charity shop because for some reason I like to hold onto them. I'm not one for luxuries in life. I don't much care for the latest car, or a fantastic house with white picket fence, the latest mobile phone or this seasons fashion but books are my one indulgence that I allow myself. Even though it is one that I can't really afford.

StarvingWriteNow 8/14/2006 09:15:00 AM  

Never, ever feel guilty about reading used books or giving books away or selling them or anything else! Tell yourself you are a literary ambassador or something. You let someone else read the book you liked, so you're just sharing the love or something.

Personally I could kick whoever it was that dissed the library--and not just because I work there. In my library we buy tons of books every year, and in the case of popular authors like NOra Roberts or James Patterson, we buy a dozen or MORE of each title. We support the publishing industry in a big way; and if no one read our books, we'd be closing our doors.

I find since being hired there a year ago that I don't buy nearly as many books as I used to; however, the books I do buy are keepers. I'm learning to separate the wheat from the chaff, as it were.

Again, don't feel guilty about anything regarding books (except burning them; that's just STUPID). And don't ever stop reading them.

StarvingWriteNow 8/14/2006 09:21:00 AM  

And by the way, about those clients who owe you money... get tough. No more lessons or whatever until they're paid up. You're a professional, and if they have a contract they're breaching it. You deserve payment for services rendered; you don't deserve to be ripped off. If they drop you, send them to collection. And if they still want to use you, insist on cash in hand, in advance. Don't take their crap, girl! You know karate, kick their butts!!

Lauren Dane 8/18/2006 05:42:00 PM  

I write books and I read and buy used books. I don't feel guilty about it, nor as an author do I feel bad when people buy used copies of my print books.

The way I look at it is hopefully I'll make a reader who'll buy me new next time. But at base, heck, I'm just glad people want to read me.