The truth about second-hand bookshops

I’ve always been a book lover. Not just the fabulous stories inside, but for as long as I can remember, I’ve simply loved books. I love the smell, I love holding them in my hand, seeing them on my shelf, simply buying them.

But I must confess, that I’ve never been much of a fan of second hand books. My hubby collects all these old, tattered hardback books. He doesn’t really care what the story is, he just likes having old books. Me? I like my books NEW! Call me a snob, but that’s just the way it is. So because of this, I’ve never seen a great appeal in second hand bookshops. I can understand that maybe you might find an old, out of print gem in one if you hunt hard enough, but aside from that… meh.
However, until I started writing seriously and getting to know other authors through writing organisations, blogs, etc, I never thought about something that now REALLY bugs me.
If you buy a book from a second hand shop, the author won’t get royalties for it.
Writing is a career like teaching, baking, medicine is for other people, yet we expect to pay for these things. I understand that everyone likes a bargain but I actively tell people now that if they are a BIG FAN of a particular author, please buy that book new – print or e-book, doesn’t matter but buy it new. Because with each sale, you are making it easier for an author to continue writing fabulous books.
If you can’t afford new, there’s always the library. In Australia at least, authors who register for PLR make some money each time someone borrows their book.
Am curious… what are your thoughts on second hand bookshops?

19 thoughts on “The truth about second-hand bookshops

  1. While I have the same lack of royalties twitch you do, I have picked up new-to-me authors at second-hand stores. That has sometimes led to my buying their books new. So maybe look at them as a gateway for readers to find an author that becomes an auto-buy : )

  2. Used to LOVE going through used bookstores, searching for a new-to-me story by a favorite author. As an author I do agree with you about the missed first time sales – we have to make a living in order to have time & freedom to create the worlds our Readers enjoy. I guess I hope that whoever reads a used book will then be inspired to go out and buy our entire backlist, new on kindle of course! LOL. Because more and more there just won't be used paper books! Enjoyed the blog as always!

  3. Aw Cathy – what a fabulous way to look at it. See I knew if I got what was weighing on my heart out, someone would have other relevant opinions πŸ™‚

    Veronica- really good points. Makes mental note to self to keep writing so I actually HAVE a backlist!

  4. I used to love 2nd hand books stores. It meant I could buy a bundle for the price of 1 new. But then I became an author and decided to support other authors.
    I buy a lot of new books now but I still can't afford to by every book I read.
    You're so right when you say – there's always the library. I now suggest our local library to order in books (loads of them) and if I love the book, I purchase a copy to keep.

  5. I hadn't thought about the royalty issue before, isn't that terrible of me? What a great point. I do like going to the local second-hand book shop every now and then because profits go to charity. Now I have to weigh up whether to support an author or a charity! I have discovered fab authors that way, and now only buy their books new. Food for thought, Rach! Great post.

  6. Had thought of the royalty issue, Rach. And I do try and buy new when I can – but I just can't possibly afford it all the time. And I use the library, but the system we have in Brisbane is that if your local library doesn't have it you have to pay a charge to have one of the other libraries send it over – as all the libraries belong to the one council they don't have a huge range each, so usually the book I want is somewhere else. So would rather pay the money and own the book 2nd hand than pay and have to give it back.

  7. Am so glad I posted about this. The comments are so informative.

    Michelle – I'm a HUGE fan of asking local libraries to order in favourite authors. Hopefully others will find them that way too πŸ™‚

    Madeline – I'd never thought about discovering new books that way. And as you say, if it's a CHARITY shop, then at least you're doing some good!

    Anita – money can be an issue and that is totally understandable. At the moment, TIME is my biggest enemy against reading, not money 😦

  8. I generally don't buy from book exchanges or 2nd hand bookstores (at half the price of new, I don't think its worth it) – but I do buy books from charity shops. I have an issue with a bookseller making a profit out of reselling used books (when the author gets nothing), but I have no issue with proceeds from pre-loved books going to charity. Usually I will buy books that I wouldn't dream of buying new e.g. the other day I bought Paul Burrell's bio (Princess Di's butler) and today I bought Carlotta's bio – both $3 each, and both will be used for research. Sometimes I see fiction authors to try out. But once I'm familiar with an author and like what I've read, I buy new, and I buy new releases of my writing mates. I also donate a lot of books to charity because I can't keep all of them. And if it wasn't for op shops, I would have had very little reading material when I was a kid – instead I was blessed with loads of 2nd hand books. At the moment, my favourite charity shop has a huge box of old M&B's for 20c each. Much better seeing them for sale in there then going to recycling or landfill.

  9. Certainly a good idea but I agree Coleen – almost impossible to implement.

    Diane – another charity book shop lover. I hadn't actually thought about the difference before today but I totally agree now that there is a HUGE difference πŸ™‚

  10. Another EXCELLENT post! I buy all my books new, mostly because I can afford it and, like you, want to support authors I love.

    As an author, I figure it's all about building a readership, whether via new book purchases, used purchases, or even the library.

  11. I dont' like to read discarded material. I like new. πŸ™‚

    Actually, I used to collect old books as well Rach. I've got a full set of old, old Shakespere books, that are smelly. lol lollll…

    Lately, they are the only set that remain.

    I've done a lot of cleaning out of late, getting rid of all those stained and smelly books, oh, except Shakespere. πŸ™‚

  12. I love second hand bookshops. Mainly because I like having books, not borrowing them, and buying new is fiendishly expensive. I too didn't think about the royalties aspect but I'm with Aimee, it's about building readership. If I was published, I wouldn't mind people buying my books from a secondhand bookshop. Readers beget more readers…

  13. As a general rule I prefer new books but I'm not averse to buying used in good condition, especially for non-fiction research literature or a new author I've been nagged into trying but am not convinced I'll enjoy. But now I have an ereader, and while I might still be experiencing a honeymoon period with it, I can see that the convenience and (mostly) lower pricing of digital editions will kill my used purchases. It's just too easy to find what I want and click.

    It will be very interesting to see what impact digital technology will have on second hand bookstores in the future. Perhaps they'll thrive as people long for the feel of paper. Perhaps they'll suffer as buyers flock to digital.

  14. LOL Suz – a Shakespeare fan are you? Bet those books are impressive!

    Jackie – that IF should be WHEN, cos you WILL be published!

    Cathryn – your e-reader comments remind me of someone having just fallen in love. πŸ™‚

  15. I have to admit I'll get books anyway I can. I haunt the library, but for me, it's not just a money issue, it's a resource issue. How neat is it that so many people can enjoy one copy? I do the second hand thing, but rarely, and I don't mind if it's a charity shop or a dealer. I will even give second hand books as presents if I find a beauty. Hey, I like to reduce, reuse, recycle.
    I can't afford to buy new books, but I think even if I could, I'd still do the library thing, mainly because I never reread, so it strikes me as a bit of a waste. I'm unpublished, but don't think my attitude will change when I am (yes, positive thinking!). It's too ingrained!

  16. What a thought provoking post. I have a wonderful local secondhand book shop that I use a lot. For myself and my children
    But when I find a new authour for me, husband or kids I do usually end up then buying the ones not in the book shop new, so both backlist and recent releases. We also recomend the books to friends and family who will buy new or use the library!

    Phew…you had me worried there but now I know I am building readership and boosting sales!

    Love your blog by the way

    Nina xx

  17. I love a good second hand book shop, and have to say it hadn't occurred to me about the royalties before now. But I like to route around in the really old books, so will console myself that most of my buys would probably be out of print by now anyway – and I might buy new work by the author as a result.

    What mad me sad recently though was a second hand book I brought that had a note from the author inside. It was obviously given as a gift, and the person who rec'd it didn't value it enough to hold onto it.
    That bothered me alot. :o(


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