Used E-Books, For Sale Cheap


The Interwebs are awash in rumors that Amazon, everyone's favorite monolithic bookseller, may be quietly making plans to allow for the re-sale of 'used' e-books.

(Note: To read this is the large print black text on white page version, click here.)

I know, I know. Print books have been resold as used books for decades, even centuries. And I'm fine with that, even though I don't make any money off the resales.

But I don't see the move to allow e-books to be sold as 'used' as the equivalent to the resale of paper books.

A used paper book is, judging by the used books I've bought over the years, obviously used. Sometimes, apparently, as both a door-stop and an impromptu combat shield. Which is fine; I like giving a book someone obviously enjoyed a new home.

But e-books never age. The covers don't fade. The pages don't get dog-eared. The dog doesn't chew the corners. The thing Amazon is itching to label as a 'used' e-book is absolutely indistinguishable from a 'new' e-book except in one respect -- the price.

And that's where I take exception.

Oops. See, I mentioned price, which implies I'm concerned about the monetary reward for my writing. I forgot that as an author I should be slaving away strictly for the fun of it. In fact, as an artiste, I should be deeply insulted at the very mention of filthy lucre, preferring to take my sustenance from the lofty magical essence of my Muse's ethereal whisperings instead.

I'd be glad to do just that. But Microsoft doesn't have an ETHEREAL WHISPERINGS button with which to pay my Office 360 subscription. My computer parts can't be bought with an IOU from my Muse, and she claims the same is true for her liquor store tab.

No, that takes actual money.

My publisher, assuming I have one, also can't exist without some form of small remuneration.

But lately, Amazon -- the 900 pound gorilla in the small hot room that is Publishing -- seems determined to push authors and publishers as far to the side as possible.

First, Amazon started charging publishers for better placement in the 'algos.' Algo is shorthand for algorithm, as in the algorithm that decides where each of the eleventy zillion books they sell will fall on page searches and so forth.

In effect, Amazon is poking publishers in the chest and saying 'Dat's a nice book you got there. Be a shame if nobody ever saw it. How's about a little donation to make sure dat nice book don't fall off the list, and go boom? Fugheddabouddit."

Which was bad enough. Smaller publishers, already operating on the slimmest of margins, sometimes found themselves unable to turn a profit and keep their books from falling down so low they have to order canned sunlight. But of course the bigger houses can pay, and they do, because a book nobody can find is a book nobody will buy.

And now the Zon is plotting to further undercut publishers and authors by allowing 'used' sales of their e-books?

I can't think of a better way to devastate an industry. If the product page for my books shows a new Kindle version at $1.99 and a used Kindle version, which is the same bloody thing, at 99 cents (or whatever, always less than the price of 'new'), is there any way such a listing will NOT choke my sales?

Even if I get a small cut -- and I have no idea if that will happen, or how -- I and my publisher just lost all control over how much our books will cost. And since the publisher set that price for a reason, it's going to hurt us.

I hope I'm wrong about all this. Maybe recent events have left me jumpy. That could well be the case.

But even if Amazon does start offering 'used' e-books, I won't ever buy one. 





(Image at top: Everett Collection Inc. | - image52027862#res5678350)