Buying used (was: Issola Spoilers vs. Orca Spoilers)

Wed Mar 12 05:49:39 PST 2003

--- Philip Hart <philiph at SLAC.Stanford.EDU> wrote:
> On Tue, 11 Mar 2003, Steven Brust wrote:
>> For the record, I heartily approve of used book stores, and
>> buying used books.
> Do you there think there should be a mechanism to pass some
> nominal payment back to you when someone buys your work nth 
> hand?

Others have covered the legal and moral aspects of this
question.  I just want to point out briefly that from an
economic perspective, there is such a mechanism: each additional
purchase of a used book increases (at the margin) the market
price for used books, which makes new books a relatively more
attractive purchase.  In addition, the right to resell a book
makes the initial decision to purchase it new more attractive.

There are other ways as well -- for example, a reader who
purchases a used book may enjoy the book and later buy a new
copy of that book or new (or used) copies of the author's other
work.  Or an author publishing now may benefit from the demand
for books that is present because readers who now have money
were able to read, when younger and poorer, due to the existence
of used bookstores (and libraries).  (That isn't to say that
those with more money don't or can't use those distribution
mechanisms; but they could still obtain books without them.)  At
the broadest level of generality, we arguably all (including
authors) benefit from a society in which more people have access
to books.  These last three effects, however, are also present
for unauthorized copying.

-- Greg