Friday, January 02, 2009

Is Bargain Hunting for Books Destroying the Trade?

Lost in the hand-wringing over the state of the book industry is the fact that this is a golden age for those in love with old-fashioned printed volumes: more books are available for less effort and less money than ever before. A book search engine like ViaLibri.net can knit together 20,000 booksellers around the world offering tens of millions of nearly new, used or rare books.
But it's this very buying and selling of second hand books on the internet that is undermining the book industry writes Rodrigo Corral in the New York Times, with neighbourhood book stores the hardest hit.

*Sigh* I am an equal opportunity book buyer, and and unrepentent about buying on the internet what I can't easily or immediately buy from local bookshops (usually through Abebooks which has never let me down).

8 comments:

dreamer idiot said...

Well, my main justification is that we in Asia have the currency exchange to contend with. Eg: a 8-9 pound book or 12-13 US dollar book coming up to almost 50 ringgit here. If book publishers could publish some of their books at a lower cost and price for us in one of any Asian country, (thus reducing petrol cost of shipping the books as well), then more books will be purchased and I believe in the end there will still make a profit.

Alice Teh said...

Hey Sharon, I buy a lot from Betterworld.com because their shipping cost is much cheaper at US$3.97 per book.

When I can't get them at Betterworld, I check out Abebooks and as you've said, it never fails me. The shipping costs more but it doesn't matter when I'm 'desperate' to have that particular title...

Sarah said...

I prefer going to my local bookstore whether it's a second hand bookstore that holds that musty, dusty smell that I love so much or to the big chain store; where the lights are so bright that they tend to shine off of the poor bookseller's balding head.

Anonymous said...

Preeta's going to be mad at you guys now lol :)

KittyCat said...

Looks like book retailing is the same as any other retailing business, eh? Consumers just need to buy, buy, buy to keep it going.

I do pay for a really good book I want to sink my teeth in but I never pass on the good old secondhand book (esp ones with loving handwritten notes on the inside cover!)

Secondhand books feel more 'romantic' (for want of a better word) as I can imagine the pleasure the previous owners got from reading it...

In any case, I can never understand the book industry because I've heard of 3-4 Pay Less Books closing down in 2008.

This year, I returned to Malaysia surprised to find that the Big Bookshop in Gurney Place has been replaced by some, sparkling book-less shop!

My family and I were getting such great discounts for Ladybird, Scholastic and other good reads there. Sigh...

In Malaysia, I'd push for:
a) a bigger rebate on books - RM500a year is NOTHING for a booklover, don't you agree? ;-)
b) a committee or something to coordinate the gathering and recycling of good secondhand books to be channelled to set up mini libraries in rural schools and
c) local publication of books to reduce the selling price within the Asian region. I know Penguin and many other books are CHEAP in India as they're locally published BUT they can only be sold in India. I noticed some cheap, glossy copies of Winnie the Pooh in Popular here - I think a local company bought the publication rights to some titles?

Damyanti said...

I buy books firsthand as well as second hand, just depends on what catches my eye, if I really have been wanting to get my hands on a book and so on...but yeah, I do agree with the romantic feeling of handling second-hand books :)

YTSL said...

I don't buy from the internet but do buy from secondhand bookstores. The thing is that often, I find books in secondhand bookstores that just aren't available in new bookstores -- because they've gone out of print, etc. These include earlier books by authors of series that I've belatedly 'discovered'/got into.

On a related note: I'm not one of those people who will only read new books -- as in newly published as well as plain new. (To wit: several of the books I first read in 2008 were first published in years other than 2008 or even 2007.)

So have to admit that even while a small part of me worries that I'm contributing to the demise of the book industry, I also think that I'm one of those people who's helping to ensure that more books won't go unread in the world!

YTSL said...

And for those complaining about how expensive books are in Malaysia: I now live in Hong Kong and find myself going on book buying sprees whenever I return to Malaysia (Penang specifically) for a visit as English books are cheaper in Malaysia than Hong Kong -- and there's a larger selection in (new) bookstores!