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The Almighty Buck

Publishers/Authors Angry at Amazon Selling Used Books 387

curtS writes "Cnet has a piece about industry reaction to Amazon's now offering used books. A copy of the Authors Guild letter to Jeff Bezos is here." I've got a discussion piece from tytso as well below - what do you think about it?

tytso writes:

In my opinion there are plenty of subjects for which Bezos deserves to be berated, including overly agressive accounting tactics, and their one-click patent. But selling used books?

The Authors Guild's argument is that authors don't get any compensation if someone purchases a used book; only the seller and make out on the transaction. So when makes it easier for consumers to buy and sell used books which could also be purchased new --- at a more expensive price, of course --- it hurts the authors. The Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers would prefer that only allow their users to sell used books if they are out-of-print books.

Well, excuuuuuuuse me! I can understand that authors need to eat, and send their kids off to college, and all those good things. But if a book wasn't good enough for me to want to keep it, why shouldn't I be able to sell it? Using the same logic, the Authors Guild should logically be against public libraries. After all, people who use libraries can (oh horrors!) read a new book without having to pay for it!

This really goes to show the fundamental tension between content providers and consumers. If you take the Authors Guild position to its extreme, you'd think that they would much prefer that bookreaders purchase books from bookstores, and if they didn't like it, that they throw it into a landfill rather than resell it or give it away, or lend it to a friend. After all, all of these activities compete with new book sales. Fortunately for us, the doctrine that the owner of a book is allowed to do all of these things is fairly strongly encoded into law --- which is why all the President of the Authors Guild can do to write a whiny letter to Bezos asking him to please don't do this.

And thus we see the danger of the positions espoused by the Software Publisher's Association, and UCITA. Not only do they wish to take away our rights about what we can and can't do with software --- including rights which common sense would dictate are perfectly permissible in the case of the physical world, such as selling or loaning a book to a friend --- but their actions have emboldened folks such as the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers to try to take away rights which we always have had in the physical world. After all, if the software vendors can restrict what you can do their software, why shouldn't a book publisher be able to restrict what you can do with their books?

Fortunately, most book publishers don't have as much money to throw around as Disney, so they probably won't be able to purchase enough Senators to change copyright law to suit their purposes. But when thought patterns of the SPA have started infecting traditional book authors --- who really should know better --- it's obvious that we're living in dangerous times."

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Publishers/Authors Angry at Amazon Selling Used Books

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  • by The Monster ( 227884 ) on Thursday December 28, 2000 @11:13AM (#1413249) Homepage
    Authors have already received their cut of used book proceeds...when it was sold new.
    If Amazon helps to develop a secondary market for books, this is a win for authors and publishers. Anyone who's ever shopped for a new car has heard the salesman touting the high resale value of his models, which in turn drives up the price of the new cars. Knowing that I can get something out of a book I decide to sell, I'll be willing to pay more for the new ones.

    But, typical of most people today, these idiots only care about how much they can get right now. Who cares about the market they can build for the future?

  • Elimination of used book sales and libraries would probably be to the guild's benefit.

    Actually, I doubt it. Scratch a writer and you'll find a reader. Ask most writers where they spent their time as kids and "the library" will be high on the list. Ask them if they could have purchased all the books they read, all the books that taught them their craft, and you won't get too many positive responses.

    Taking that away might benefit this generation of writers, but they might be the last.

  • by CritterNYC ( 190163 ) on Thursday December 28, 2000 @11:17AM (#1413254) Homepage
    I'm all for selling used books, CDs, movies and just about anything else you can come up with. Why? Because it encourages the creation of longer-lasting works... instead of much of the throw-away pop-culture stuff that permeates our culture today. If you create a cheesy pop tune or fluff book... you'll still get paid for people buying it. But, as people tire of it and start selling their shiny new copies as used, you make less. On the other hand, if you create a truly interesting novel or ground-breaking CD, people will buy it and hold on to it... and, even better, tell their friends.

    Also, let's not forget that these are the SAME people who didn't like Amazon allowing people to post online reviews of books. Seems they thought that if people found out a book sucked, they might not buy it, and that isn't fair to the author now is it.
  • At least in America this is unenforcable. You can' tax used items either because the government already got it's cut the first time around.

    Buzz ... wrong. It depends upon where you shop. Sales taxes are transactional taxes, and what is taxable in the transaction depends upon the jurisdiction (typically state, but ocassionally county or city). In Virginia, used books are taxable. In New York, x% goes to the state, and y% goes to the county -- and what's taxable depends upon the county.

    For myself, I prefer to buy books that are in good condition ... and if I have time to go to a used book store and search for good condition books, I can buy more books for a constant amount of money. If I don't have lots of time, and don't mind spending more, I can go to Borders and get a new book. If I don't have *any* time, then I'll shop Amazon. What I wish is that my favorite used book store had a decent (onlioe?) catalog, so I could go in and find what I want quickly, instead of having to visually-grep every single shelf in SF/Fantasy.

    Are you moderating this down because you disagree with it,
  • Who said anything about a legal case or copyright infringement? They are simply asking Amazon to stop.

    I can see where these guys are coming from, and there is a big difference in the fact that Amazon is a market leader (and a seller of new books at all - which a library isn't)...

    The guy rooting around in a used book store or borrowing a book from a library has already made the decision not to buy new, and is often not even looking for a specific title - just browsing.

    If a major seller of new books such as Amazon (particularly an internet retailer - as if Barnes and Noble had instantly this up in their brick and mortar stores nationwide, rather than doing a local trial) make it so easy to buy a used book as providing the option every time you want to buy a new one, then they really are changing the marketplace very fundamentally.

    Say you're the author of a high priced low volume technical book (priced high because you know it's going to be low volume) - how would you feel if every purchaser was offered the choice of buy it new for $60 (you get your cut), or buy it used for $20 (you get zip)?

    It's one thing if people on a budget search for something in a used book store or on e-bay, but it really alters the balance if everyone buying the book new automatically gets offered the "or buy it cheaper used" option. No laws being broken, for sure, but it's easy to see how this could have a huge impact on book sales, and ultimately reduce choice or increase prices for us all as book writing becomes finacially less attractive (not that it's very attractive to start with).

    I think the tiered pricing/outlet system works well (books, cars, airline tickets). Full price for those with the money and who want instant gratification, and used/lower price for those on a budget who prefer to spend time searching out a bargain.
  • by CommieOverlord ( 234015 ) on Thursday December 28, 2000 @10:39AM (#1413261)
    So here is one of the people with blinders that the original poster was talking about. The issue of property rights was not brought up by either the poster or the guild. No is denying your right to buy or sell books. No one is threatening or coercing Amazon to stop selling used books.

    What is being done is that the guild and publishers have send Amazon a letter saying that they would greatly appreciate it if Amazon would promote the new books a little more prominently than used books. Just as I'm sure that you've done similar things all the time. Maybe you told the person sitting behind you in the theatre that you would appreciate if they made less noise chewing their food, or told someone you would appreciate if they moved their car that is parked in front of your house. It is a simple request, it does imply that someone is in the wrong or that you wish to violate their rights.

  • by LionKimbro ( 200000 ) on Thursday December 28, 2000 @10:40AM (#1413263) Homepage


    And we shouldn't let people give their books to other people, either! Cuts into writer's pocketses, oh yes- it does!

    But, wait- What about if I bought a CD before, but I lost it 10 years ago. I have to buy it again? WHAT?!

    I'm one person. But I had to pay twice. What's with that? It now seems that we have one person with knowledge of the content, but the author has been paid twice..!

  • But Amazon is still a pretty yukky company in lots of ways:
    Well, I think I will respond, not as the spokes person for, but as an employee who thinks it is the coolest company.

    They have a lousy record on privacy (1, 2).
    We don't sell our records to anyone. Period. I know it might come as a suprise to all the trolls, but it's true. The selling of records if we go out of business is a standard clause in getting funds to raise cash. If things don't work out, investors are going to want to recover what money they can get back and saying we reserve the right to sell records is one of those ways. If you look at any company, you will find the same thing. I even bet will sell your account information to the highest bidder if they go under.
    However, is not going out of business and it might come as a shock, but we are going to stay around for a long time.

    They have a union-busting campaign, complete with instructions on their internal web pages explaining how managers can thwart union organizers.
    Absolute bullshit. I searched the interal webpage for this and found nothing. The only infomation I have recieved is to ask unathorized person to leave property if they are caught. This again is standard; would you want people who are not bound by a NDA wondering around your property?
    If you know the URL of this "Union Busting" webpage, let me know, I would like to see it.

    Did you know that when you write a review on their site, it becomes their property? All submitted comments become the licensed property of as set forth in our Legal Notices.
    Well, Duh! Of course we own it because we want to control the content. We are not going to post infomation on our own site, and we are going to post reviews that are off topic or incorrect. We want reviews that are good, so unless we can set up a style posting area, is going to tightly control the information on its site.

  • If a major seller of new books such as Amazon (particularly an internet retailer - as if Barnes and Noble had instantly this up in their brick and mortar stores nationwide, rather than doing a local trial) make it so easy to buy a used book as providing the option every time you want to buy a new one, then they really are changing the marketplace very fundamentally.

    Certainly, and as usual there will be winners and losers. Seems to me that Amazon is doing the book purchasing community a great service (for once).

    Say you're the author of a high priced low volume technical book (priced high because you know it's going to be low volume) - how would you feel if every purchaser was offered the choice of buy it new for $60 (you get your cut), or buy it used for $20 (you get zip)?

    When I buy a good technical book I'm not likely to want to sell it all that quickly; it's a good reference to turn to when I need it. If it's not a useful reference, and it's not well written in the first place, I'm going to want to dump it and get at least a few pennies on the dollar for it. So what's so bad about that?

    It's one thing if people on a budget search for something in a used book store or on e-bay, but it really alters the balance if everyone buying the book new automatically gets offered the "or buy it cheaper used" option. No laws being broken, for sure, but it's easy to see how this could have a huge impact on book sales, and ultimately reduce choice or increase prices for us all as book writing becomes finacially less attractive (not that it's very attractive to start with).

    In which case a new equilibrium will (at least temporarily) be reached which may or may not result in more books being written. It might result in the distribution of books becoming more efficient.

  • In legal cases involving copyright/trademark infringement, it's generally understood that a company can't credibly raise a fuss over one case of infringement if they've knowingly overlooked it repeatedly in the past.

    No, it is not "generally understood" it is just plain WRONG

    When you have a TRADEMARK then you must enforce it consistently. when you have a COPYRIGHT, you can go after whoever you want, whenever you want. Regardless of anything else.

    TRADEMARKS and COPYRIGHTS are different things!
  • Acctualy, if I'm not completely wrong (which I rarely am ;) ), I think many libraries have to pay authors for every single person lending a copy of their book(s). This is (or was) the case in Sweden, doubtfully a local idea at that.

    This is not as strange as it might sound though, instead much like the way radiostations operate. One does not have to agree with the exact implementations of these ideas but the fact is - many people want money for their work, no matter if we want to give it to them or not.
  • by sjames ( 1099 ) on Thursday December 28, 2000 @10:42AM (#1413272) Homepage Journal

    You can rent a movie to see if you like it. If you do, and want to see it again, you can choose to buy it.

    And if I decide at a later date that I no longer want it for whatever reason (somehow, it was a lot more enjoyable when I was 10, moving sale, never watch it anyway, whatever), I am free to sell it to someone else.

    For that matter, if I choose to rent the movie, I am free to loan it to a friend so long as it is returned on time. One reason DivX died was that it prevented loaning to a friend (or even watching at a friend's house)

    It's a simple principle, when something (such as a license) can be sold, it can be re-sold. That is part of the thing we call capitolism. What the SPA and apparently the Author's Guild propose is called corporate socialism. It's just like state socialism except that nobody even pretends that it's for the common good and you don't even get to participate in a sham of an election.

    The best solution is for the Author's Guild, MPAA and others to quit whining about the fact that they must provide products and services in exchange for money rather than just collecting tribute for nothing.

  • by pongo000 ( 97357 ) on Thursday December 28, 2000 @09:47AM (#1413273)
    Authors have already received their cut of used book proceeds...when it was sold new. We live in a world where buying and selling is a normal, everyday occurrence. What makes the Authors' Guild believe that its members are somehow sacrosanct in that they must profit from every transaction between two entities? To me, this is just a money grab, an attempt to take a piece of pie which isn't theirs to begin with.

    If the Authors' Guild is having such a tizzy about this, maybe they should also go after Half-Price Books, and every ripoff college textbook chain that sells their used books at a 100% markup over what they bought them back for.

  • ah, but will it ensure the future of e-books, or ebooks? (i'm sure a profoundly literate and anal-retentive person such as your anonocowardly, spell-flaming self will catch that reference)
  • Using the same logic, the Authors Guild should logically be against public libraries.

    what makes you think they aren't?

    just like the record and movie industry, authors would like books to be pay-per-view.

    this desire, by the way, is the one thing that is likely to insure the future of e-books.

  • > but software is only licensed.

    That's right. You don't own your software, because it is licensed. []

    You don't own your car, because it is licensed. []

    If you own your land, then why do you pay taxes to someone else!? Because it is licensed. []
  • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Thursday December 28, 2000 @10:43AM (#1413280) Homepage Journal
    In legal cases involving copyright/trademark infringement, it's generally understood that a company can't credibly raise a fuss over one case of infringement if they've knowingly overlooked it repeatedly in the past. I think the same principle should apply here. They've allowed public libraries to loan out books for decades, and small used book stores to sell titles for almost as long.

    First of all, IANAL but I believe that trademark and copyright law are two completely different animals.

    Secondly, the author's aren't making a legal argument, so much as a ethical and tactical argument. The problem is that it's really hard to make a living as an author if you aren't in the following list (more or less): Carol Higgins Clark, Danielle Steele, Robert Ludlum, Tom Clancy, Ann Rice, Michael Crighton, John Grisham, J.K. Rowling. These authors probably account for 99% of all book sales.

    An outfit like Amazon is a godsend for the 99.99% of the authors who live off the remaining 1% of sales. Likewise Amazon depends upon these people; if everything boiled down to the ten or so top selling authors then all booksales could be taken care of at the airport news counter. The relationship between minor authors and Amazon is symbiotic. If Amazon perturbs relationship to its own short term benefit, then over the long term the vitality of the non-best seller market suffers and (so the argument goes) does Amazon. Thus tactically it is bad, and it is generally considered morally questionable to benefit from an institution and to undermine it at the same time.

    Taking the argument further, used bookstores of various stripes don't affect new book sales. Most of their stock would be destroyed if it was at a new bookstore.

    Personally, I think its all just a tempest in a teacup. There can't be significant sales of used copies until there are significant sales of the new book. While prominently displayed used copies on the face of it cut into new sales, they may also in the long run increase sales by allowing obscure works to generate word of mouth, the way library and privately lended copies do. Probably most copies of Titus Groan (plug plug) were bought by people who have read or borrowed a used copy.

  • Publishers of books have absolutely no legal right to impose any sort of "license" on you that would restrict your right to resell a book.

    If publishers of books were allowed to impose licensing agreements on books, that would be an elimination of your legal right to resell your books.

    Either your right to resell your books comes from copyright law (which it does), or it comes at the whim of publishers (which it doesn't). If you transfer the right to control resale of books from the owners of those books to the copyright holder, then you have eliminated the legal right of owners to resell used books.

    I don't understand your argument.

  • And my father buys books (used) and sells them on e-bay for more than he bought them for.

    Just cause you don't know how to make a profit doesn't invalidate his point.
  • Amazon: We are going to sell used books.

    Authors Guild: Hey, you can't do that! How will authors make a profit?

    Amazon: First, we CAN do that and we WILL. Second, If you didn't charge so damn much for new books, people wouldn't buy used books.

    Authors Guild: We have to charge so much for new books, because author revenue is lost with the sale of used books.

    Amazon: Do the authors you represent actually own the copyright on their works?

    Authors Guild: Ummm. SOME of them MIGHT, I'd have to check.

    Amazon: I didn't think so. Do the authors you represent get more than 50% of the profits from the sales AFTER they pay their publishers for promotional costs.

    Authors Guild: Umm...err...

    Amazon: I didn't think so. Maybe if publishers actually let the author keep their copyright, keep a majority of the profit, AND sold your books at a reasonable price, then people wouldn't NEED to buy used books. The fact that a used market exists and thrives merely demonstrates the fact that publishers are gouging customers for a new books.

    Authors Guild: Well, we wouldn't have to charge so much if there wasn't a used...

    Amazon: Shaddup!

  • Ideas are property.
    Ownership is control.

    (the extension of these axioms provided by the content industries is left as an exercise for the reader)
  • I am a musician []...

    I am also an author [], and I have to say I resent the generalisation there. Or perhaps I should say this: you don't even know what you're doing to yourself with your mental categories there.

    I suspect it's a thing like 'REAL musicians', 'REAL authors' want everything to be pay-per-view, kaching, next! There is some validity to this but it breaks down pretty rapidly- where do you fit, say, Emily Dickinson into that scheme? There's someone who stood the test of time as a great writer but never pursued any sort of recognition, much less reward, for her work during her life. There are more people like that than you'd think: you haven't heard of them for the obvious reason that they're not hawking their wares brazenly on the open market.

    In this day and age, you're cheating yourself if you assume the only real artists are the ones under contract to some industry conglomerate. There isn't even that much of a correlation- there's an awful lot of commercial tripe out there, and an awful lot of sincere if unpolished art. You simply cannot make the assumption that artists primarily want to be paid. Most would like that, but what they primarily want is ATTENTION. Applause! Recognition. And, as every major avenue to mass market art is increasingly controlled by corporations with a $$$$$$$$ bottom line, more and more artists are turning away from the prospect of money so they can at least have a shot at that ATTENTION.

    If you define artist (author, musician, whatever) as "that which wants to be paid and is willing to hit the mass market, be published, get signed etc", then you are stripping the 'indie' folks of even the dignity of being considered artists themselves. You're calling them hobbyists, or amateurs, which denies them the respect and attention they might otherwise be able to achieve on the merits of their work.

    Please don't do that. Learn to tell the difference between a pretty face and $30,000 of makeup and photographic lighting. No matter what the field of art, it's possible to go mass media and throw resources at it to make it seem way cooler than the output of individual artists with nothing but a vision and minimal resources. It is your responsibility to be able to recognise the real stuff when you see it, and learn to value it for what it is. Otherwise the word 'artist' will end up meaning nothing more than 'merchant'- or possibly 'lawyer'. o_O

  • Did anyone even mention legal action? Of course not. This was a request of Amazon to discontinue the practice of selling used books.

    On top of that, even if they were suing, where would the danger of a lawsuit to themselves come from? And Anti-Trust? Do you have a clue what you're talking about?

  • Richard M. Stallman, founder of Free Software Foundation Inc., wrote a dystopian piece about pay-per-view eBooks called The Right to Read [].
    Tetris on drugs, NES music, and GNOME vs. KDE Bingo [].
  • Yeah, but it wouldn't do much for books that are more inherently read-once (novels, humor, and Hilary Clinton's "Monica sucks").

    Perhaps it is a good thing though, since it would mean that read-many books would naturally be more valuable that read-once books, which is the way it should be.
  • Well, a lot of your facts are wrong:

    Absolute bullshit...If you know the URL of this "Union Busting" webpage, let me know, I would like to see it.
    Wrong fact #1. It's been all over the news. I'm surprised you haven't heard about it. I read about it in either the New York Times or the LA Times. Here's an online news article [] about it. If you search in Google on " union," you'll turn up a huge number of stories about it.

    I searched the interal webpage for this and found nothing.
    Well, there you have the advantage of me, since I don't have the ability to search Amazon's internal web site. The NYT and LAT have pretty high journalistic standards, so I kind of doubt either one would run the story without verifying that the page exists.

    I even bet will sell your account information to the highest bidder if they go under.
    Wrong fact #2: Their privacy policy [] says "At no time, unless such disclosure is required by law or a user specifically authorizes such disclosure, will OSDN disclose individual user personal information that is not publicly available to unrelated third parties."

    Of course we own it because we want to control the content. We are not going to post infomation on our own site, ...
    Wow, that's interesting. I didn't realize it was that tightly censored. Thanks for letting me know. I guess that's another very strong reason not to use Amazon's reviewing system. is not going out of business
    That's a pretty confident statement about a company that has never made a profit. How do you know?

    By the way, are you a manager at Amazon or an hourly employee? Do you own stock in Amazon?

  • As much as I find the publishers' idea silly, I am a bit confused over the opinions of Slashdotters over this. They seem very hypocritical.

    When the RIAA attacked Napster, I heard most people saying this: "I already paid for it once, so why should I pay for it again?" In this case, it seems that the "it" is implied as being the content. Therefore, once you have paid the publisher for the content, you should be able to have as many copies of it in as many different media types as you want, as long as you're the only one using them. (This is, of course, within reason. I should be able to let an SO listen to them, etc.)

    On the other hand, here we cry out that the person should be paying for the physical book itself, and paying the publisher for the content doesn't really matter.



  • moderate that up! ... no wait, it's already at 5. never mind.

    First Sale Doctrine ... under attack by Scarey BigMediaConglomerates ( soontobes) as we know. I suspect that a right wing supreme court majority, with major cross-investment in BigMediaConglomerate (their families have deeply invested in that social class, for example) could be constructed (will it?) by the time the supreme court needs to revisit this issue in the electronic media.

    Don't you believe that the media can control political debate to establish results as they want them -- already? Why do they want so much more power to control information?

  • Like Alan Sherman's "Rape of the A.P.E." a book published in the 1970s. I can't find a new copy of the book.

    Books have limited runs. Being able to share that among people who wouldn't otherwise be able to read it is a good thing. If a book sells 200,000 copies, the author makes money. Their contracts are renewed, and they're happy. But if the publisher doesn't reprint the books, what about the other people who want to read it? That's where used books come in.

    This cash grab is rather transparent -- if there's a demand, they can certainly print more books. The problem is they don't want to go through the expense of actually printing them. Instead they want to tax used book sales.
  • Jesus fucking Christ on a popsicle stick

    Let's analyze this. Jesus is commonly called Christ. Fscking oneself is another term for masturbation. Why would Jesus be shoving a Popsicle® stick up his ass?

    Now, with that out of the way:
    Besides, ink on dead tree isn't going anywhere. For long format fiction it's still a far better experience that etext

    Especially because etext refers to books in public domain, especially those published by Project Gutenberg []. eBook is the term for those proprietary, copy-controlled, encrypted-out-the-ass electronic texts of works still under copyright. And don't count on any more literature expiring into the public domain, as Disney buys 20 more years of copyright for everything every 20 years, effectively putting everything written on or after January 1, 1923, under perpetual copyright [].

    Now to address the other side of that: I know CRTs suck cock []. That's why I do most of my reading on an LCD. Subpixel text rendering using individual color channels for finer anti-aliasing [] can make a good LCD look almost as good as paper.

    Tetris on drugs, NES music, and GNOME vs. KDE Bingo [].
  • I'm not accepting any elimination of my legal rights. Did you read my post? I strongly disagree with any limitations on the right to resell any existing book. All I said was that publishers had the right to sell books with a license eliminating the right to resell. But then I would have the choice of whether or not I want to pay $35.00 for a book that I _cannot_ resell.
  • The guild is a bunch of money hungry fartheads! NOW along with NEVER BUYING A CD again, it looks as if I WILL NEVER BUY A NEW BOOK AGAIN!
  • > take it on the street and your ass goes in a sling.

    Not true.

    Read The Right to Travel []

    I don't have a driver's license, and my car hasn't been registered for the past few years - I haven't had any problems with so called "pull-overs" (Not that I go out of my way to flaunt my freedom. I "obey" the speed limit, etc.)

  • While i'm not directly familiar with your book, i'd say it sounds less like a narrative and more like a reference book. You have to admit that there's a big difference there. A reference book, you come back to again and again when you need some information on the topic, but a narrative, such as a fictional novel, you read through, and frequently never return to. If you give somebody your copy of "UNIX Network Programming" they can then use it for reference. But if i were to lend somebody my copy of "Fight Club" (which i have done with several people. everyone should read that book) they read it through and have gotten the experience of reading the book.

    I'm not arguing against re-reading a book. If i permanently gave away my copy of "Fight Club" I would then be unable to re-read it. But the point is that I have already read it. With a lot of books, there is little point in re-reading. But there are books that are worth returning to again and again (I'm not even sure how many times i've read "Farenheit 451" and "The Catcher in the Rye") and that's why I won't give those books away. But there have been many, many books that i've given away to friends that are interested in reading them. With reference books, the point is to return to the book in times of need. I don't think i have a single reference book i've read all the way through, even. I just look in the index and find out where the information i need is, and skip to that section. But if i gave away those books, I would lose that privelage.

    You really can't draw a comparison.

  • by TrentC ( 11023 ) on Thursday December 28, 2000 @09:50AM (#1413357) Homepage
    What makes the Authors' Guild believe that its members are somehow sacrosanct in that they must profit from every transaction between two entities?

    He's right! That's the government's job!

    (I know, I know, it was so obvious, but I couldn't help myself...)

    Jay (=
  • How many used bookstores are there in the US? I'm sure other countries have their fair share as well. If that's a perfectly legal practice, then what's the problem with expanding that business out to the world on the internet?

    oh sorry... that made some kind of logial sense...

  • The compromise was actually pretty fair. Simply list all used books after all new books. It just means that a consumer will have to do a little diggin to get to the bargains^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H used books (ie scroll down the page). Not terrible burden for Amazon, not a Terrible burden for the Consumer, and the writers/publishers will get a few more dollars from the terribly lazy. Fairly decent deal all around.
  • Personally, I think that this is only a minor variation on the beef RIAA has/had with Napster; They would rather that books be "original purchaser license only". Should used record stores be similarly "discouraged"? I'm certain the RIAA would love to do just that.

  • I'm always the one to side with the MPAA and RIAA having the right to price and sell their products exactly the way they want to because I believe that is their right as creators.

    However, in this particular instance I have to disagree with what the authors are saying. It is legal to resell books/movies/CDs and has always been so. It is factored into the price of the product. If I know I'm going to be able to resell a book if I didn't really like it then that enters into my calculations of whether or not I want to pay that price for the book/movie/CD. I don't see what they are whining about here. If they want to sell new books under a license agreement making it illegal to resell them then I'm willing to accept that too - but not an imposition of a license agreement after the sale has been made.
  • by EFGearman ( 245715 ) <.EFGearman. .at.> on Thursday December 28, 2000 @09:51AM (#1413373)
    I can understand the authors (and their representatives) not wanting the resale of used books on Amazon. After all, they do not get any money off of those sales. Amazon, however, is in the business of selling books. Selling used books is a fairly common practice, from the garage sale to the book store on the corner. Now, I haven't seen many chain book stores offer much of a used book section before, but that could change.

    I would venture that the best way to solve this would be for Amazon not to offer to buy/resell new books for a period of time (say 3-6 months) after the book comes out. It is my understanding, based on friends who work in bookstores, that anything that is selling decently, sells the majority of its copies during that period. After that, it is usually spur of the moment buys.

    Just my $0.02 worth,

    Eric Gearman
  • It's actually a different store. Portland name: Powell's Books. Chicago name: Powell's Book Store. Semantics, I know, but Portland-Powell's website ( []) lists only stores in the Portland, OR area.


  • You definitely have a point there.

    The thing is that governments have to provide services that no business can, I have no idea how they'd get money for something like free public schooling for all children or a justice system without some sort of odd payment collection system called taxes.

    I also really don't care what some rediculous writer's association wants, selling used books has been legal for a long time, if it weren't, how would a college bookstore be in the clear? My college is _very_ concientious about IP, permissions and copyrights, and they sell used books. You can't play videos in a dorm and apartment basements because it technically amounts to a public showing, even though only members and guests of the building are allowed in the area.

    I guess Stallman IS right that attempts will be made like this, I didn't think he would be when I read his writings six years ago.
  • The last time I read the Berne convention, copyright was supposed to protect the "expression" of an idea, not the idea itself. So, if someone remembers your work, that is not and should not be, a copyright infringment, unless the whole of the expression of your work is being reproduced. Nor should it require some sort of compensation.

    Let us remember that copyright was created not as a way to generate an endless stream of revenue to the holders of "intelectual property", but as a way to adequately compensate the authors of intelectual works, by granting them a time-limited monopoly on the selling of their works. Moreover, several restrictions were placed on this monopoly (the most blatant of which the right of "fair-quote" or "fair-use").

    Most of the copyright legislation that is being approved on these days is heavily influenced by the "copyright owners" (an expression that wasn't even on the first drafts of the convention - the idea was that the authors would be the owners of the copyright, as in the french expression "droit's d'auteur" - author rights). It has sucessfully removed some limitations that were placed on copyright and extended the monopoly duration (the several copyright duration expansion acts). All this, needless to say, at the expenses of the users of the works, and frequently without any real benefit to the authors (would you prefer that only the grandchildren of your editors benefit from your works, or should their grand-grandchildren also benefit? - thats the amount of benefit that copyright extension gives to the authors)...

    Now, another attack is being waged on another limitation on the monopoly - the right to resale. Just business as usual, and if the public stays indiferent as usual, more money will end up lining the producers pockets... again with negligible effect on the real authors of the works.
  • No, it's not that similar to the RIAA/Napster dispute.

    However, the RIAA has gone after used record stores. In Berkeley (and Pleasant Hill), there is a long-established store, Rasputin [], which sells used records. They used to operate a "record rental service", where you could "rent" a record, then return it. They'd then put the record on the used shelves, where you could buy or rent it. When records retailed for $7.99, Tower and Rasputin sold new records for $7.44, and Rasputin would rent it for $1 for 5 days, then sell it used for $6.00. Eventually (about 1982), the RIAA, or some similar organization made them stop "renting" records. So now, you have to buy the record, and sell it back. Rasputin was probably making a bit more money per record afterwards, but they did fight it as much as they could.

  • Neither Amazon nor the Authors' Guild are being Bad Guys here. The AG recognizes that Amazon is well within its rights to sell used books the way it does. Amazon is also not doing anything that used book stores, and many new book stores, do. Most of the used book stores I frequent have cheap, nearly-perfect copies of books that came out scant weeks or months ago.

    What Amazon is doing here is making it very convenient for a person to go looking for a new book, and buy a used one instead. Easier than finding a new copy on the shelf at Borders and checking the used book rack to see if they have a used copy. Much easier than finding the book at Barnes & Noble, then driving over to a used book store to look for it. In this convenience lies all the difference.

    As a reader, I appreciate this convenience. However, since writers are second only to recording artists in getting screwed by the big publishers, I have some sympathy for them as well. I think the best course of action would be for Amazon to follow the second suggestion, and move the blue box to the end of the page, so as to encourage the sale of new books.

  • The book publishers are just mad about losing money from new book sales and having a little hissy fit about it. In the article, they don't threaten any legal action or claim that Amazon doesn't have the right to do business in this way -- they just are complaining and trying to spread FUD that the book industry will shrivel up if more than one person gets to own a book in its lifetime. The article seems pretty clear that the book publishers have no recourse but to whine and hope it works. Don't worry, it won't.
  • Since they are up in arms over Amazon i can't wait till they hear about Powells. Powells began as a new&used bookstore in portland OR and now they are one of the most successfull online bookstores. They continue to sell used books and i for one am glad. It is my understanding that the majority of used books Amazon sells actually come from Powells, which is the largest bookstore in the world.
  • Elimination of used book sales and libraries would probably be to the guild's benefit.

    Nope. All writers are voracious readers, with no more than a small handful of exceptions.

    People don't become writers unless they love to read, and people who love to read quickly find out that used book stores and libraries enable them to get a lot more reading done.

    The guild is cutting off their nose to spite their face, and their members will eventually figure it out.

  • There's a lot of confusion in the articles (and replies here) to what is actually going on when you see a Used book listed on or Since I deal in used books (first edition SF/F/H), I'd like to make an important point:

    Amazon and Barnes & Noble don't have that used book in stock! They just buy it from real used book dealer and add a hefty fee on top. This markeup can be as much as (I've seen it happen) 500%!

    Here's how it works. Take a look at: [].

    ABE Books is where I (and something like 6,000 other dealers) have our stock online. (There are a few others like it, by seems to be the biggest and (IMHO) best.) Those used books are scattered in bookstores and peoples homes across the world, not in any central location. Now, has "affiliate" programs with and If a dealer signs up for this program, them their stock shows up on searchs Amazon and B&N do for used or out-of-print books. Then the end user (who generally doesn't know that exists) pays $50 for a book that Joe Blow, Bookseller has listed on abebooks for $25. Amazon and have virtual NONE of the used stock they list in any central location. I'm not signed up for any affiliate programs (there are others for Japan, Library Sales, etc.), but several dealers are.

    Now, why don't you see this in any of the articles? Because neither Amazon nor the publishers want you to find out where you can get used books cheaper than you can now. The bottom line is, if you're looking for a used, rare, or out-of-print work, is almost always going to be cheaper than Amazon or B&N. Plus the money goes directly to independent booksellers.

  • As a member of the Author's Guild, I was worry to see them take this position. It's absurd to suggest that used books shouldn't be sold. Is the AG suggesting that they be destroyed? Books are like other cultural content in this period -- once they are out there they enter the public realm.
    But the fact is that whole genres of writing are disappearing. For writers, advances are getting smaller, royalties fewer as publishing moves quickly towards publishing only the "big book". Writers aren't entitled to any more protection than anybody else, but the AG is trying to stick it's finger in the dike.
  • Ummm that logic is a bit off. If I buy a new car the manufactuer gets paid once if I in turn sell that car two people have benefited from the car. Me and the person I sold it to. The manufactuer shouldn't get paid again. Its their job to come up with new ideas and make better cars. They aren't just selling rubber and metal. I can still remember a car I used to own but I can't drive it anymore. Likewise with a book I can remember it but I can't read it again unless I get it again. Authors do produce content. Being a writer myself I know it is my job to come up with NEW content that people will read rather than trying to milk everyone who has seen my work for all they are worth.

    Never knock on Death's door:

  • by mblase ( 200735 ) on Thursday December 28, 2000 @09:54AM (#1413409)
    From the letter []:
    We understand that Amazon wishes to provide customers with all manner of services including the ability to buy and sell used books. However, as a leader in the bookselling industry, Amazon's sales practices can have a significantly deleterious effect on new book sales. If your aggressive promotion of used book sales becomes popular among Amazon's customers, this service will cut significantly into sales of new titles, directly harming authors and publishers.

    I see. It's okay for people to buy and sell used books, as long as they're not market leaders.

    In legal cases involving copyright/trademark infringement, it's generally understood that a company can't credibly raise a fuss over one case of infringement if they've knowingly overlooked it repeatedly in the past. I think the same principle should apply here. They've allowed public libraries to loan out books for decades, and small used book stores to sell titles for almost as long.

    Raising a fuss now just because a market leader wants to sell both new *and* used books side-by-side is likely to fall on deaf ears.

  • Unlike the music industry, the book industry leaves the copyright in the hands of the authors. As far as I know, all book's IP stays with the author.

    That's why you're dealing with the authors guild, and not the publisher guild
  • You can rent a movie to see if you like it. If you do, and want to see it again, you can choose to buy it.

    We have that now, it's called the library. But people apparently don't want to use them anymore? People's complaint really seems to be "I demanded that you make it as easy as possible for me to buy things (hence the One-Click idea), now I'm demanding that you make it equally easier for me to fix it when I make a mistake by buying something that I didn't really want." The only thing that's really wrong with the library these days is that people don't want to get up and go get things, they want them delivered to their door. Yet when Circuit City came up with DivX, which supposedly was going to make it easy for you to "return" a video (i.e. by just throwing it away), it got stomped mercilessly.

    So we've got authors who want to get paid for their work. And we've got readers who don't want to get stuck with paying for a book they didn't like. Perhaps the best solution would be for Amazon to invent (and patent, of course :)) some sort of library mechanism where you could rent a book? What would people think of that?


  • by 11223 ( 201561 ) on Thursday December 28, 2000 @09:55AM (#1413415)
    Many, many, people here seem to think that a book is simply the media upon which it was printed. Because the book is simply media, you would have the right to sell it to whomever you please, however you please. However, those who actually devote themselves to creating such content see it differently. To them, a book is its content, and even a book no longer in your physical posession is still in your brain.

    When I read a copy of The Republic or Soon To Be Another Sean Connery Movie, it doesn't go away the second I put the book down. You remember things about it. You make jokes with your friends about it later, or you reference the material. That's why a book is content. Now, when I buy a book from you, do you cease to do those things? Do you forget the book? Of course not! It now seems that we have two people with knowledge of the content, but the author has only been paid once.

    It's not easy to make a living off of writing, but if you do you view yourself not as a paper-manufacturer but as a story-writer or an idea-creator. The ideas and the stories are what you sell; the physical medium is immaterial to you. Why should an author only be paid once when two people gain the ideas or learn the stories?

  • I don't know typically how much the author gets, other than that it's actually very little.

    What used to really piss me off at college (in the UK) was when the official text was actually written by the lecturer giving the class, and available only in hardback!

    I don't think a book would be chosen as a course book before it was published/priced, so I don't think the publishers are taking direct advantage of that, but of course prices are determined by the target audience.

    Incidently I know someone in the used book finding business who say that they (and presumably they're not alone) price books based on their perceived ability of the customer to pay!
  • "We believe the compromise is simple and straightforward: restrict the blue-box link to out-of-print and collectible books and list all used book offerings after all new versions of a title are listed. Our members want nothing more than a fair opportunity to earn royalties for their book sales whatever the sales outlet. We hope that Amazon will respect this very reasonable professional goal.

    We are encouraged by your publicly stated commitment not to hurt authors or publishers with your new Marketplace. We welcome the opportunity to discuss other ways to meet that commitment and would be happy to meet with you or your representatives regarding this matter."

    The letter was nothing but polite, and could only be called an "appeal to Amazon". The very idea of legal action is out-of-line, and insulting to the people who wrote this. Disagree if you like (I think everyone agrees on that point) but don't blow this out of proportion.

  • I hope they never find out about the large caches of books held around the world where people can "borrow" books to read, they would flip!
    I think they are called libraries or something :-)
  • But the feature has come under fire from writers and publishers groups, which say it is an "aggressive" tactic that threatens to eat into sales of new books and take royalty money out of the pockets of their members.

    HA! I can end this debate in just a few paragraphs. You know who else stated these exact words about 10 years ago? The music industry. Remember that? They wanted to make it illegal to sell used CD's, for the EXACT same reasons. They pulled out people like Garth Brooks to speak out against such terrible evils.

    Lets see. Last I checked:
    - Used CD stores all over the landscape
    - MP3's "ruining" the world
    - Record industry still recording record profits last year.

    Boy, that sure destroyed their industry. I'll add a bit of commentary here as well. Publishers are shell shocked from the impending demise of their business model, even if it might be 10 years or more away. When anything remotely threatening comes their way, their itchy trigger fingers unloads a asalvo in the general direction of the percieved threat.
  • Why Amazon instead of the myriad small used book dealers who do the same thing? Probably because small book sellers - especially of the bricks and mortar variety - are often fixtures of their communities, and any attack on them would be seen as unAmerican. Ditto for public libraries. But Amazon is seen by many as a big threatening behemoth of commerce. And it exists on that den of degradation and filth - the internet (shudder).

    Or it could be just because Amazon has a lot of money.
  • Why should there be a compromise? Amazon did nothing wrong! Since Amazon is selling a lot of new books, they may want to compromise, but let us hope they do not.

    By compromising, they are sending the message that they're doing something implicitly wrong.

    You don't make friends with the customer by making him go out of his way (even a little bit, as in the compromise) to save a few dollars.

  • Once I buy the book, it's mine. I can sell it to whoever I want to, and sell it via whatever tools (including I want to. The author has already collected his or her royalties. If I want to reduce wasted paper by reusing the book, that is my prerogative.

    Those who don't like this shouldn't sell books.

  • by gavinhall ( 33 ) on Thursday December 28, 2000 @09:59AM (#1413442)
    Posted by polar_bear:

    I'm a published author who has books on Amazon,
    ("Install, configure and Customize Slackware Linux") but I wouldn't dream of complaining about people buying my book used. If someone buys it and decides to pass it on, oh well. That's their right -- they paid for it and they can do with it what they will.

    All of the authors mentioned in the letter are high-profile authors who are already making decent money for their writing. Just like the record companies, this is an example of greed, not protection of working-class individuals.

    I never thought that I would be on Amazon's side, but in this case I have to say that I think that they should continue this practice.
  • Software licences often forbid their transfer to other parties. Perhaps the book people would need to come up with a licensing agreement that you were forced to read and agree to each time you opened the book. IMO, a book is just as good whether new or old. One of my favorites is a book of Asimov short stories, entitled "Nine Tomorrows". Published in the 50s, I bought it at a used bookstore on Cape Cod one summer for $0.25 and I think I've read it end to end a hundred times. Anything that Amazon does to give me opportunities like this to buy quality books for cheap, I am 100% in support of. BTW, from what I understand, the authors of the book really don't stand to lose a whole lot in these used book sales. It is the publishing houses that lose the bulk of the extra profits, since for 99.9% of all book titles, the authors won't see much more than the initial payout they receive.
  • pudge: what kind of name is Letty Cottin Pogrebin?
    pudge: (President of the Authors Guild)
    jamie: That sounds like an anagram.
    pudge: anyway, i understand that authors are kinda pissed about what amazon is doing, but they need to get over it.
    jamie: pudge, that name is an anagram for "bigot plenty contrite."
    pudge: jamie, ha!
    jamie: and "glint byte protection"
    hemos: jamie: Ha!
    hemos: Ooo! I like the first one.
    hemos: Hmmmm...over two hours till my meeting. I think it might be time to play SC3U.
    jamie: and "gent protect nobility." geez, he's just Mr. Anagram.
    jamie: and "Bony Title Protecting."
    timothy: I think Bony Title Protecting is good.
    timothy: We should (as a service to readers) provide anagrams for famous people whenever possible.
    timothy: And / or when the anagrams are funny.
    jamie: or "Protect Goblin Entity," or "Percent Booty Tilting," or "Boycott Letting Ripen."
    jamie: My favorite anagram for someone disapproving of Amazon:
    jamie: "Tripling teen boycott."
    timothy: ok. I'll bite. anagram for what?
    jamie: pudge: what kind of name is Letty Cottin Pogrebin?
    jamie: pudge: (President of the Authors Guild)
    timothy: Ah, ok.

    Jamie McCarthy

  • Man, I really have to shake my head at this. Here we have a site where people are quick to jump rabidly to the defense of "the little guy" when it looks like "the big corporation" is trying to pull a fast one on them.

    And here we have precisely that kind of situation. The authors--who may be well-known to readers but who really are, essentially, little guys at the mercy of the publishers and booksellers--are seeing a big corporation trying to profit by taking away their livelihood. So they write a simple letter, saying, "Please, Mr. Big Corporation, don't do that. It's hurting us, and by extension will hurt you." And who is everyone here suddenly rooting for? The big corporation.

    Perhaps it's that there seem to be a lot of authors and only one corporation in question. But then, why is everybody so up for the EFF in their fight against the RIAA and DVDCCA? The EFF is composed of a lot more people than the author group--and a single author is precisely as powerful as a single EFF member in his ability to fight the system. So, by extension, the EFF should be hated and feared and reviled by all the Slashdot folks, taking this supposition to its logical conclusion, because they're just a big bully. Why, they're colluding to restrain the trade of the DVDCCA! How dare they?

    Or perhaps folks here somehow seem to think of authors as great and mystically powerful people, who are greedily profiteering at the expense of Us Little Guys. Folks, that just isn't true. Authors are normal folks, just like the rest of us, and unless they're Stephen King, are not making nearly as much money as you might think they are. They're just doing the best they can to make ends meet.

    How is it inappropriate to ask someone who is blocking the sunlight from your garden, or peeing upstream from your water supply, or leaving poison out where your pets or kids can find it, or otherwise acting in a way detrimental to your life or livelihood, to kindly stop it? Turning the other cheek might be the meek and Christian thing to do, but it is rather at odds with continuing to live.

    Our rights, individually and collectively, end where others' rights begin. Amazon, the authors, the publishers, and so forth all have certain rights and freedoms. Rights are not exclusive--it is not right for Amazon to profit at the expense of the authors, just as it would not be right for the authors to profit at the expense of Amazon. There should be some sort of balance reached, some sort of compromise. Even the authors don't object to Amazon's right to continue selling used books--even used copies of new books. They just object to Amazon's aggressiveness in trying to push them instead of the new books.

    I'm not sure why I'm even bothering, but it's a pity to see everyone suddenly rallying behind Amazon, who just a few months ago was considered another wicked big corporation just like the rest of them, for yet another instance of their profiteering at the expense of the little guy.

  • Mainly the authors guild has in no place in that letter said Amazon can't do what it is doing. Just that they wish they wouldn't.

    Hell there are a lot of things that I wish were true. It doesn't meen that it will happen.

    Still I think the Authors guild mainly has made its self look silly.

    The cure of the ills of Democracy is more Democracy.

  • The Authors Guild's argument is that authors don't get any compensation if someone purchases a used book; only the seller and make out on the transaction.

    I can understand most slashdot computer/IT professionals and hobbyists not being aware of it, but I really did think that the Authors' Guild of all groups would be familiar with that massive, evil cartel of socialist spinoffs also known as publicly funded libraries.

    Every day, millions of people visit the libraries of the world, reading and borrowing books without even paying a cent for them. Just think how much compensation the authors would miss out on through this cruel and unjustified practice. Libraries don't resell books once, they loan them out FOR FREE, and HUNDREDS OF TIMES. That's hundreds of people reading a book that has only ever been paid for once!

    It's as if people think authors would rather have their work read than have their publishers make money from them... as if people think that literacy is more important than a few more cents for the author.

    Honestly, what is this world coming to?

  • Most people I know don't sell the books they enjoy. It's the commercial, hyped drivel that they bought by accident that they would like to get rid of. Those books should be returnable to the publisher as a defective product in the first place.

    Far from depriving good authors of their well-deserved compensation, a thriving, efficient market in used books finally restores some real economic feedback into the book market. Maybe this will finally serve to weed out the bad stuff from the good stuff and have publishers pay more attention to quality than to marketability again.

  • by Phronesis ( 175966 ) on Thursday December 28, 2000 @12:17PM (#1413467)
    Most of the comments I see here (mea culpa []) fail to recognize that this is not a legal challenge. The letter [] from the Authors Guild makes no legal claims nor threatens legal action.

    The letter [] merely requests that Amazon change its policy and makes moral arguments why Amazon ought to voluntarily change its policy. There is no threat nor invocation of lawyers or copyright law. Merely an appeal to Amazon's good will and community spirit.

    This is an exemplary practice and should be encouraged at a time when most businesses call the lawyers and issue threats without making any attempt to speak with the other party human to human.

  • If book authors and publishers aren't adequately compensated for their work, however, then more and more writers will be compelled to pursue other creative outlets and professions.

    Do authors really write for the money? Throughout history, often times the greatest authors have died in poverty because their works were not appreciated. However they still continued to write. IMHO, for most writers, writing is a passion and not simply a money generator. (For a prime example of this, watch the movie/play Quills.)

  • by SymphonicMan ( 267361 ) <{drich} {at} {}> on Thursday December 28, 2000 @10:00AM (#1413474)

    In Portland, Oregon, where I live, we have a chain of local stores called "Powell's Books". This is an independent chain, doesn't operate outside the area, and is one of the largest independent booksellers left in the country. It's a great store, in part because of a shelving policy they have. Like many bookstores, Powell's sells used books.

    There's more, though. They shelve the used books right alongside the new books. So if I walk into Powells and want to buy a copy of a book, more often than not I walk out with a used copy.

    This is an almost exact realspace parallel with what Amazon is "guilty" of doing. Why does Amazon get this letter, then? Because it's a big target and it's in cyberspace, home of criminals and intellectual property pirates. Bah. My open note to Jeff Bezos: Tell the Author's Guild to go to hell.


  • You're dead right on the software side of things (unfortunately - software should be ownable). But there are fine degrees of distinction on the other two examples you gave here.

    You do own your car outright. However, you have to pay a fee to use your car on the roads owned by the government, and you need their permission to do so. The fee is the registration and title (and any other fees that your state and/or munincipality choose to charge you). Don't want to pay the fees or get a license? Fine - you can buy and own a car, but you can only drive it on the private dirt track you own in back of your house - take it on the street and your ass goes in a sling.

    As for the land itself - you own the land, but the government, in theory (I won't go off on this tangent despite my temptation), provides the services (like roads, contract and deed enforcement, rights-of-way, etc.) that enables that deed to the land to have any value. As a result, you may be charged taxes and/or fees on that land - theoretically that pays for the government to protect your claim to the land.

    A book is property with even fewer restrictions - you are not allowed to copy it (outside of portions for "fair use"), but you otherwise own it. And you can dispose of it as you please.

    Borland used to have a license they called the "just like a book" license - it said, simply, that the software was like a book in that you could lend it, use it, or do what you wished, but only one person at a time could actually use it. Just like a book. It was less than a page, easy to read and understand, and is no longer used because (presumably) with increased size the Borland lawyers became more paranoid.

    Ironic, then, that the book makers want to be more like software makers.

    - -Josh Turiel
  • I think Jeff & Co. are doing the customer a great service. I was under the impression, years ago, when I created an account on Amazon that they could find used or new books. They did find some used books, particularly because new was unavailable, due in major to out-of-printness.

    Now they hit these zShops for books as well. Great. What am I supposed to do otherwise?

    +++ Out Of Cheese Error +++

  • there is already a company that lets you rent DVDs, for $19 a month you get unlimited rentals, you can have 4 rentals out at a time, and keep em as long as you want, when you're done you just send them back in the prepaid shipping package they give you... if you decide not to return all 4, you can't rent anymore until you do... []
  • The only reason why software licenses are even considered to perhaps have any legal standing is because the software companies have convinced the legal system that the act of installing or running a computer program involves the "making of a copy" of that program, which is an exclusive right of the copyright holder. Hence, even if you buy and own a disc of computer software, the argument goes, you don't have the right to install it or use it without the permission of the copyright holder, and that consent is given in the form of the shrink-wrap license.

    Regardless of what you think about software licenses, there is no "making of a copy" when you read a book, so ordinary copyright law applies to the book, which gives the owner of the copy the full rights to resell the book without the consent or permission of the author, publisher, and/or copyright holder.

    Any such "licensing agreement" on books would be legally unenforcable. A "licensing agreement" is not an option generally available to copyright holders. Licensing agreements on software are an artifact of a judicial misunderstanding about the nature of computer software -- a legal error that needs to be corrected, not expanded into the rest of copyright law.

  • Sure, it'd be great if authors were paid for the service of writing a book, rather than for the book itself, but who will do the paying?

    Readers. It hasn't taken off yet, but people are working on it. Street Performer Protocol [] is one attempt to work out a way of doing it. Buskware [] is another. Popular mainstream author Stephen King attempted a variation on this a few months ago, but it failed (although there is quite a bit of debate [] over the reason it didn't work.)

    The point is, people are working on this problem and trying out ideas. It's still young. There are definately plans being drawn up for getting the bell onto the cat, and even a few abortive attempts. It'll get better with time.

  • They don't make a moral argument, they make an economic argument: if you sell used books, writers won't have an incentive to produce much anymore and you'll be able to sell fewer books in the long run.

    And that amounts to trying to make an end-run around fair-use doctrines through collusion among participants in the market. I actually consider that immoral.

  • Clancy writes: Samuel Johnson once wrote that no one but a fool writes for any reason except money, and I will not dispute the words of Dr. Johnson.

    It is quite evident that Clancy lives by his word: he appears to produces book to make money, not out of literary or artistic motives.

  • Many hardware companies discourage upgrading of their machines. I don't know if this is still the case, but Compaq, Packard Bell and a few others did't mark the jumpers on their socket 7 boards so that if you wanted to put in a faster CPU you had to play Jumper Keno until you were running at the right speed.

    To my knowledge (I could be wrong about this)no CPU upgrade maker has been able to make a work around since Apple moved the boot rom from the logic board to the CPU card in the G4.

  • If one had purchased a 400Mhz G4 at it's launch and now wants something faster, a 500Mhz G4 would be just that.

  • For the Author's League, the Publisher's Association, and to get together to restrict the used book market is probably illegal collusion in restraint of trade, an antitrust violation. Publishing an open letter on the subject makes proving this really easy, too.
  • I read the sff.publishing.* groups on SFFnet []'s news server [], where a lot of authorly and publisherly folks hang out. And many of them don't seem to have a problem with Amazon selling used books; after all, there are plenty of other websites that exist to sell used books--BiblioFind [] and Powell's, for instance, and there's also [] [], where ordinary citizens can sell used stuff, and of course let's not forget eBay [].

    The problem they have is with Amazon's marketing tactics. When someone searches for a new book, that they might otherwise buy, Amazon pops up a link to a used copy of the book as well. Which is a sort of encouragement to the person to buy the book used instead of new as they'd originally intended. i.e., Amazon seems like it's trying to talk people out of buying new books, and convince them to buy used books instead. This is what is driving the authors into a snit.

    And I have to admit, I can see their point. As I said, used bookstores and libraries exist. They're factored into the equation already--that a certain amount of people will buy new; others will buy used; others will read in the library and not buy at all. But Amazon seems like it is trying to skew the equation, thus depriving those writers of their bread and butter.



    IMPORTANT-READ CAREFULLY: This End-User License Agreement ("EULA") is a legal agreement between you (either an individual or a single entity) and the ("Author") of the written work which you acquired as the printed material identified above ("Book" or "Written work"). If the BOOK PRODUCT is not accompanied by a new computer system or computer system component, you may not loan out or resell this BOOK PRODUCT. The BOOK PRODUCT includes the paper, cover, printed text, and may include associated media such as pictures and apendices. Any references provided along with the BOOK PRODUCT that is associated with a separate end-user license agreement is licensed to you under the terms of that license agreement. By buying, reading, accessing or otherwise using the BOOK PRODUCT, you agree to be bound by the terms of this EULA. If you do not agree to the terms of this EULA, The AUTHOR and PUBLISHER are unwilling to license the BOOK PRODUCT to you. In such event, you may not use or resell the BOOK PRODUCT, and you should promptly contact Manufacturer for instructions on return of the unused product(s) for a refund...

  • the right to re-sell a used book has been enshrined in law almost as long as there has been copyright law.

    it doesn't matter if the book is 1 minute or 1000 years old.

    the prominence given to used listing is, and should be, entirely up to the vendor of said used book.

    this is not an open source principle, it is a property rights issue.

    tell you what, next time you go to sell your house, let's list yours at the bottom of the page, because the builders of new houses have a right to make money, while you are just abusing the rights of the guy who built your house by selling it again after he sold it to you.

  • You misread that *totally*!!!

    The intention of that clause is to prevent the sale of "strips". A strip is a book which has been defaced by a bookseller because it was unsold, and its cover returned to the publisher for credit. They strip off the covers to reduce shipping, and on the supposition that a book that couldn't be sold is probably not worth getting back, and moreover, would be shopworn.

    So; TOTALLY legal to sell a used book. Just not legal to sell a used book that has been defaced or re-bound.

  • helps them sell faster. Any author knows full well that he or she is giving their customer more value for their money by signing their book. Its no secret that an authors signature adds a great deal to the value of the book once it is resold. At the booksigning itself, however, the consumer pays the same amount they would if it had not been signed. A used book, if signed, is worth significantly more than an unsigned copy of the same book, and authors and publishers know this.

    Yes, used book sales cut into new book sales. However, people have been selling their books for hundreds of years, and thats not going to change. Instead of persuading booksellers to stop selling used books(which will never work), they should do more things like booksignings that add value to the new book.

    I watch the sea.
    I saw it on TV.

  • It may have been a moral argument, but it's a bad one. The guild's position summarizes to "make your customers pay more and give the difference to us". I fail to see how that incorporates good will and community spirit in any way.

    I could write a letter to Amazon, requesting that they give me 0.1% of all their sales and making the "moral" argument that I need the money to take care of homeless puppies. Their correct response would be to tell me to go away. The guild has no more right to profit from Amazon's sales than I do, so "go away" is also the correct response to them.

  • by gaijin99 ( 143693 ) on Thursday December 28, 2000 @10:05AM (#1413509) Journal
    Actually their "compromise" was that amazon only sell out of print books used. Moreover even the moderate "compromise" that the user be forced to scroll down is a very bad idea.

    They cannot be allowed to dictate terms to Amazon. I don't like Amazon and I won't buy from Amazon, but the Author's Guild is trying to do something very wrong here. The books are sold and then they are the property of the people who own them. This is the same thing Matel ran into with the people selling modified Barbies. Once you sell someone something it belongs to them. If Amazon wants to make it easier for people to buy and sell used books I say "Yay Amazon". If Amazon caves in to the Author's Guild on this what will they demand next? A kickback for every used book sold? This would set a bad prescident and encourage furthur dictates from the content providers.

  • This sorta reminds me of the Heinlien story "Lif-line", where a scientist invents a machine that reports a person's time of death down to the second and the life insurance companies sue him. The judge in that story says something to the effect of "Just because you have been able to make money off of people in the past does not mean the legal system should gaurantee you ability to make it in the future". It's a shame you only see that kind of clear thinking in fiction from the 1930s.

    Here's the full quote, written in 1939 and increasingly applicable today:

    "There has grown up in the minds of certain groups in this country the notion that because a man or corporation has made a profit out of the public for a number of years, the government and courts are charged with the duty of guaranteeing such profit in the future, even in the face of changing circumstances and contrary to public interest. This strange doctrine is not supported by statute or common law. Neither individuals nor corporations have any right to come into court and ask that the clock of history be stopped, or turned back"
  • by Robotech_Master ( 14247 ) on Thursday December 28, 2000 @09:10PM (#1413512) Homepage Journal
    I've been reading through this discussion with a bit of sadness, as it seems most of the comments are from people who can barely hide their contempt for someone who simply wants to earn a living. Folks seem to have the attitude that "we're entitled to do whatever the heck we want to, and screw anyone who dares object because they might be hurt by it. That's their problem. I want what I want, and I deserve it because I want to have it."

    Sure, you can cloak it in the banner of "freedom of information" all you want. But what's really behind all this high-mindedness? I have to tell you, I see a lot of greed mixed in with those principles. People want free stuff. That's all there is to it. (And I have to confess, I'm just as guilty of that at times as anyone else.)

    Believe it or not, there are times when it is good to pay for something new. I hang out with authors in discussion areas online; I sit in on their discussions about publishers and contract terms; I think I know at least a little bit about their situation. And frankly, if they're not one of the really big names, like Stephen King, odds are they're just barely scraping by. Even some of the more recognizeable names in SF have to live off spouses' incomes or even take part- or full-time jobs in worst cases, just to survive.

    The authors are realistic; they know that a certain portion of people will read without buying new. It's the portion of people who normally don't that they count on to earn their living. Are they so wrong to object to a company trying to lure those new-buyers away to buy used instead?

    In the worst case, if more and more people start buying used, authors won't have time to write as much (or any), just from having to spend time working to stay alive. And that'll be a shame.

    As Heinlein so aptly put it, There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch. Even if you didn't pay for it, someone else did--and that someone else might not be able to afford the loss. Buying used books is essentially freeloading on an author's creativity.

    But fine. It's still perfectly legal to buy and sell used. In fact, the Author's Guild folks probably wouldn't dream of trying to outlaw it. So go right ahead, buy used, save a bundle. But have you ever thought of sending fifty cents or a buck or so per used book you buy to the author of those books? As a form of thankyou for writing, and payment for the enjoyment you received out of it, and insurance that they'll be able to keep writing the stuff you enjoy? Not only will it still be cheaper than buying the book new, but you'll likely be giving them more money than they would have gotten from the sale of it if it were new.

  • Some people seem to be missing the forest for the trees. Amazon doesn't sell used books. The feature known as Marketplace allows Joe Q Public to sell at a discount used copies of the same material Amazon is selling New. For this placement Amazon will recieve 15% of the sale price when the item sells. Amazon doesn't inventory the merchandise. The seller is responsible for shipping etc. They have a simular feature called zShops which allowed crosslinking to Amazon's inventory so someone who looked a t a book would also see on a rotating basis links to three different offerings from independent sellers. I have been using both services and although the newer marketplace fees are higher they have generated good results. I have sold some books probably fewer than 20 or so. Most of what I sell are CD's (They have all been reduced to 0's and 1's so what do I need the hard copy for anymore? They have paid for my school this past year. Used book stores exist all over. On the web you have ebay and which both allow the selling of used product.
  • by StandardDeviant ( 122674 ) on Thursday December 28, 2000 @10:09AM (#1413547) Homepage Journal

    Remember a few (4?5?) years back when Garth Brooks was raising a big stink about how used CDs were hurting musicians? It seems like every field of creativity has had these issues WRT reselling of used content at some point now. (I bet somebody pissed and moaned about used records decades ago.)

    Just goes to show there really isn't anything new under the sun...

    As far as the authors/musicians/whoever go my sympathy is limited. If their content was good enough to keep it wouldn't get resold.

  • by G Neric ( 176742 ) on Thursday December 28, 2000 @10:19AM (#1413554)
    Why should an author only be paid once when two people gain the ideas or learn the stories?

    presumably, the prices that the author and publisher have been willing to sell books for, and the prices that readers have been willing to pay reflect on average exactly the uses to which the books will be put. The $6.95 I pay for a paperback includes the discounted resale potential, gift to a friend, etc.

    If it's not easy to make a living from writing, then fewer people will write which will drive up the value to the remaining writers. The system is working just fine.

  • by coats ( 1068 ) on Thursday December 28, 2000 @10:20AM (#1413556) Homepage
    IANAL, but:

    In the case of Bobbs-Merrill Co. v. Straus, 210 U.S. 339 (1908) [sorry, the web-links I know are fee-for-service: WestDoc or Lexis-Nexis], the Supreme Court held that the exclusive right to sell copyrighted works only applied to the first sale of a copyrighted work. 210 U.S. 339, 349-350.

    While the copyright owner retained the underlying copyright to the expression fixed in the work, the copyright owner gave up his ability to control the fate of the work once it had been sold.
    More recently, on March 9, 1998, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the first sale doctrine applies to copyrighted goods produced in the United States and sold in foreign markets. In the case of Quality King Distributors, Inc. v. L'anza Research International, Inc., 1998 WL 96265 (U.S. Cal.) [], the court held that the first sale doctrine prevents copyright owners from controlling the importation of copyrighted goods sold outside the United States. The court found that section 602(a) of the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. 602(a), gives copyright owners the right to control the importation of copies into the United States, is an extension of the copyright owner's exclusive right to distribute copies under section 106 and not an additional right of the copyright owner.

    So the Authors Guild action is an attempt to do an end-run around the Supreme Court. As far as the "earn no payment for the authors and publishers of the book" goes, that is exactly the point -- the SC says that they have already earned their payment and are not due more!

    This is an unconscionable power play and should be slapped down as such. Go, Jeff Bezos!

  • by TwizzlerMan ( 121662 ) on Thursday December 28, 2000 @10:21AM (#1413558) Homepage
    So, does that mean when my wife reads a book to my children at night, we should have to pay a fee to the author/publishers for each child hearing it since more than one person will now have knowledge of that content?
  • by coats ( 1068 ) on Thursday December 28, 2000 @10:27AM (#1413600) Homepage
    Also have a look at STRAUS v. AMERICAN PUBLISHER'S ASS'N, 231 U.S. 222 (1913) [] for more Supreme Court opinion declaring that what the Authors Guild wants is illegal

  • by Sloppy ( 14984 ) on Thursday December 28, 2000 @10:28AM (#1413603) Homepage Journal

    Like other forms of IP (where there is large development cost and little or no material cost), it looks like the best solution is for creators to be paid for doing the work, instead of being paid for a product.

  • by Chris Johnson ( 580 ) on Thursday December 28, 2000 @10:28AM (#1413605) Homepage Journal
    How about a counter-example? Why should an author keep getting paid when people continue to transfer ideas the author had years ago? Pretty much any serious working author _continues_ to have new ideas. Why should authors be paid on a basis of intellectual property when they can be paid on the basis of being skilled idea-producers: paid not on a basis of (futilely) controlling 'property' of ideas, but on the basis of being the preferred source of _new_ idea-having work?

    If I wanted to be told a _new_ scary story, one I hadn't heard before, whom would I rather pay- you, or Stephen King? Stephen King has a much better reputation for being able to tell such a story, and he also continues to make up new stories, he does not ride on his back catalog. That's the only way to be successful as an author- nobody said it was supposed to be a free ride.

    It is absurd to expect to be paid as an idea-creator in the sense of manufacturing widgets or physical objects. If you are an author you are selling your capacity to _produce_ such ideas, not the ideas themselves (there's a million of them).

    If you doubt that, write a brilliant book and try to get a publication deal while saying, "I don't think I'm going to write any more books. Isn't this one enough?"

  • by rebill ( 87977 ) on Thursday December 28, 2000 @11:08AM (#1413619) Journal

    Cornell has the legal text for the Fair Use Doctrine on-line here [].

    Of note is this text:

    Notwithstanding the provisions of section 106(3), the owner of a particular copy or phonorecord lawfully made under this title, or any person authorized by such owner, is entitled, without the authority of the copyright owner, to sell or otherwise dispose of the possession of that copy or phonorecord.

    In other words, the Author's Guild does not have a leg to stand on, until the day someone sells a book that they did not own. If they try to enforce this, they could be eating a Sherman Anti-Trust Act lawsuit.

FORTRAN is the language of Powerful Computers. -- Steven Feiner