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Thursday, September 07, 2006


Great Article from the Valley Advocate

Would You Work for Free?
Then don't rip off the work of others.

by Alan Bisbort - September 7, 2006
The World This Week
I am no Metallica fan, but now I understand the band's frustration over the free downloading of their music. I just published a book (shameless plug: When You Read This They Will Have Killed Me: The Life and Redemption of Caryl Chessman, Whose Execution Shook America) . "Used" copies of the book are available on Amazon but haven't yet made it into stores. I have sent out copies to reviewers, friends and those who helped make the book a reality, as has the publisher, Carroll and Graf. Between us, these mailings weren't enough to make a dent in the used book market even if every recipient walked straight to the nearest dealer and sold it. However, when I went on Abebooks, a reliable used book site, and Amazon, I was shocked to see 50 "used" copies of my book for sale, most for half the list price and all by venues who won't, it's safe to assume, share the income with me, the person who worked for three years to write this book.

In other words, this is thievery.

I'm not tossing a pity party here; I'm too angry for that. I also know I'm not the only one to whom this has happened. Many authors wonder how so many copies of their books can be available "used" when there are no "new" ones available in retail stores. One "used" bookshop is even charging $10 more than list price for the book.

I'm not na#237ve about the used book trade; I myself sold used books at flea markets out of the back of my pickup truck for five years. I realize it's the nature of the publishing world for review or advance copies to end up at used book stores, but how in such large numbers?

My first thought is, it's Mob-connected. That is, someone is routinely putting aside pallets of books in warehouses to be sifted onto the used book market. What a bonanza! Royalty-free work! Just like pirated Chinese DVDs! To me, the people doing this are bloodsuckers and bottom feeders, not unlike those "ticket finders" who are little more than scalpers in fancy suites. My second thought: we now have a black market economy, from Wall Street corruption to knockoffs of designer handbags sold on the sidewalk.

Let me put it this way: if you have a friend in a band, would you burn their CD from someone else's copy or would you buy it from the friend? Would you take their blood-and tear-stained labors and give them nothing but your hollow applause in return? If you would, you are a bloodsucker. Taking my book and selling it for list price or higher and keeping the money as your own is the same principle as me walking into the restaurant where you work, heading to the kitchen, making my food and carrying it out to my table. No tip for you!

Where did this something-for-nothing mentality arise? Maybe it's just the residual effect of the corporate world's "trickle-down" Scroogism. Worker productivity has risen 17 percent in the past five years while wages declined 2 percent. No wonder everyone wants something for free.

But I ask you: Would you work for free?

Didn't think so. Then don't take my work and the work of others for free. Pay the piper, support the things that interest you. If you don't, they won't survive.

So theoretically, the used books are coming from folks who already paid for the new book (royalties from which went to the author) and is now selling it in the great big yardsale that is the internet.

If it's not OK to do that, then I guess cops will have to arrest every yard saler who offers books, or CDs that they don't want anymore.

Eventually, you won't get to sell anything used. Don't have an infant anymore? Don't you dare sell that onesie to the local consigment shop. Of course, there won't be any consignment shops because they'd be illegal. What about that coffee table you bought just out of college at Ikea? Don't sell it to your neighbor's kid. Ikea has lots of coffee tables he can by at retail.

What about your house? Bunches of folks worked hard to build that house. And now you're going to reap all the benefits of the booming housing market and give nothing back to the builders, architects, stonemasons, and painters who worked on it.

Where does it end?

BTW, I agree that pirating music, knocking off designer handbags and the like IS stealing. Selling my used copy of "War and Peace?" Just helping some other poor sap knock one off his to do list.
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