Saturday, April 25, 2009

If Sotheby's Can Buy Secondhand So Can You

I'm a reader. I read everyday. I have a lot of books in the house. Some are mine, many belong to the local library. I rarely feel the need to own a book any more. When I do buy a book, it's usually from the independent seller section of Amazon. Sometimes they are new, but most often, gently used. Mostly what I buy would be garden books, cookbooks, or some other technical tome that I would need to keep referring to. My daughter has many many books, many from garage sales, gifts and library sales. Why do these things need to be new? Why create more books when there are people who don't want the one you are looking for? Why not support the little guy?

I also occasionally sell books on Amazon. Usually my own books that I don't want/need anymore or some that I pick up at the library for $1. I'm not getting rich off it, but I am paying for my daughter's pre-school & dance tuition this way!

Anyway, today, I actually shipped a book that I sold to Sotheby's Art Department!!! Seriously! This was not a rare or expensive book. It's currently in stock at Amazon and can be bought for under $20. My copy was in excellent like new condition and sold for $6. I was so tickled that Sotheby's was saving money this way I needed to share it. If it's good enough for them, it ought to be good enough for you!


Meredith said...

How funny!

I guess if anyone understands depreciation of new products, it's the people who auction estates. Once you have watched the secondhand market for a while, there is very little to justify buying new.

I have a similar book philosophy as you do--motivated more by lack of bookshelves than anything else. I may start offering some of my favorites through an Etsy sale on my blog. I probably have a more concentrated pool of interest there than Amazon at large.

Prairie Rose said...

Well, one reason they "need" to be new (they don't all but it's a good reason to permit yourself to buy new at times, as well) is to keep publishers in business... many of them are "the little guy" too, after all. Not to mention ensuring the authors make enough money to keep them in the business of writing more books.

The publishing industry is taking a major hit in the current economy -- if we don't keep it alive, we risk having fewer and fewer new books written. The next amazing classic may never be written or published...

Not that I don't buy used too -- just that I don't feel like I'm doing something "wrong" if I buy new. :)

Christine said...

Good point prairie! I didn't want you to think I was implying you were doing anything wrong. My post was directed more to the person who believes there is a stigma attached to buying used. For example, a wildly popular gardening book, "Square Foot Gardening" has been printed and reprinted many times. If you want one it would be silly to "need" a new one.

In this economy it's an interesting balance between doing what's best for your bottom line and what's best to support others. I try as much as possible to do both. We are on a budget, and for me, a $6 in the price of a book equated to a gallon of organic milk for my girl.

Although,like I said, I rarely buy books anymore anyway, preferring to get them from my local library, who has purchased them new!

Stephanie Griffith said...

I love secondhand stuff! My mom and I got my sister, who is a high end art dealer, a second hand bracelet for her birthday a couple of years ago. Her friend, who curates at the Getty, saw her wearing it and got all excited because apparently it's some rare, antique Persian piece. He had it sent out to a language expert to have the script translated. You aren't going to find something like that at a mall!

Christine said...

Stella-Apparently you and your mom have great taste in picking out secondhand stuff as well!

Unknown said...

I feel guiltiest of all. I write books for a living now, and yet, I also almost always buy second hand. In the future, the more prevalent e-readers become, this is going to be less of an issue for writers. But right now, buying second-hand books is having a pretty big impact on the royalties that authors are receiving from their books.

My compromise is that if it's a book I love and want to keep on my shelf, I'll buy it new.

Christine said...

An author buying a secondhand book!!

I imagine the secondhand market IS hurting authors, especially if even if people who have money (Sotherby's) are buying secondhand. (And yet, I have another post urging you to buy US tomatoes so perhaps I'm a hypocrite-or inconsistent anyway.)

At this point though, as I said, I only buy a book if it's one I'm likely to need in the future. (Yours excluded of course ;-)

I really didn't want this post to sound like "Don't support authors!", rather, "It's really ok to buy secondhand." In general there is a stigma to buying used (not just books) I thought the Sotheby's example was a really funny one. Perhaps it would have been better if I had found someone famous who regularly frequents garage sales!

Unknown said...

Chrissy, don't worry, I know you support writers! It's just a tricky line to walk. For environmental reasons, it's not great to keep pumping out these little books in endless supply--recycling them is better.

What really needs to happen is that we need to move towards more digital content so that the right people get paid and we're not filling up landfills!

Christine said...


The environmental angle is yet another part of the equation!!

If I had the money and the inclination to keep feeding my book habit without going to the library I would buy one of those Amazon Kindles in a heartbeat!

Electronic media will also make the product more affordable I bet because there is very little production cost involved.