hardback mountain

A few years ago, INTERN read an essay (a rather irate essay, if INTERN recalls correctly) by an author who argued that nobody who doesn't buy new, hardback literary fiction at its full price should be allowed to write literary fiction (or at least, try to get it published). This author set the minimum new hardback purchase quota at something like twelve books per annum. Her reasoning was that authors and publishers of literary fiction rely on hardcover sales to make the whole kerfuffle worth kerfuffling, and that one is simply hypocritical (and a big meanie!) if one wants to see one's name in big letters on a hardcover book but, er, declines to buy them.

INTERN still thinks about this essay from time to time, especially when she's in a bookstore ogling and then regretfully putting down someone's luscious new hardcover. Confession: INTERN has not bought a new, fullprice hardcover since...hmmm....definitely not in the past few years....or the few years before that....well, basically since she was 12 and had a $50 bookstore gift card from Grandma to play with. In fact, even allowing herself to pick up and hold one of those beautiful hardcovers at a bookstore feels like driving through a fancy neighborhood in a beat-up car: it's obvious to everyone that she of the cracked windshield and rusty doors is not really in the market for the mansion with the pineapple-shaped swimming pool.

INTERN supposes that this is where she should enter the fraught discussion of e-books versus print. But what interests INTERN more about this situation is the way that guilt has somehow become a significant feature of INTERN's experience of books, writing, and publishing. INTERN can't stroll into (or rather, out of) a bookstore without feeling guilty, stopped submitting to literary journals she doesn't subscribe to after reading an editorial diatribe against said practice in a literary magazine at the library, and has a very real sense that she's personally contributing to the much-trumpeted Demise of Publishing.

Isn't that weird? People who don't eat at fancy restaurants don't feel like they're responsible for the Demise of Fine Cooking. People who shop for used clothes don't feel like they're responsible for the Demise of Fashion Design. But somehow, not buying those twelve new hardcovers per annum feels tantamount to INTERN personally allowing the poor innocent baby goat of Publishing starve to death.

Is this some weird former-Catholic guilt trip, or do other people feel guilty about books? Is it readers' responsibility to take care of the publishing industry, or should the market just be allowed to do its thang? (INTERN knows precisely zero about economics, but has heard that in some instances, the market is prone to the doing of thangs.) Is it OK to just write and not worry about how many books you've bought, or do writers have a financial responsibility towards other writers?

Comments

  1. I doubt writers would appreciate other writers going into debt just to pick up one copy of their book. I think everyone's trying to recover on their own as best they can and authors are just another piece tied up in this recession too.

    I'll be honest, the last time I bought a book for me to read for fun predates entering college. Textbooks drain my sad wallet dry but at least those authors are happy even if I'm not. Thank all for relatives who indulge holidays as an excuse for me to visit a B&N.

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  2. I think writers want to, and should, read other writers' books, that doesn't mean we all have to buy 12 hardcovers per annum. Every little bit helps. Now, if you're published and have plenty of money to spend, sure, buy all the hardcovers you can. But the important thing is buying and reading other books and spreading the word. No reason to feel guilty if you read it at the library, so long as you told others about. At least, that's my opinion. *shrug*

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  3. Yep, it's 100% a weird former Catholic guilt trip.

    From an economic standpoint - luscious hardcovers are seldom bought by authors unless they made their money in commercial fiction.

    Books are purchased by READERS - writers read at the LIBRARY because there is no way a writer could afford to buy all they need to read to become stellar writers - unless they work in publishing where there's tons to read for free while they work. :)

    Same goes for literary mags, since they seldom pay authors and have a high cover price because it's not supplemented by advertisers.

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  4. Are you kidding me? No, readers don't have a responsibility to do anything except buy the books they want in the format they want. Anymore than publishers have responsibility to put out books in a particular format.

    I'd love it if book X came out on day one in mass market PB but I'd love it if it was delivered to my house by the author as well, and there's no reason to expect that to happen...

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  5. I honestly don't think that writers have any financial responsibility toward other writers or even to the survival/collapse of the whole publishing industry.

    This is a pretty capitalistic economic model here in publishing. And that kind of model simply can't survive on guilt and charity. If enough people aren't buying hardcovers/paperbacks/ebooks/whatever because they WANT TO, i.e. generating demand, then the whole thing doesn't float.

    When I got into a financial state where I could buy the occasional hardcover, I jumped on it b/c A) they're pretty, and B) they're the way I can get my absolute favorite author's book *immediately*. That's what hardcover is all about. But I still don't buy more than 6/year, so I don't make the cut for the hardcover guilt trip.

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  6. I feel bad when my favorite authors come out with shiny new hardcovers which I can't afford to pick up until they come out in paperback, by which time I've picked up new authors first time paperbacks.

    A book I'm dying to read came out for $26. I'm debating buying an ebook, at the $10 price point so I can support the author, read the book I want to, and not damage my unemployed wallet too severely.

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  7. I know this feeling--I feel like such a hypocrite buying used books. But then there's also the fact that I don't like hardcovers; they're not as cozy and well-worn as the paperback. But yeah, I feel like that attitude isn't helping the poor baby goat of Publishing. It's like when I eat veal and feel like I've just killed someone's child...

    But honestly, sometimes we make sacrifices, right? I buy hardcovers of books I can't wait a few months to get in paperback, or which are such a novelty (think Harry Potter) that they look prettier that way on the shelf. But not having $300 extra spending money to throw at books every year--that shouldn't be a big deal.

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  8. Hmmmm.... interesting question. It is only since I've become aware of the publishing industry (i.e. tried to get published) that I've had any conscience at all about borrowing books from friends (instead of buying them), buying secondhand books (instead of paying the author), etc, etc, etc...

    Gut instinct is this: If the financial resources are there, personally I think we should utilise them to support authors we know and love. But I wouldn't have found out about some of those if I hadn't bought secondhand / borrowed / sort-of-stolen books...so they would't have made ANY money from me.

    And what's wrong with paperback, anyway?

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  9. I suppose that is akin to chefs being the ones responsible to support other chefs. That being the case, when are they in the kitchen? I think the point ought to be the thought, practice and learning that go into the writing, rather than how much was paid for the paper stimulus for mental education, preparedness and general comparative pondering.

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  10. My theory? Though I'm an amateur author myself? I still read as .... well, a reader. I don't care about the publishing industry as a whole. I want to see the authors I enjoy do well, and will make a point to buy the books at the big chains of the authors I really enjoy and want to support. The authors that are meh, but that I still want to read, I will snag at the local used book store, because my wallet will not support the prices of the Meh authors.

    Ultimately, it's a matter of cost vs enjoyment. Those that really make me a rabid fangirl will have my sales dollars for their metrics. Those that I just like but don't love, I'll snag from the secondhand market.

    Does it add up to 12 a year? Not even close. There's about 3 that I can think of off the top of my head that a new release will make me scurry to the local B&N. Should I, or do I, feel guilty for that? Heck no!

    The rest should just write books that leave me as clamoring for their stuff as the ones that have me heading to the bookstore the day of release!

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  11. Confession: I get the vast majority of my books from the library, thrift stores, or bargain bins. I haven't bought a full-price book in... umm... well. I was given a couple of shiny new books for my birthday two and a half months ago - do those count?

    I would feel bad about this, but let's face it: I can't afford to buy piles of new books, let alone piles of new hardcover books. I also don't think that I'm showing a lack of support - if I read a book that I like, I'll recommend it to friends and family. If I read a book that I love, I'll make a note to buy a copy at some point.

    When I am a rich and famous author (hah), I'll make sure to buy lots of new books. Right now... well, let's just say that I see no reason to fault you for not meeting a hardcover quota.

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  12. There's many ways to contribute to the publishing industry at large. Sometimes I buy hardcovers, sometimes trade paperbacks sometimes standard paperbacks. I try not to buy the 5 for $20 deals though because here (in Australia), they're usually returns and the authors don't make any money. But even still, if I was not working and had very little entertainment funds and my bookshelf needed stocking, then I would buy them because you may not be keeping an author employed but you're still contributing to the publishing industry at large and keeping a bookstore open and some publishing staff employed. We're also lucky here that authors receive payments when books are hired at the library so even library loan books will contribute to the industry. How can there be such a difinitive line, I don't believe there is.

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  13. I don't know, I feel guilty a lot too since almost everything I read comes from the library. But what else am I supposed to do? We writers are poor...

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  14. I don't feel guilty not buying books. But I do use The Demise of Publishing as part of my justification for buying a book.

    I'm not being a compulsive consumer, I'm helping a cause. All the better if I buy books from an indie book store by a person of color. Then I'm not blowing my grocery money on an unneccesary purchase; I'm fighting the man. I'm practically a revolutionary with my book buying.

    That's what I have to tell myself to swipe my credit card for shiny hard-covers, guilt free.

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  15. I think it was Janet Reid who said that THE BARE MINIMUM PROFESSIONAL STANDARD is to read all the new releases in your genre and it was Michael Moorcock who said if you want to write fantasy, don't read it because all the inbreeding is killing the genre. Those sound like completely opposite viewpoints on the exact same issue. Don't feel bad- you are probably just responding to marketing messages which rely on guilt and scariness to force consumers to behave. Who wrote that article anyway? Sounds kind of self serving that you have to buy these freaks' books.

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  16. You, dear lady, appear to have fallen afoul of the Catholic-school-cum-cranky-author guilt machine. (I'm assuming you went to Catholic school, with the attendant plaid skirts and blouses and stuff, because that's what works for me. Don't judge.)

    You're a discerning reader. If you read some wondrous literary fiction (as mine, when it's published in the distant future, will be) you're more'n likely to pass it on to folk--if not in real life, then via your oh-so-popular blog. So even if you don't pay full price, you're still probably contributing more to the author's sales than the stoolie whose Wall Street job affords him (or her [I'm not gender-biased]) the cash to blow on lovely hardback books for his (or her) coffee table.

    Live guilt free, darlin'. Read what you want in the format you want, then pass it on however you want, as you are wont to do.

    (That said, I'm still considering subscribing to Glimmer Train. Mainly for karma reasons.)

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  17. I think it's fortunate for the writing of the hardback book editorial that he/she has the money to buy that many full price books. Unfortunately, there are many authors and potential authors like you who don't have the money. It's this kind of snobbery that irritates me.

    The question is: who are you writing for? If only other writers, then you have a limited market. Perhaps you should think that you're writing for people who love to read. Whatever the genre, whatever the format, whatever the price.

    Who needs more obstacles to writing than they already have?

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  18. Oooh, tough one. I've read about agents who feel this way as well. I just bought a brand new hard cover book by a debut YA novelist. Why? Because it's just a small something I can do to support debut authors. It's gotta be tough getting your first book out there, fretting over whether it will sell or not. Also- it's nice to be able to review books that just came out either on my blog or on amazon or goodreads. Reviews are important now a days.

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  19. I definitely get that guilt feeling. And ONLY since I started seriously writing. The worst is the used-book guilt. I just recently bought a used book from a charity shop *gasphorror* and felt horribly guilty about it, despite the fact that it was totally an impulse buy, and an old enough book that finding it actually still in print was likely near zero. Still...I feel a little guilty.

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  20. I feel the responsibility too. There are times when I buy the used version of a hardcover on Amazon or Powell's and pay more for the shipping than the actual book. It feels like a black mark against me in the karma of publishing. I do subscribe to 2-3 literary journals, but I change my subscription to something new every year. This helps assuage some of the guilt - I'm spreading around my support. It is the best I can do right now.

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  21. Wow, you nailed it. I feel the same way walking into bookstores. If I don't buy something-- and 99% of the time, I don't buy something-- I feel like I'm letting down everybody from the author, to high school English teachers and coffe shop owners everywhere.

    Books just have a different aura. Nobody puts their hand on a McMansion when they swear to tell the truth.

    But whenever I start feeling guilty about the Demise of Publishing, I just imagine how excited Johannes Gutenberg would be to see how many ways we can share information today. If he could, he would have skipped the printing press and gone straight to Google.

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  22. I also consider this issue every now and then, but I comfort myself with a simple thought: if I bought new hardcovers all the time, how would I buy whiskey? In the big picture of things, isn't the whiskey industry more integral to the publishing industry than the publishing industry is integral to the publishing industry?

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  23. How many ways do writers preserve their hardwon niches and at the expense of others successes? Professional jealousy takes many forms. No way proactive competence and ongoing skills development has anything to do with maintaining a marketplace presence.

    I haven't bought casecover unless required and only reference, nor new trade paperback unless unavoidable. Massmarket paperback new not much in fourteen years. My discretionary spending budget is red.

    It's not what you've bought, it's what you've read.

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  24. I think we need to share responsibility: if we as book loves can't stand the thought of there being no printed books anymore and no independent bookstores, then we need to buy books (at independent bookstores).

    At the same time, the industry needs to figure out how to make those printed books more cost effective.

    Otherwise, we all just need to accept that printed books are going to become rare, pieces of art and regular reading will be done on e-readers (my personal theory)

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  25. Hmmm... It makes sense for writers to support writers. Who else understands the plight we all go through but our fellow writers, no?

    But what if you are a struggling, and hungry writer? Should you be blamed for the demise of publishing when you can't eat?

    I guess, authors should do what they can to support their fellow comrades-in-arms. If they can afford to buy the first edition hardbound copy, by all means do so. If you buy e-books over paper books, so be it, it still supports the author, albeit a lesser value returns to the author that way.

    But, what I would be adamantly opposed to is stealing or downloading the pirated copies as others may be apt to do.

    As for the market, the market responds to demand. Sellers in the market try to create demand by dangling pretty things in the consumer's faces. But if no one is buying, the product doesn't move forward.

    In the publishing business, people are buying the e-books, thus the market grows and the industry changes, along with its rules.

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  26. When you have the means, you should totally support your fellow authors, just as artists would love to financially support their artist friends. HOWEVER... we po'. There is plenty of money in the world, through grants, prizes, donations, etc etc for authors, artists, and creative types in lieu of the actual sales our economic demographic might represent.

    The way we can help is by reading and spreading the good news. The more people that know and want it, the more opportunities for the artist.

    So don't feel too guilty - you'll make it up when you can!

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  27. I definitely feel a responsibility to support the authors I think are great. Also, I would like a pineapple-shaped swimming pool.

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  28. I buy hardcover when I cannot WAIT to get my hands on the author's next book.

    But until I know I love the author's work to that degree, I won't pay hardcover prices. I'm a customer, not a charity.

    I think of second-hand books and library reads as "try-before-you-buy" opportunities through which I can discover new, yummy authors to stalk. I think of paperbacks as "I'm-nearly-wooed" purchases that support newer authors who still need to grow in their craft before I become passionate about their work.

    The quality of the author's writing is the only thing that should convince you to pay more money to get it. Guilt should not; you are not obligated to help anyone make a living.

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  29. I don't buy hardcovers often, but I will for some authors. I guess I don't feel guilty because I buy a lot of books. Normally. That kinda changed since I got to Japan. lol.

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  30. I, too, sometimes feel guilty about going into a bookstore and not at least purchasing a writing magazine. I tend to look at several books and even keep a list of ones that I would like to read when I have time. Current count: 24. And I don't have time right now to get involved in a book.

    Plus, as an aspiring writer, I feel guilty reading when I should be writing. So, this becomes the standard Catch-22 that writers sometimes get into.

    Good luck with the guilt. Maybe someday my reading list will start to fall, but I might end up going to the bookstore before that....

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  31. To propose that literary writers must buy 12 hardcover literary novels a year in order to have the "right" to try to publish seems so self-righteous to me. I get it, we need to support literary fiction. But I disagree with this.

    I very rarely will buy a hardback. Just last week I was hemming and hawing over the newest book by an up-and-coming author I like. I wanted to support the writer, but I wasn't so sure this new book was one I'd be as interested in. Plus I disliked the hardback price. I ended up not buying it.

    I don't like hardcovers in general and would be fine if the publishing world just stopped producing them. I am not well-versed in all the business reasons, but I have heard that books coming straight out in paperback tend to do better. If I had a choice, when I publish a book, I wouldn't mind if it skipped the hardcover stage. If *I* don't like buying hardback, then yeah, I wouldn't expect loads of other people to, either.

    I get most of my books from libraries anyway. Do I feel guilty for not "supporting" books more? Sometimes, yes. This publishing/writing world does feel full of guilt. But other times, I am happy to be supporting my library. I'd be happy if libraries ended up playing a bigger role in book purchasing decisions, and if I got lots of readers checking my book out of the library -- even at less money to me in the end -- I'd be happy.

    I also totally get the problem with lit mags receiving WAY more submissions than they have subscribers. It's an issue, but I also don't believe you should have to subscribe to submit. The magazines would suffer by losing out on a lot of great submissions that way. (Yes, they'd lose out on even more crap. But still. They need the good stuff.) I do buy sample copies and read issues either in print or online to make sure my stuff fits, but I have no guilt about submitting when I don't subscribe. I have had stories accepted by journals I don't subscribe to and I can tell you that they DID NOT care because they liked my writing. That was valuable to them, and was what they want and need to produce the kind of lit mag they envision.

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  32. There's a similar dynamic going in in the print SFF short story markets, which seem to all be in decline. It's widely suspected that the majority of people who buy those magazines are the ones who submit to those magazines--that is, they subscribe purely to see what sort of stories the magazine likes to publish, in hopes of later getting published there themselves. But there's almost no actual readership left. It's a weird situation.

    My feeling is that any market that has no readers left, only wannabe writers, is on its way out no matter what we do to try to prop it up.

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  33. Damn you, Intern! You've made me do some soul-searching on my lunch break, which I was not prepared for. It turns out that while I do not condone the illegal downloading of music, and would never swipe someone else's artwork and use it for my own nefarious purposes, I am a wee bit communistic about books. I think they should be read and enjoyed by as many people as possible, in whatever way necessary. I buy a couple dozen books a year, and share them with friends, family and the occasional stranger, but they are rarely shiny new hardcovers. All the clerks at Half Price Books know me by name. So, I guess when there finally exists a shiny new hardcover with my own name on it, and folks choose to by the softcover edition, or the dog-earred version at Half Price Books with the notes in the margin, I'm okay with that. As long as they read it, and share it.

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  34. I've only ever bought new hardbacks when I really can't wait for the paperback - and usually other people bought them for me.

    I don't actually like hardbacks. They're too big and heavy for reading in bed.

    I do buy new paperbacks, though, and in some genres novels go straight to paperback. I feel like I'm supporting Tanya Huff, Kim Harrison and Terry Pratchett. Other authors, not so much.

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  35. Oh! NO! Please do not feel guilty!
    Maybe this helps?
    I used to work in the music industry, and we all know how much it changed. Labels wanted to dig a hole and hide (or just die slowly) when the mp3 was born. Online downloads for free!? Online free videos, with no advertisement? Mp3 players? all digital??? NO VINYL? NO CASSETTE? NO CD? OMG!
    But as we can see, labels did not need to dig that grave after all. And singers and bands produce more music now than ever before in history. And there's new artists every day, for all tastes and preferences.
    The channel and of course the cost per song changed. And because it's cheaper, and it's faster, the audience (or in publishing case, the reader) not only has fastest access, it can also afford to buy more!
    Let's not be worried or filled with guilt, let's evolve and buy an e-reader/kindle/ipad whatev.
    One thing that I do feel guilty about, even when I'm oh! so happy with my kindle, it's bookstores. It makes me feel bad, but I think is part of the evolution thing.
    Aoh! and sorry for blogging in your blog! I didn't mean to... now I'm done. bye.

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  36. oh! Do not feel guilty! Please...
    Maybe this helps?
    I used to work in the music industry, and you know how much it changed. Labels wanted to dig a hole and hide when the mp3 was born. Online downloads for free!? Online free videos, with no advertisement? Mp3 players? all digital??? NO VINYL? NO CASSETTE? NO CD? OMG!
    But as we can see, labels did not need to dig that grave after all. And singers and bands produce more music now than ever before in history. And there's new artists every day, for all tastes and preferences.
    The channel and of course the cost per song changed. And because it's cheaper, and it's faster, the audience (or in publishing case, the reader) not only has fastest access, it can also afford to buy more!
    Let's not be worried or filled with guilt, let's evolve and buy an e-reader/kindle/ipad whatev.
    Sorry I blogged in your blog!

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  37. I'm with you, intern. If you and I don't buy them, nobody else will.

    And I'm actually an economist.

    Just in the past few years I've been realizing how important it is to vote with your dollars about EVERYTHING, not just books. I shop locally for my kids' clothes now, although it's really so much easier to buy them online from Old Navy. I am careful to use my local hardware store instead of Home Depot.

    I live in a small, pretty town. And if I want it to stay that way, I have to support it. Publishing is another small, pretty town that I want to keep alive.

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  38. As an ex-library marketing director for a publisher, I can tell you that library sales are SALES!! The more times a book is checked out, or the longer the wait list is, the more copies a library and/or library system needs to buy. Folks, do NOT feel guilty for getting books out of the library! That is what it is there for; and libraries support free author events, free summer reading programs for kids, and many librarians review books and serve on award committees, all things that support books and writers.

    NO GUILT.

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  39. I'm what I like to call a paperback purist. I don't have the funds to get everything in hardcover and I'm anal enough to want everything to match (as much as possible) on my bookshelves.

    In fact, the only hardcovers I own are the Harry Potter books, and those are only because I couldn't wait a year for the paperbacks, or to get the book from the library. And even those were bought at warehouse prices (thank you Costco!).

    Also, I live for the thrill of finding discounted books. I clip coupons for Borders (33%-40% off!), I scour the used bookstores (Powell's is my home away from home), and I love finding books at Goodwill ($2 a book!!!). It's a hunt, and though I may not be the book industry's most valued customer, I do what I can to promote what I read on my blog.

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  40. I dunno. When an industry gets to the point where they're begging people to buy stuff to keep it in business, there's something wrong with the model. To extend your analogies, I don't think fashion designers are guilt tripped into buying each others' clothes. People should want to buy your product because they find value in it, not because they feel sorry for you. Publishing isn't a love circle or a charity -- it's a business.

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  41. Guilt trip, pure and simple.

    It's not my job to support the publishing industry. It's their job to add sufficient value that I want to pay to buy their product.

    Now that I've made the switch to e-books for fiction, I don't even care about the publishing industry. Especially after five of the 'Big 6' colluded with Apple to fix prices of e-books in the US. They can all collapse in a pile of dust for all I care. (Ooh, did I say that out loud?)

    Seriously, though, ink on paper is not the future of fiction. It'll still be around for textbooks, reference books, books of photos, graphic novels, etc. But fiction will transition to e-book within the decade, and probably sooner. The value-add of the big publishing houses is close to zero for e-books.

    And anyway, I wasn't planning to ever write literary fiction. :-)

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  42. I have bought two hardcovers in the last year: Lies my Mother Never Told Me by Kallie Jones and Jahumpa Lahiri's newest. Almost bought Yann Martel's latest, but put it down...hmmm...

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  43. I actually thought about this as I wandered the bookstore today. Unfortunately, I don't have an answer. I recently met an author who has a new book out and because he was there and gave a free workshop and was generally an awesome, kind and inspiring person, I paid cold cash for the shiny new hardcover of his book. (I didn't regret it).

    I wouldn't expect people to buy brand new copies of My book (although it would be awesome). I believe in reduce, reuse, anyway...

    Anyhow, awesome post and good question and even though I'm not helpful, I thought I would finally comment.

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  44. I buy recent hardcovers sometimes, esp if they're deeply discounted at Amazon or B&N--sometimes they cost only a bit more than a trade paperback. I also buy tons of older books used from Amazon (I think I bought a book for 1 cent once) and I do feel guilty about this, but over the course of a year, I buy a lot of new books, so I guess it balances out. I usually buy hardcovers over the holidays after I receive B&N gift cards etc.

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  45. I tend to purchase new paperbacks. The only hardcover I purchased I did so a couple years ago, to get the CD of all the author's other novels that had been included. I'd go the library route, but I have a problem with actually getting the books returned on time.

    And, no, I don't feel guilty for any purchases I make or don't make. I buy what I can afford, I buy authors whose work I know I like, make forays into new authors' work as often as I can, and purchase used books if necessary (such as a few months ago, when I was rebuilding my collection of an author's books. I bought new and used to do this).

    And, should I ever be published for pay, I don't expect everyone who reads my books to have bought them. If they've read the books at all, I'll be happy with that, because my goal isn't to make a living with writing, but to SHARE MY STORIES. I can't do that if I demand that everyone who wants to read them buy the most expensive version on the market at any given time. That would just upset people and convince them my stuff isn't worth their time and attention (if I can't be polite enough to allow people to make their own decisions, how good can my writing really be?).

    I think anyone who expects anybody else to purchase a certain amount of books in a year needs to get their priorities straight. You don't write to get rich and famous. You write because the words and the characters won't leave you alone. You write for FUN first, because it's something that thrills you and it's something you feel like you HAVE to do or you'll go insane. Most importantly, you write for YOURSELF first.

    THEN you try to get published.

    But if you're writing to get published first, you're going to be an incredibly miserable writer, and that'll come through your stuff. Some writers don't realize that the most important audience ISN'T the readers. It's the writer of the story him/herself. Because, really, if the writer isn't entertained by their own story, WHO ELSE will be?

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  46. I buy books. Some hc's, but only because I buy online from Amazon. Books in Australia are too bloody expensive online and in store. I used to buy second hand books until I discovered they were the same price new at Amazon. I don't have any guilt, but I buy to support writers. I still buy second hand poetry books. Catholic guilt! It's the most seasoned guilt in the world. Good luck with that. I tripped over the last hurdle with my writing. Almost there. Talk soon, Simon.

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  47. I absolutely don't feel any guilt. Not about avoiding hardbacks, not about buying used books, not about contributing to the demise of literature/publishing/the world. I'm a consumer as well as a writer and I'm a consumer, not a writer, when I'm paying for books from my own slender wallet so I'm going to do what suits my means best.

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  48. I don't buy it (semi-pun intended). There just isn't a connection between being someone who wants to break into the world of published writers and supporting the industry. In order to be a good writer, I do believe that it is very important to read as much as possible, but that means getting books in whatever way is possible for you. I might read 100 books a year. Could I do that if I only bought hardcovers? Heck no.

    Now, one could argue that once someone has reached a certain level of success in the industry, it may be that at this point there is a moral imperative to give back, but this could be done in a lot of different ways - supporting grants, writing a blog for aspiring writers, etc. And yeah, if you can afford it, buying new books (although as pointed out above, some of us just don't like reading hardcovers).

    It just doesn't make sense to put the financial burden for supporting the industry on the people least likely to be able to bear it.

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  49. Guilt is great! How would parents effectively function without it? Let's get real here; THIS guilt is driven by interested parties for their own financial gain.

    My take: support those who truly deserve the support. In order of deserving: 1) new authors; 2) established authors; and last, the publishing industry as presently constituted.

    Change is comin', baby, and those crying the loudest fear they have the most to lose. They're probably right. That does not make them the most deserving.

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  50. I'm writing up my personal take on this...but I'm horrible in that I check my books out from the library. (Gasp.) It's nothing more than the fact that I can't handle having a lot of "stuff" around and therefore I never buy DVDs, books...anything for which I have to constantly make room.

    Most writers read a ridiculous number of books every year. If we weren't writers, we'd still be avid readers but we'd read for leisure, not work. We wouldn't buy every book a certain publisher put out just to get a feel for what they were publishing. We wouldn't constantly read in the genre in which we wrote just to get a feel for what the trends were and whether or not we were getting things right. Reading for fun and reading for work are different...and the latter is very costly if you're paying $20+ for hardbacks of everything.

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  51. I like the hardcovers better -- I think it's the print size. Of course, now that I have a Kindle, I can choose whatever print size. Once upon a time, I had a book habit, I confess. I would buy between 3 and 5 hardcovers a month. Yikes!

    Not so much money now.

    Intern, don't feel guilty. You're supporting authors by buying them in any form, in the big Karma bookstore of life. But guilt... yeah... us Catholic girls never really get away from that.

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  52. For me it's simple - hopefully I'll have a hardcover book out there one day, and I'll want other people to buy it and support my efforts, IF they can. So when I can, I buy one myself. Golden rule/karma, no guilt added.

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  53. The original argument is crazy. Transform to another profession, like auto workers. They should replace their cars more often than the rest of us, to keep themselves employed? Farmers should eat more food? And maybe you don't like to compare writers to factory workers? Then actors should see more movies, in the theater, to support film?

    The argument doesn't make sense because the market should be larger than the community of producers. Literary fiction _should_be_ read by people who don't write it. If the lit.fic reader base is essentially lit.fic authors, that's a sad commentary.

    I buy a lot of books. Some, I buy hardcover. Why do I buy hardcover? Because I can. I work in high tech. The field pays well, which is not insignificant in my ability to buy hardcovers. (For example, interns in my company are paid, unlike interns in publishing.)

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  54. Hardcovers? At $25 a pop? Haven't bought one in years. Do you know how many ebooks I could buy for that same amount? I buy lots and lots of ebooks. To look at it another way, I'm putting some money in the hands of more authors instead of a lot in the hands of the blessed few who come out in hardcover. Plus I get to read what I want, not what I think I should. I consider that a win.

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  55. Great blog! I'm glad I found you. What I wanna know is...if I buy this many hardcovers, does that instantly make me a writer? If that is the case, I am so close to meeting that quota! However, if I can find it on sale or at a used book store...I'm a much happier person.

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  56. See, I'm just such a skinflint that I feel guilty buying anything, even if I really need it. So forget buying hardbacks (unless I know for certain I'll love it, which usually means series). At least for myself. I've gotten around the I-work-in-publishing-but-don't-buy-books guilt by making a point of buying books as gifts. I mean, I have to get a gift for these people anyway, and $30 is a pretty good deal, and this way I'm spreading word-of-mouth as well rather than just sitting on my shelf. Plus it's awesome when me, my mom, and my youngest brother are all excited about the same book series and can talk about it. (Oh, Mockingjay, you can't come soon enough!)

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  57. In response to your profile description where you mentioned about copyediting writers' "train wreck of a manuscript." It reminds me of some of my previous freelance assignments editing manuscripts and manuals for tech companies in China. You also mentioned "the 'real' copyeditor being down with genital crabs." The question that immediately came to mind: Did he get it contract it from another intern?

    Regarding writers and hardback books, I will just say that the world is changing - including how people read. With eBooks, Web 2.0, the Kindle, Google books, and other emerging technologies, the writer must now be flexible enough to adapt and incorporate different ways of earning her income.

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  58. I'm late to this discussion, but here's two cents:

    Publishing is like one of those art museums where there's a suggested entry price, but you're only forced to pay what you can. To get a book, you can buy a hardback, a paperback, or read for free from the library, just as you can put in the full $10 (that's the Cloisters' suggested price) or only 25 cents.

    But note that paying what you CAN and paying what you WANT are two different things. The well off tourist who goes into the Cloisters and only drops a quarter should feel guilt, as should the billionaire who sends his manservant to the library to borrow a best seller that's easily available in stores.

    The other side of the coin is also true: You might want to consider paying not only one what money you have, but on where it's going. Thanks to my own success, I can weasel new hardbacks for free, and do so when it comes to mega bestsellers. But when the second book comes out from that superb but as-yet-unheralded young novelist, I send my manservant to the nearest NYT-reporting indie to pay full cover price the first week, even if I've already read the ARC.

    So don't feel you have to buy 12 hardbacks a year, but when you buy that ONE, make sure it's someone who needs that sale.

    None of this is really the free market handling things; it's more like a gift economy in some ways. But it IS the consumer engaging in enlightened (i.e., long term) self-interest, because we don't want those brilliant young writers starving before their fans find them. (The invisible hand of the marketplace is incredibly clumsy down here at the human scale.)

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  59. Definitely a 'guilt trip.'

    Face it, if you're buying books to 'support authors', you're buying books for the wrong reason.

    You should be buying books because you want to read them. Or checking them out of the library, or borrowing them, or what not. How many people here discovered a favorite author because you checked out or borrowed one of their books? Show of hands?

    Readers want to read, writers want to write - a perfect system. Publishers want to make piles of money and roll around in it naked. THAT'S the problem.

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