Thursday, August 19, 2010

Darwinist Consumerism: What’s the most ethical way to buy books?

Darwinist Consumerism: What’s the most ethical way to buy books?, excellent article.

Books are dying. What are you gonna do about it, punk?

Andy Ihnatko really hits the nail on the head with this one. I also love books and book stores. But I also rarely shop there anymore, and post-Kindle/iPad, I actually rarely buy paper books. I wouldn't like a world without book stores, particularly ones with a café, but... ??

I am hoping that this will be one of the times when whatever replaces the thing, though different, is as nice or perhaps even better. 

One of the first comments Andy's article got was:
"An interesting article from a guy who writes books for a living."

...  Apparently trying to pile additional guilt on top of the guilt that Andy already has bravely admitted to in the article. Actually I think that it's to Andy's great commendation that his first and biggest thought is not "how can I save my job" but rather "how can I save this culture I love".


Lou said...

Love the headline but the article makes little sense to me. THE most ethical way to buy books is to go to a locally owned independent bookstore (especially if the author is there to sign it!).

All the rest of the article is not helping authors or books as a culture.

I have never been able to afford to buy all the books I'd like, at 20 to 30 USD apiece, but I go to the local library and bring home a bag of books every three weeks. I love books, and will never own a kindle or other ebook reader (though I do sometimes read books on my Macs).

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

No, the article does not *help*, but I find it noteworthy to point out that we can't do anything. 

I wonder, if in ten or twenty years, if new books only rarely appear in print, and you can get a high quality ebook reader practically for free, if you will never have one. (It's not unlikely that when ebook reading devices become cheap enough, that they will give them away for free if you sign up. They already do that with laptops here, for broadband accounts.)

Jan said...

Our local bookstores don't stock what I read, so Amazon and eBay get all my business.

I love non-DRM eBooks (searchable and portable on a USB stick). But I want my very favorite books on paper too. Because they're more likely to still be readable in 40 years or if modern society falls apart.

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

That's a point.

Although society has to *really* fall apart for ebooks to become dead files. Because, as an expert said, even if a file format is not supported anymore, you can alway retrieve the text from it, the text is sitting in there.

Charles said...

All sorts of small, independently run stores are dying due to increased online competition.

Is this a bad thing?

Is more efficient shopping where you spend less effort, less money and impact the environment less a bad thing?

I live in a town of 15,000. The nearest larger city is 25 miles away. The nearest metro area is 50 miles.

If I need something I can't find in town--a frequent case as I have odd requirements, I can't afford to go anywhere else.

It costs me $1.08 per round trip mile to drive, and the travel time to the nearest city is an hour round-trip.

If I shop, I have to go to multiple locations, and physically walk around...which takes time, and I am disabled enough that even a fairly brief walk is tiring. When I find what I was looking for, the price is often significantly higher than online.

The overhead of getting to and from the stores is killer unless I am spending hundreds of dollars.

This is why Sears & Roebuck did so became convienent, quick and cheap.

You have to wait a bit for the items, but there aren't that many things you need RIGHT NOW. (Though many online merchants feel they must ship 2nd day or next day.) Shipping usually take2 from 2-5 days. Stuff purchased in Australia or China takes about 10 days by air--60 by sea.

CIt cs to my door and it travels with other fright efficiently with less environmental impact.

Theres more choices too.

All of my browsing and researching purchases is online.

For books, I go to, where I can check thousands of booksellers for used copies.
If I need multiple books, it's a bit more complicated.

The brick and mortar stores won't price compete against their own online stores, so it may be cheaper to order something online from say, W-M and have it picked up at the store, than to purchase it directly at the same store.

For me, living on disability, it is vital that I get not only the best price, but the least effort options.

I do like shopping used bookstores in major cities, you never know what you'll run across that is interesting--I found a book titled "Infanticide" some years ago at a half-priced book store for $0.50--which I bought primarily because of the title and the price, but found to be a fascinating history of when and where and how humans use and have used infanticide to control population growth, written by someone at the University of Chicago.

Increasingly, I stumble upon interesting books online too, and it is much faster to find a book that I've had recommended.

Analysis of small businesses has shown that the number one reason a person goes into business for themselves is not to earn a living, but to have control over their lives.

Once upon a time, everyone made nearly everything they used, specialization in manufacturing began early, because it requires skills not everyone has, and not everyone wants to do it.

I don't know that I'll miss the local bookstores any more than the local shoemaker.

Anonymous said...

Books are dying. What are you gonna do about it, punk?

They're not dying. Newspapers and magazines are, but not books. The ipad, kindle, etc. are fads. If you left your apartment once in a while you'd realize that.

Charles said...

The single MOST ethical way to buy a book is directly from the author(s).

Please note that for most of the history of publishing, it was the publisher, not the author, who made the profits on sales, the publisher bought all rights with a single payment.

There are still publishers who operate under that model.

Anonymous said...

Although society has to *really* fall apart for ebooks to become dead files. Because, as an expert said, even if a file format is not supported anymore, you can alway retrieve the text from it, the text is sitting in there.

Some expert. Try retrieving files from a spectacularly old computer, or a system no longer produced - anything Commodore for example.

Anyone who thinks civilization couldn't crumble has no knowledge of history. Do you think anyone in the past saw it coming? Did the Romans...really? No. If all this technology really does take over - as remote a possibility as that is - and society fails, then in the future people will think it ended decades earlier than it did because all the electronic stuff will be gone.

Anonymous said...

Please note that for most of the history of publishing, it was the publisher, not the author, who made the profits on sales, the publisher bought all rights with a single payment.

This is the way it has always been in every kind of business. The publisher is the one taking the risk, too, so they deserve their share of the profits.

There are still publishers who operate under that model.

All business operates like that.

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

You have many good points, Charles, thank.

Though I would interject that personally, I don't weep for business owners, small or big, that's life. But I weep a little about such a lovely place as a book store to go away. But then again, like Andy also kind of says, it's a bit silly, because I hardly go there anymore, and many others too, which is why they are closing! So... Just cause for a little thought.

dave_at_efi said...

I don't consider where to buy a book to be an ethical question. It is simply a question of who gets the profit -- an economic or maybe political question.

I have to preface this comment by saying that we don't own eAnything or iAnything. My 13" Macbook fits nicely on my tummy as I am comfortably recumbent, watching Netflix streaming movies, programming in C, or making fonts (my real job).

A book fits nicely there also. My wife and I read 6-10 books weekly (no TV, no social networking). The public library helpfully stores the books for us. If my local branch doesn't have a particular book in stock, they will get it from another branch, or order it for me and pay for it.

I've gone to brick book stores 3 times in the last 3 years, to buy Sudoku books for my wife's birthday presents. (Checking out Sudoku books at the library doesn't work well.) Our total expenditure on books averages $20/year.

If I'm going somewhere and expect to have to wait, I'll take my current book with me. I don't need a device with 100 comic books in it, or 10 novels, all of which I have to pay for -- I only read one book at a time.

Do eOwners and iOwners ever tot up the costs of using those things? I took one look and declined. Want to cut expenses? Sell your Kindle or iBook on eBay.

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

More than a book a day!? Ya, I can see how that could be costly.

Thinking about it, though, both Kindle and B&N have over a million ebooks for free. Out-of-copyright ones, obviously.

I'll probably, after all, agree with the "not an ethical choice" bit. That seems less needless-guilt-ridden.

ganesha games said...

while libraries are certainly a good thing, you are probably living in a country where they work well. In the rest of the world it is not like that. I always had lots of problems finding the exact books I wanted. Since i have a Kindle, and then an iPad, I discovered that ALL the books I was searching for were available --NOW -- for free (out of copyright). I repaid my kindle in just a bit more of 6 months.

I understad you don't read 100 comics -- probably you are not a heavy comic book reader like I am. The electronic edition is available now, costs half the printed version, and won't take up space in my house. An old issue of xmen stays readable on the ipad at the flick of a finger, while my old originals are boxed away gathering dust and mold in some cardboard box or in the basement.

You say you read 6+ books a week. God, I wish I had the time for that, I average one per week (not counting comics and children's books of course). Again, you probably live in an efficient country where not much time is wasted in long lines at the bank or at the post office. Kindle and Ipad have saved many mornings for me (I am a publisher and I also use them to work, reading drafts of books prior to publication). How much is this worth to me? Probably hundreds of dollars per year, meaning that the high cost of an ipad is really a moot point over some time.

TC [Girl] said...

Like anything we enjoy and want to be surrounded by, I feel a certain "obligation" to support it/ *anything* "local" to me: the farmers' market; the restaurants; the coffee shops, etc., etc. First off, people have to make money somehow and if books are their passion and they want to bring that passion to my neck of the woods (and I happen to discover it to be a lovely place), then I will make every effort to support them. Why not? Can you imagine a town *without* some of these amenities? That's right; I called them "amenities." If they aren't a gas station or a grocery store, they are pretty much an "amenity." Big deal. IF we don't frequent stores that we like, how can we expect them to survive?! the end, our towns will be littered w/barren buildings w/"for lease" signs in the windows sitting and collecting dust (not to mention a headache for the property owner!) for years to come! I prefer to be surrounded by "amenities" rather than a ghost town of empty buildings so...I make an effort to frequent and support local stores, etc. As a business owner, isn't that also what you go into business for, as well: hoping that people will like and frequent your stores?!

There's also the very real issue of how a person learns and retains information; something that I have written about, in the past. People don't consider that there are "tactile" learners who are not only children but even adults. It's just *how* the information is assimilated by that person. These people *need* to have the book in front of them...rather than reading on a screen. Paper books are also used, in research, to make notes on them; a "working copy," if you will.

The other way that I support local book stores is that I like to buy books for people who I have shared interesting book topics with and they have, specifically, asked me to share the books with them. I am more than happy to purchase these order to share the information with them AND support my local bookstore; it's a two-fold "win-win" situation.

Without those bookstores, here, I would lose that ability to connect with actual know...those "things" that move about, when you are "out and about" driving in vehicles, in the grocery stores, etc. Some people actually still want to "connect" in a way that is more personable than being just an online person.

And, hey, think of where some people would be if no one bothered to read their articles. Unlike how it was written about how some people wouldn't feel much pain if a store "went under," there are actually human beings that care very much what happens to their fellow human beings; we stay in touch with the warm-blooded peeps that we live among and support their efforts...on and offline. IMHO, it makes for a better world to be more than self-absorbed because, when it does become, exclusively, a self-absorbed world, you will eventually look around and see no one other than...yourself. What a lonely "world" that will be! :-/

Sukiho said...

if society really falls apart its paper books that will go first, up the chimney to keep warm in winter

ganesha games said...

If society falls apart, maybe it means that it didn't deserve surviving :-) let the new barbarians rising from the nuclear ashes wonder about the artifacts of the past and write their own mythologies and literature, like we did on the lost civilizations that preceded us.

ganesha games said...

the Romans indeed SAW it coming, they just couldn't do anything about it.

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

"The ipad, kindle, etc. are fads."

That's a gutsy statement, good for you. It will surely be interesting to see how it plays out.

Bronislaus Janulis / Framewright said...

Very good reading, including the commentaries. The storage issue is huge; paper books are large, dusty, and unless one is very well organized, difficult to search. I actually enjoy reading on an iPhone, because it is so small. Books about art, photography, etc. will probably not only survive, but get better in reproductive qualities.

Being able to acquire a new book to read immediately, in my living room is priceless.

What Sukiho said.