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Here we'll explore the nexus of legal rulings, Capitol Hill policy-making, technical standards development, and technological innovation that creates -- and will recreate -- the networked world as we know it. Among the topics we'll touch on: intellectual property conflicts, technical architecture and innovation, the evolution of copyright, private vs. public interests in Net policy-making, lobbying and the law, and more.

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Copyfight

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October 2, 2005

In Praise of First Sale, Part II

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If you haven't been following the discussion over @ The Patry Copyright Blog about authors and publishers complaining about Amazon.com selling used books alongside new ones, you're missing out. Here, William Patry argues that Amazon is rescuing the market for "non-Blockbuster" authors and publishers, and that suggesting that used-book sales rob from full-price sales is as foolish as arguing that every pirated copy equals a lost full-price sale:


Literary authors haven't pointed to any evidence that there has been any diminishment in sales of the brand new books due to amazon.com's program, and it seems logically impossible since every resale is off of the sale of that brand new book. Indeed, amazon.com provides the most amazing publicity imaginable for literary authors: the ability to find and buy their books. I work in New York City which used to have great bookstroes. Now they are all Barnes & Noble and those stores are fast approaching blockbuster Video quality. (This isn't true for Barnes and Noble online, and its same day delivery service in Manhattan is awesome). It is, I submit, only online shoppoing that saves the rest of us and non-blockbuster type authors. But it is just like copyright owners to bit the hand that feeds them, and that is what led to my posting: frustration from someone who is an ideal customer.

While the used book issue is of much greater scope because of the lack of any geographic limitation, literary authors seem peeved about the sale of "new" books at less than list price. On that point too bad.

The overall economic thrust of Rob's comments remind me a bit of copyright owner's claims that every pirated copy overseas represents a lost sale: baloney; many represent copies that would never have been sales becasue the price is way too high. So too to some extent with new books: if the book is priced reasonably, more people might buy it; if it isn't any used copies are available then I will either not buy or buy a used copy.


Meanwhile, over on the Pho and A2K lists, Gordon Mohr points to a "more economically literate discussion of the interaction between the used and new book markets" than the WSJ piece to which Professor Patry refers -- economics professor Hal Varian's NYT piece that's long been making the rounds in IP blog discussions, Reading Between the Lines of Used Book Sales. Summarizes Mohr:

Specifically [the article argues]:

- the existence of a strong used book market also
makes people more willing to buy new books, at full
price, because of confidence in their resale value

- offering affordable used books can attract more
customers to a bookseller, and result in more
books, new and old, being purchased overall

- a recent academic study suggests used book sales
only slightly substitute for new book sales

- the same study calculates the net social impact
of used book sales as strongly positive, after
weighing the benefits to consumers and sellers
like Amazon against the potential losses to
publishers and authors


Previous Copyfight coverage: In Praise of First Sale

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: IP Markets and Monopolies


COMMENTS

1. Von Fugal on October 3, 2005 2:06 AM writes...

I'm taking an internet marketing course at BYU where I'm learning how to make money and create value by, um, marketing. The thrust of it is, get known, the more people know about your product, the more you'll sell. What Amazon provides is basically free marketing! Where any publicity is good publicity, as the saying goes and as is exemplified in a Salt Lake based "barbershop" called Bikini Cuts, Amazon provides good publicity, which is most certainly good publicity.
People just need to get their ostrich heads out of the copyright sand and use it to stand on and reach out rather than to hide in.

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