Caring In A Used Book World

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December 16, 2009 by David Gillaspie

Have you downloaded an ebook?  Ask the question of people you know; ask people you don’t know:  Have you ever downloaded an ebook?  Note how many say yes, how many say they’ve thought of it, and how many say “What’s an ebook.” 

The results don’t fall into a strict demographic, but those on the “What’s an ebook” list might be an older group than the rest.

Selling a book isn’t the same as marketing a book, but paper and ebooks share the same goal:  finding a market.  Selling a book means finding the right people; the right agent, the right editor, the right publishing house.  Marketing a book means finding buyers for the finished work, whether paper or electronic.

What is the big difference between a book and an ebook?  The used book store. 

It is hard to love books as much as they deserve when the bookstore you buy five hundred dollars of books from gives twenty eight dollars back on the re-sale.  So much for investing in archival research material. 

I bought timely material, too, like How To Write A Memoir.  Has that changed in the past year?  Memoir/Expose?  Memoir/Romance?  Why wouldn’t the bookstore people buy it back?  It’s not like I read it.  Probably the same reason they didn’t buy back Writing the Modern Mystery; not modern enough.   

Watching How To Win Friends & Influence People slide over to the no-sale stack hurt. 

I tried “the six ways of making people like you (me).”  No sale. 

I employed “the twelve ways of winning people to my (your) way of thinking.”  The bookstore people made me think like them instead.  

Finally, I worked the “nine ways to change people without giving offense or arousing resentment.”  I was asked to leave the store.

So much for Dale Carnegie.  But there is more to the story.

I bought ‘The Elements of Screenwriting’ by Irwin R. Blacker, the late Irwin R. Blacker of USC, required reading for a screenwriting class taught by a disciple of Professor Blacker at the Metropolitan Learning Center in Northwest Portland. 

The book’s cover color and size gave it a Strunk and White feel.  When one famous blue book is named Elements of Style, and a blue book of similar size is named Elements of Screenwriting, you know it’s not a mistake.  Nor should it be when Professor Blacker’s students are listed as writers for American Graffiti, Apocalypse Now, and Star Wars.  Can anyone say George Lucas?  Francis Ford Coppola?  John Milius?  Elements of Screenwriting is mine forever since the bookstore won’t buy it back.

Why wouldn’t they buy back Bob Greene’s The Best Life Diet with Forward By Oprah Winfrey.  Mr. Greene isn’t blamed for Oprah’s weight gain, is he?  I don’t blame him for my ten extra pounds since Thanksgiving.  The guy’s got a master’s degree from the University of Arizona and he’s a certified trainer.  If Oprah has a thyroid problem he can probably help.  If Oprah walks through a used book store, she won’t see The Best Life Diet on the rack, and that’s not right.

The next used book I buy will be a math book.  I’ll sit down with it turned to the percentage chapter and calculate the numbers for paying $500 for books and selling them back for twenty eight dollars.  I admit I’m not Archimedes, Euclid of Alexandria, or Zeno of Sidon, but I will find the right answer.

My calculations so far?  28 divided by 500 equals ebook, more or less.

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