S4L Book Club

Yay! Yay! Yay! Thanks heaps for letting me twist your arms.

I think maybe there’s more to this book than the title conveys. I recently listened to chapter three about the psychology of price. I find it fascinating and disturbing. I like to think I’m smart enough to not fall for the ubiquitous $whatever.99 ploy, but the studies that are spotlighted convince me that I’m not immune on every level: some part of me that I can’t consciously control is easily manipulated by even obvious price strategies. That bugs me. I feel vulnerable, stupid, and mad at price-setters for manipulating and taking advantage of me.

But I am also a price-setter, as is Gayle (Accents, Inc. owner and Stitching for Literacy Sponsor). Mostly, I deliberately stick with round whole numbers so as to NOT manipulate customers. (Betcha no one’s ever noticed that.) I want to respect my customers, and I want to believe the $whatever.99 ploy is ineffective on my customers, who are all smarter than the dopes who fall for that ridiculousness (re-read above paragraph if you’ve forgotten who this is). But I also need to make sales if I’m to stay in business.

See my dilemma?

Gayle mentions used books in her comment on the Bribe post. This is a tangled ball of floss for me, and has been for years. My SIL works at Powell’s Books in Portland, OR. I love Powell’s. If you’re not familiar with Powell’s, it’s an independent bookstore, with a main store that fills an entire city block, several stories high. They have millions of used books, along with new books, though I think they are best known for their used books.

I have shelves and shelves and boxes and boxes of used books. Because I live so far from libraries and stores, and because I rarely get to town, I tend to buy books I want to read. Because I read a lot and because my income cannot support my reading habit entirely with new book purchases, I buy used books.

Used books also appeal to my conservation side: I want to save trees. Lots of them. I certainly don’t want books filling landfills, and while there are some I want to keep on the off chance I will re-read them, I really don’t need them gathering dust in my house, either. When I’m finished with a book, I’m happy to pass it on.

BUT when I buy a used book or pass a book on, the publisher and author get nothing. I am also an author; I know first-hand how little authors earn. I know authors and illustrators far more successful than I who have full-time day jobs because having a dozen (or more) books in print doesn’t pay them enough to live on.

I want to support authors. I want to support independent bookstores (besides Powell’s). I want to read as much as I do. I want to conserve trees.

How do I juggle these things, balance them?

I don’t have an answer, and I really don’t expect you to, either, but this is an example of the kinds of contradictory positions Cheap raises for me. I am both Cheap and Not Cheap, as, I suspect, most of us are. (No one in the conversation will be berated for their Cheap parts.) It’s interesting to see in what ways I am one or the other and how those two parts do not fit together.

But this is a conversation for January.

Hey, I need book recommendations and Discussion Leader volunteers for subsequent months.

Categories: Reading

5 replies »

  1. My thought on used books as a professional in the publishing business: A) you’re more likely to try an unknown of iffy author in a used book than new, B) if you love them, you will eventually read all of their books, C) unless you have A LOT of discipline, they will rope you in to buying the next book new (maybe even in hardcover!), and D) if you ever recommend books you like (which you must do, and which this blog does by befault) then you are persuading other people to make book purchases – which likely are going to be of new not used editions. Therefore, I obsolve you of guilt! If you love books, read them however you get your hands on them. Of course the authors wuld love to get your quarter, but if you instead persuade just 1 person to buy it who otherwise wouldn’t have, you’ve more than made up for it. Would you feel guilty if you were reading a library book?

  2. Thanks, Carin!

    I think A might be the point I like best: I’m definitely more willing to try unknown authors and iffy titles in a cheaper, used book.

    I love libraries–I think they are an important and valuable resource–and I try to support them, too; although, I’m a good distance from a library. I do make use Alaska’s digital library resources, almost completely guilt-free.

    I’m interested to see how things shake out with lending of digital material through libraries and now Amazon. Will private membership sites that lend materials make libraries obsolete? How will publishers and authors be paid?

    Difficult questions, those.

    On another note, surely, Carin, you have some book recommendations for us. Care to make some?

  3. I purchased my new copy of Cheap yesterday in a bookstore. Thinking about used books, Jen and Carin, I don’t purchase used books (except at the library yearly book sale which is a great resource for getting hardcovers of books you can no longer purchase) but I leave a lot of used books everywhere when I travel. Usually it’s paperbacks that I bought especially for taking on a trip knowing that I will leave it in a hotel lobby or a cruise ship library or just for a fellow traveler to enjoy.

    I have thoughts on the .99 cent pricing issue, Jen but I won’t share them until we get to Chapter 3 of “Cheap”. By the way, did you know that I have never before participated in a book discussion. I’m looking forward to it – but I might need a reminder because I’m very bad about getting on line and checking sites. Is there a way to get an email when something is posted to this site?

    Also, most merchandise in my shop is priced to end with a “0” or a “5”.

    ps. be wary. if we want to save trees we might wind up without books. Better that we plant a tree for each tree harvested, perhaps. I would hate knowing that the only way I could read a book would be on an e-reader.

  4. There’s not currently a way to receive comments via email. I’ve just nudged the designer who’s re-doing this site to see if we might get it done, but I won’t guarantee completion by January. It’s already over a year late. However, I can try to help remind you. Of course, my hope is that discussion is so riveting and entertaining that you’ll think of it first thing every morning as soon as you’re conscious!

    I think books are a fine use of trees, and I will gladly plant trees for the purpose. What bothers me, I think, is the idea that books are or should be disposable, one-time-use objects. Since I want them to be re-usable, I’d love for there to be a way for publishers and authors to earn from a book’s reuse.

    I don’t think we’re going to fix this cognitive dissonance, but I think it’s good to be aware of it. That’s what CHEAP does: it points out inconsistencies.

    Looking forward to hearing your thoughts!

  5. Cheap: it is a tough one, this book. I live in a country where an American tourist stated: “this is a country you have to be a millionaire to get drunk!”
    I do not need to get drunk, but I need to drive, and to fill up our car is rocket scientist prize compared to yours. So we hunt for bargin wherever we can get one, to try to save som money! “Yeah right!” this book puzzels me, gets me angry, and I want to learn to avoid this traps of sales! I read small parts of the book, piece by piece. It is a heavy little yellow ” thing”. And I do not know what kind of bookmark would be apropriate for it to match the content. Hm!

    And I use the library. I cannot buy all the books I read. As an “Extream Reader” (the local journalists remark) it would not be possible. We are 4 close to 5 million people and that means producing and printing books is expencive, and books are usually priced at 350 NKR. Hence sales and bargins are new traps to stumble upon in this area as well.

    This book, cheap, gives much to think about. And when the people next door is blowing up the mountain and making tiny rocks of it to make a road and a new house, the grounds are shaking in our house matching the content of the book. Maybe the last week of December will be a better time to read it? With a more calming sourondings? ( sorry no spell check avilable)

    See you in the discussion in January:-)
    Best regards