Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Steal This Book!

From Paul

Readers of a certain age will recognize that headline as the title of Abbie Hoffman's 1970 counter-culture book. (I once interviewed Hoffman for The Miami Herald and received some nasty letters, but that's another story).

This has nothing to do with Hoffman's book. It's about our books -- the Naked Scribblers -- and yours, our faithful readers/writers.

There's a company out there depriving you of royalties. I'm not talking about Amazon's "used book" sales. They hurt, but Amazon sells tons of new books that are accounted for when royalties are calculated. And, as we said last week, the Amazon Kindle is going to save reading. (The Kindle 2 shipped yesterday to folks with $359 to spend. Prediction: Newspapers and magazines may soon give the Kindle away free in return for paid subscriptions. That can only help sell electronic books for all of us. The world is changing, my friends).

But back to my point. I'm talking about The Paradies Shops at airports. (I know; it looks like they tried to spell "Paradise" and failed. Or maybe they tried to spell "parodies." Either way, it's a clunky name, like "Ruth's Chris Steakhouse.").

Paradies sells books at airports, and the company does a good job. I'm grateful for that. Lately, I've been on some concourses where you can only buy $3 water and really bad nachos and melted-tire-tread-masquerading-as-cheese. And...I'll all for making books affordable. I think hardcover books should be less than $20.

But...Paradies has a "Read & Return" program that goes like this.

Take a mythical traveler. Call him Jim Born. At the airport in Ft. Lauderdale, Jim wanders into the Paradies Shop, looking for something to read. He hits the magazine rack, checks out "Guns & Ammo" and "Soldier of Fortune." Nah, he wants something a little less taxing. Over in hardcover books, he finds "How to Make Love Like a Porn Star" by Jenna Jameson. It's $32.50 -- hey, it's got lots of pictures -- and he forks over two sweaty twenties.

Jim gets on the plane, reads a bit, and looks at all the pictures. A few hours later, he lands at LaGuardia, goes to the Paradies Shop there, returns the book and gets 50% back. With the $16.25, he hits the airport bar, but that's another story. (You have six months to return the book for a 50% return). Paradies then re-sells the book, and the process goes on and on. Needless to say, the authors get not a shekel from the re-sales.

The solution, of course, is to "steal this book." If you purloin the product, the retailer is not able to return it to the publisher, and the author will still receive royalties. (Please do not attempt this strategy at the airport in Tehran).

Okay, okay, don't do this. You should never steal anything except recreational drugs. But think of that $3 bottle of water Jim bought in Fort Lauderdale. When he gets to LaGuardia, they don't give him back $1.50 if he gives back...oh, never mind.

I'm interested in your comments about royalty ripoffs in the sale of used books.



  1. I'm not an author but that seems wrong and I'm not talking about the the 70's cop show pic of Mr. Born.

  2. Mr. Born would reply, but he and Sonny Crockett are busy drinking Mojitos on Ocean Drive.

  3. I look at used books the same way I look at libraries. You might attract a regular reader you wouldn't get with a full price hardcover.

    If I had more than one book, that would help, too.

  4. Understand your point, David. And, in theory, that person tells someone else about your books, and you have another reader.

    I hate to keep blathering about the Kindle 2, but that sure solves the re-sale issue. YOu can't do it. You can't even "lend" your book to a pal unless you give him your Kindle. So, for ten bucks you get the book, and as long as you don't lose the Kindle, you've got if forever....or until you store 1,500 books on the device and need to get rid of it.

  5. I understand both sides of this issue. Some time ago, I bought one of those returnable books. I thought about trading it in for another but never did. I give away my books because I have no place to store them. So, is it better to throw them away? I dunno.

  6. Paul,
    Very nice. I always like being one of your examples.

    I recall the second that photo was taken on a Friday night in front of more than ten tons of pot. Abbie Hoffman would have salivated. Oh no, that was barbiturates he was interested in.

    You make me laugh, Paul.

    Jim B.

  7. "I recall the second that photo was taken on a Friday night in front of more than ten tons of pot."

    So, why were you holding a shotgun in your living room?

    I agree with you about this. I would say more, but my stomach is too upset from looking at that picture of the guy from those "Stranger Danger" 16mm movies they showed in school. Er, I mean that picture of Jim.

  8. the Kindle's main selling point for me is it's text-to-speech feature

  9. So... I'm going to assume that you don't rent DVD's since the same principle applies. Also you probably never made a copy of a music CD for a friend since the artist would not get royalites.

    Since you feel that the Kindle will save reading, don't misinform those who may know little about it. When you have 1500 books, just delete some. Amazon will save them for you and you can download them again and again without charge.

    I'm not sure that the Kindle will save reading. If you don't like reading a book, I don't think you will shell out the money for a Kindle. Plus I'm rather shocked at those who want the books to be even cheaper than the $9.99 that many of the books are. Talk about not wanting the author to make any money. Compared to the price of a hardback, I think $9.99 is an excellent price.

  10. Gayle
    Gotta correct you. Union contracts govern all DVD royalties for writers. (Lousy deal, but the dollars --or pennies -- are there). And you're 100% right. I've never copied a music CD for a friend. And I wouldn't...even if I had a friend.

  11. You aren't losing a royalty; you're gaining a reader. That reader is likely to want more books.

    Have faith in your books. Think of it as beginning an addition to narrative; the first one's 50% off. The next one they'll gladly pay full price for.