Are Book Lovers Killing Books?

Is the rise of reselling books on the internet destroying publishing? Book lover David Steitfeld thinks it might be.

The explosion of people selling used, nearly new and rare books online means readers can save money if they are willing to wait a while for a new book to make its way to these re-sellers. And it’s not just Amazon. There are over 20,000 such booksellers around.

The upside is that never have so many old, classic, out-of-print books been available so widely, so easily and so inexpensively to so many book lovers. The downside? Maybe it is killing publishers.

But then I wondered, Could Kindle actually be the answer? Digital publishing is coming whether we like it or not. Those in publishing (e.g., me) approach it with a combination of excitement and fear. With a Kindle ebook, however, you can’t loan it or resell it for pennies (or for any price) as you can with print books. It totally eliminates the online reseller phenomenon that Streitfeld is so concerned about.

Has Jeff Bezos saved us once more? Or is it an anomaly on the path to our digital future?

Author: Andy Le Peau

I've been an editor and writer for over forty years. I am passionate about ideas and how we can express them clearly, beautifully, and persuasively. I love reading good books, talking about them, and recommending them. I thoroughly enjoy my family who help me continue on the path of a lifelong learner.

7 thoughts on “Are Book Lovers Killing Books?”

  1. Aren’t libraries “bad” too? Many people read the same copy rather than buying them. I happen to notice where the books are ‘rented’ from, such as B&T, and wonder what they then do with all of the copies when the popularity dies down and the library only needs one or two copies….

  2. Hi Helen

    Yes, indeed, libraries are “bad”–unless they each buy five copies of a book, in which case the publisher shall stand up and call them blessed.

    Our local library almost always has a rack of books for sale at a dollar or fifty cents, right by the check out. They have to make room for new additions. So, obviously, they sell the books with low circulation.


  3. I’m not sure what the answer is for publishers. For consumers, libraries and resellers are great. I have always bought my own books, until I looked around at the clutter I’ve accumulated. In an effort to reduce the clutter, I’ve tried to switch to using the library and only buying a book if I’m going to be reading it or referring to it again and again. My wife and I are trying to sell some of our books that we’re not likely to read again on Amazon. Some books practically are brand new. We just bought them and read them once, but didn’t find them that good and aren’t likely to read them again.

    I’m sure as a publisher, you’re not happy to hear that. I can’t blame you from your perspective.

  4. Eric

    While I do care very much about our books being bought, I am more concerned that people read. And if they borrow books or buy used books, that is ok with me. If people are reading, we will get our share of the business. Reading is just critical to the life of our community.


  5. Dear Andy,
    What do you think about e-books? I think they’re wonderful they’re alot less paper that goes into the process however it could be bad for publishers? I don’t know just want to know what you think.

  6. Hi Michael

    E-books definitely have their place and will have their place in the world. Lots of advantages with existing technology and more advantages with improved technology is likely. The key one is probably making e-books more readable one e-ink gets broadly adopted. There may be some drawbacks for publishers versus traditional print publishing, but that is just a reality publishers will have to deal with and adapt to.


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