Tuesday, June 1, 2010


Sharon Wildwind

For over twenty years Verso Advertising has focused on helping publishers market their books. Their initial 2010 digital survey of book-buying behavior surveyed over 9,000 people. Adults (age 18 and over), who used the Internet and who chose to respond, were surveyed.

Here’s what the survey found out about leakage. Leakage means that a customer uses services or information from one source, in order to buy goods from another source.

More than 26% of people surveyed browse at their favorite independent bookstore and then buy books they've discovered there online or at chain stores. Some 10% of customers of independent book stores do this frequently, and the phenomenon is more pronounced among book buyers aged 18-34. More than a third of this age group have browsed at an independent book store but bought elsewhere within the past year. Such sales leakage could be costing independent book stores more than $260 million in sales and 1.8% of market share.

I have to admit that, on this one, I go the opposite way. I find information on line about books, and then contact my local independent bookstore to ask if they can get the book for me.

But I don’t come up so good on a couple of other habits. I realized the other day how much I’ve started taking for granted some talented and hard-working people who help me survive as an author.

I use my local library a lot. Right now I have four books checked out, ten requested as holds, and one on its way to me through interlibrary loan. That’s a pretty typical week. In the past year, my total contribution to the library has been the cost of one library card and some odd change dropped into the “Help us buy books” box at the checkout counter.

Wikipedia? I spend more time there every day than I do eating, exercising, or exchanging e-mail with my family. My total financial support, ever, to the Wikimedia Foundation? Zero.

Shareware is computer programs available for free download, with the tacit understanding that if you find a program you like and use, you will pay the people who wrote the program in a modest sum, usually $5 to $15 for a one-function program, and $15 to $30 for larger programs. I’ve lost count of the number of shareware programs that I’m using without having paying any money to their creators.

I know the arguments. These are tough economic times. I’m on a fixed income. My taxes pay for libraries. It’s such a hassle to pay five dollars through PayPal. Those geeks created something because they like doing it, so they don’t need to be paid.

Like heck they don’t.

If I look forward to being paid when I’ve done a good job, what makes me think that I don’t owe something to other people when they do a good job?

In the immortal words of Robert Heinlein, "There's no such thing as a free lunch." I may not be able to buy the full-course meal for everyone, but I think I'll go treat a few people to a some appetizers.
Quote for the week:
In the present circumstances, no one can afford to assume that someone else will solve their problems. Every individual has a responsibility to help guide our global family in the right direction. Good wishes are not sufficient; we must become actively engaged.
~Dalai Lama, Head of the Dge-lugs-pa order of Tibetan Buddhists, 1989 Nobel Peace Prize


Robert W. Walker said...

Enjoyed your post. Particularly agree that we are all responsible for making it a better or a worse world; that our actions speak louder than our words. For example we Americans have GOT to find a way to get off OIL. What has happened in the gulf just makes me physically ill and there were signs and more warnings but even those who should have recognized the signs let them pass for, I suspect, different reasons and lives and a whole habitat is destroyed. Those in charge we like to think they know what they ar doing so that we don't have to worry about a thing...Sheepish behavior on our part.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for your comment, Rob.

For me making a change starts with small things and thinking about the implications of the things I do.

lil Gluckstern said...

I liked your post because it is a reminder that we are all responsible for our world. I find books online, through blogs, etc, and then I check with my favorite local bookstore where they will order for anyone. The library and I are old friends, and I happily pay for my holds because I could never afford all the hardbacks, large type books, and special books they get for me. Other topics, we've been granted a special gift in the Internet, paying for some services seems fair, why should it be free? We act entitled sometimes, I'm not sure that that's real.

Vicki Lane said...

Excellent post, Sharon! I use Amazon to browse and make my purchases at independent bookstores for the most part. And I do much of my Christmad shopping in independent bookstores. But, I must admit that it was only after becoming an author that I became so virtuous.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Lil and Vicki. I got to admit that becoming an author does all sorts of things (mostly good) to my perception of what's free and what's not.