A recent post on The Digital Reader has got me thinking (again) about where I buy books and how I can be an ethical book buyer. The post reports on the decision by Barnes and Noble to pay 70% royalties on ebooks. This is the first time that I can recall actually knowing how much authors are getting from books people purchase. I honestly have no idea how much authors get when I buy a print book, either online or at an actual store, or an ebook from another vendor; all I know is that authors don’t get royalties if I buy a used book.
I want to support authors. Partly I want to support authors because they’re creating my supply of fresh stories, as an incentive to keep writing. Another part of why I want to support authors because my efforts during NaNoWriMo (and other things) have shown me how very, very hard it can be to write when you’ve also got a full-time job. So it follows that I want to try and buy books in such a way that authors get as much as they can. But the cost of a book also supports: the literary agents, the publisher costs, the costs of copy-editing, bookseller costs, and probably lots of other people I’m leaving out. I have no idea how the purchase price of a book divides up among all these different parties.
Since the pandemic, I’ve started buying print copies of books via Bookshop.org. Some part of the cost of the book goes into a pool that’s spread amongst independent booksellers who are part of the collective. Ebooks are a lot more problematic because the laws and licensing that govern them make everything way more complicated than purchasing a physical copy of any kind of creative content. As a reader, all I want is fast, reliable, easy-to-use access to books. Amazon and Barnes and Noble have been able to do that for me. But buying from Amazon makes me feel very guilty because my dollars are just going to make the giant even more gigantic. I buy from Barnes and Noble because they’re a solid competitor and because I haven’t found an independent service that is as easy-to-use.
I’m curious to hear from other readers. Do you think about where your book dollars are going? Where do you buy your books?