Where should I buy books?

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?

6 Comments

  1. Do authors hate used bookstores, then? I love browsing in them, but always feel more reserved if I do visit a new bookstore, as I know I have to be a lot more selective. I’m always thrilled to find my favorite authors at a library sale or thrift shop, but now feel a bit dismayed knowing that of the paltry sum I pay for those books, not a bit goes back to the author.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jeane, you are right; as authors we don’t get a penny from a reader buying a second hand book. But rest assured, it’s lovely to hear that someone has enjoyed one of our books, if they review somewhere, such as Goodreads or on their own blog ( or even tell an author on their website.through the contact details).However I do know that Amazon will sometimes reject a review ( not sure if they would reject a rating under the new system) if it’s noticed it’s not a verified purchase from them. Thank you for your concern.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. From what I’ve seen, authors are mostly cool with used book stores. A lot of the articles written in praise of used book stores are written by authors who grew up voraciously reading their way through the stock.

      Also, don’t worry about buying from used book stores. All of those books were bought at full price originally. Same thing with libraries.

      Also also, there is a lot of evidence that book stores and libraries do generate book sales. Readers can cheaply experiment with different authors before going on to buy books by authors they discover.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m trying to buy from independent bookstores who are struggling right now because in the UK they have been unable to open very much over the last year. But they are doing online ordering and either posting the book or offering a door collection. They do tend to be more expensive than buying the same book from Amazon but at least I feel there are benefits to local people who serve a community

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I usually buy from independent bookshops ( these days through an online system). However, I always check who a writer’s publisher is. Then, if it’s not one of the big publishers, I check out the author’s publisher and buy from them, if possible.In that way I feel I’m helping to keep a small press going. We need the diversity of publishers to give good writers a chance.

      Liked by 1 person

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