Will Galway: ‘A few months ago I bought a hardcopy of The Invisible Bankers, in nearly flawless condition, for 50 cents from the library near my wife’s place of work. (You know, folks contribute books to the library to help them raise money.) After picking up the hardcopy, I gave my ratty, old, paperback to our local public library.’

Brooks: ‘I KNOW I have a copy of it somewhere … but where? Damn.’

Brent Reeb: ‘After reading the WSJ article, I thought it was time to check out The Invisible Bankers from my university (Ohio State) library. I did so, and now that I have this great copy of your book in my hands (not checked out since 1996 and stored deep in our 2.5 million volume book stacks meant for preserving books), should I not sell it for $100, pay the library fine for ‘losing’ my book, say $50, and call it a day? I could then in a year’s time buy the book back, probably for $10, and give it back to the library, no?’

☞ I took Ethics 101, but answering this one would require a graduate seminar. Split your profit with a starving Third World family and it surely would. (But the answer would still be no.)

Jim Skinnell: ‘I kept a bunch of your books that my Dad had when he died a couple years ago, and The Invisible Bankers was one of them. He bought it for $3.08 at K-Mart (the receipt was still inside). So, I did a little checking around. You’re right on target with the Amazon prices. However, I was able to find a signed hardback on eBay for only $36. Does this mean that your autograph actually decreases the value of the book?’

☞ Very possibly, but the bidding ain’t over yet. Hurry, the auction ends soon.


Stephen Gilbert: ‘If you put $100 in a bank, they give you $105 back after a year; if you put it in insurance, they give you $65.’ Isn’t that the upshot of The Invisible Bankers? (Remember Father Guido Sarducci’s 15 Minute University? They taught you only what you’d remember 20 years after graduation. The Spanish class was ‘Como esta usted? Muy bien, gracias.’ Your degree cost $25, including cap and gown rental.)’

Or wait – maybe we can reprint the book, after all . . .


You will recall this from last week, when we discovered you could search on page numbers from books, and thus begin with page 3 (to see pages 1-5), then 8 (for 6-10), and so on. One of you happens to be Paul Aiken, Executive Director of the Authors Guild, who writes:

Amazon’s Search Inside the Book Program is intended, we’re told, to sell more books, and it may actually do so. Unfortunately, there’s no evidence that Amazon’s made available to writers to back this up.

Novelists have little to fear from the program. Nor do authors of narrative nonfiction. But the more one moves toward the reference end of the nonfiction spectrum, the greater potential there is that browsing of the work will supplant purchases of the work.

Our hunch is that Search Inside the Book is generally good for book sales, even of most reference works, especially if they have received little publicity and sell modestly, as most books do (fewer sales to displace, so the added exposure outweighs those concerns). Authors of popular nonfiction that might be used as a reference are at somewhat greater risk.

What to do? Well, you’re probably entitled to have your work removed from the program. This is because Amazon’s “authority” to post electronic copies of your work comes from your publisher, who probably doesn’t have that authority to begin with. (Here’s a link to our story from last year when Amazon launched the program, with some details.) So far, all reports are that Amazon will remove works from the program if the author, through the publisher, asks for it.

This may not be a good idea, however. Amazon’s program might be selling more books for you. A better solution would be to insist that Amazon provide you and your publisher with your work’s usage and resulting sales from the program. They certainly have that information available, but we’re told that Amazon isn’t sharing that data. It seems publishers haven’t pressed Amazon on this, which amazes us.

Google’s launched a similar program, Google Print. They’re making data on usage and clicks on the online booksellers links available to publishers, who can make it available to authors. It’s still in its early stages — your book probably isn’t in there yet. Here’s our info on this program.

Finally, regarding your high-priced but out-of-print title. We could have that reprinted for you at no cost and made available at online bookstores. Generous royalties, and you can pull out if you later decide you want a traditional publisher to reprint the title. It’s a program called that we run for members. There are more than 1,000 titles in it.

☞ Great. And I think we should set the price at, oh, say, $125 a copy. Stay tuned.


Doug Truth: ‘Josh Marshall ran a story about NBC and CBS not running an ad from the United Church of Christ. You gotta check it out. Where are we living, o my?’

☞ I agree. You gotta check it out.


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