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Want to Know How the Sale of Used Books Affects the Publishing Industry? It Will Cost You $695 to Find Out

I recently stumbled across the website for the Book Industry Study Group, which describes itself as “the industry’s leading trade association for policy, standards and research.” Its membership is made of up “publishers, manufacturers, suppliers, wholesalers, retailers, librarians and others engaged in the business of print and electronic media.”

The site’s front page features a recent publication, Used Book Sales, which is described as “The first comprehensive study of the behavior, structure, size, and growth of the used-book market.”

That sounds interesting, doesn’t it? We’ve touched on related subjects here and here; Judy Chevalier and Austan Goolsbee wrote a paper about the market for used textbooks. Even closer to home, as far as the trade publishing industry is concerned, is this paper by Anindya Ghose, Michael Smith, and Rahul Telang, which argues that — despite the publishers’ fears — the sale of used books does not cannibalize new book sales, and in fact a robust used market may help the new book market since a book, once read, retains more of its value.

So I was pretty eager to see how this research squared with the findings of the Book Industry Study Group. There’s only one problem: Used Book Sales carries a non-member price tag of $695. (It’s only $100 for members of the B.I.S.G.; talk about price discrimination!)

So I’m left with three viable choices:

1. Join the B.I.S.G. (It costs $550 a year for an individual.)
2. Pony up the $695.
3. Wait for a used copy to turn up on eBay.

I think all of these choices are pretty unlikely. But, given the subject matter, I guess the most fitting option would be No. 3 by a long shot.