Try before you buy, the smell of books, hilarity ensues

A few interesting book-related links and errata I’ve found in recent days. Some of them are related to each other, others are just awesome, and some are both related to each other and awesome. It’s just a few things to keep you thinking about books today.


This is a video from AbeBooks which looks at why old books smell the way they do. I’ll admit, one of the things I like about used bookstores is the way old books smell (and let me clarify, I mean old books that have been stored properly, not weird, mildewy books that have been sitting in a garage for a decade) and to know that other people think this way is a bit of a relief. In conclusion: Chemistry Is Fun!


Dinobook - all my friends are deadA friend sent me this photo of a couple of books he found in a bookstore today and I couldn’t help but laugh, and come to the conclusion that all bookstores need to stock this. (Note: I didn’t write this, no one I know wrote this, and I just think that it’s hilarious.)

Also, they have a website where you can read the entire book online at When you get through reading the books they take you to a page that lets you buy the books on Amazon, and despite having just read the book, I’ll admit, I did order it. Giving away something for free made me buy it.

3) Speaking of reading books online for free, I happened across an old essay by Neil Gaiman called The Results of Free (you have to scroll down a bit to get to it). Back in 2008 he gave away free ebook copies of his book American Gods and then examined the resulting effect that had on sales of his book. The conclusions which he drew based on this was that there did in fact seem to be an increase in sales of his books during the period in which American Gods was being given away for free. He states that “sales of all [his] titles up 40% through independent bookshops.” It seems that by him convincing his publisher to give away a book for free online actually drove up sales at independent bookstores. Maybe there is something to this ebook thing after all…

Cory Doctorow also does this. In fact he goes a step further than Neil Gaiman does and actively distributes his own books for free. He maintains a website at which you can download his books under a Creative Commons license. This means that you can do whatever you want, non-commercially with the book, including redistributing it (for free, without altering the text, and giving the author attribution). He’s even so kind as to include a link on each download page to a listing of stores (both physical and virtual) where you can buy his books. (Bonus for the booksellers!) The fact that Cory is willing to give his books away for free is what initially got me reading his books. I found his theories about ebooks to be interesting, went to his website and found that all of his books, which I’d had recommended to me a few times, were available to download and read. I did just that, read them while on vacation, then got home and bought a few that I hadn’t had to time to read. If not for the free downloads he offered I likely never would have read the books.

I’m not justifying piracy by discussing the benefits that these two authors have found in free ebooks. This is the opposite of piracy, in fact. In both of these cases the authors, of their own free will, provided free downloads of their book (or books) in an e-format and allowed the fans to read them. In both cases this resulted in sales of the book that might not have otherwise happened (benefiting both the author and the retailer). This is still a contentious issue, but definitely one that should be studied, however it in no way legitimizes or justifies the piracy of books if an author (or the publisher, or whoever the copyright holder is) does not allow it. That’s still illegal.

1 thought on “Try before you buy, the smell of books, hilarity ensues”

  1. I find that sitting at my computer and reading a book is uncomfortable. I’ve yet to get an e-reader and it is too work intensive to carry my computer to another room where a rocker sits with a good reading lamp. So I can see that downloading a book, reading a portion, getting interested in ‘what happens next’, and wanting to be more relaxed while reading the rest could indeed inspire people to purchase a real book. Good for those authors that have figured out that giving away something could lead to more sales.

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