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Author royalties for the sale of used books? They’re going to try it in the UK.

Jonny Diamond

June 1, 2021, 9:45am

If there’s any industry that would voluntarily organize to give up a percentage of its profits to its “suppliers,” it’s booksellers. Starting in October, reports The Guardian, a collective of used bookstores in the UK will be paying royalties to the writers whose old dogeared books they sell. Says organizer William Pryor, founder of Bookbarn International, one of the largest used bookstores in England: “I was puzzled that authors, the very people who create the raw material of our business, were not benefiting.” Refreshing!

Pryor has partnered with World of Books Group, another used books retailer in the UK, to create AuthorShare, a voluntary royalties fund currently worth £200,000. Royalties will be paid out via the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society, starting with a £1,000 annual cap. As this is a voluntary initiative, its success will depend on how many used booksellers are willing to shave off even a tiny bit of what are already slim profit margins. But insofar as the used books market has grown substantially in the last decade—as larger stores figure out online retail—AuthorShare will be less reliant on attracting the tiny, hole-in-the-wall stores run by taciturn misanthropes who sleep upon waterlogged stacks of Piers Anthony.

Writers, of course, are pleased. Says Joanne Harris of the project:

The value of a book goes beyond the value of the paper it is printed on, so it is great to see that original creators will see some benefit when their work finds a new reader. That the scheme has come from a partnership of private companies who simply believe that this is the right thing to do is very reassuring.

Ok, American booksellers, your move…

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