A landmark study released Wednesday confirms what publishers, authors and booksellers have believed -- and feared -- since the rise of the Internet: Used books have become a modern powerhouse, driven by high prices for new works and by the convenience of finding any title, new or old, without leaving one’s home.
According to the Book Industry Study Group, used-book sales topped $2.2 billion in 2004, an 11% increase over 2003. Much of that growth can be credited to the Internet. While used sales at traditional stores rose a modest 4.6%, they jumped 33% online, to just over $600 million.
The Book Industry Study Group, a nonprofit organization supported by publishers, booksellers and others, reports that price is the greatest appeal for choosing used books over new ones. While hardcovers often cost $25 and higher, used books purchased in 2004 averaged $8.12 -- except for text books, which averaged $42.31.
The size of the used-book market has never before been calculated, and the report represents an unusual cooperative effort among the leading used-book retailers.
Amazon.com, Alibris.com and EBay are among those who provided precise sales figures, usually the dearest of industry secrets.