The trade of second-hand Dhamma books

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The trade of second-hand Dhamma books

Postby retrofuturist » Wed Mar 04, 2009 3:03 am

Greetings,

I've just come back from a second-hand bookshop that I like, on account of their reasonably large Esoteric / New Age ( :rolleye: :alien: :cookoo: ) section where they happen to store their 2nd hand Buddhist books. They usually have a decent number of books at a decent price and so long as I don't go there any more than once every few months, I'll generally find a thing or two worth picking up.

I bought a few books today, one of which is a beautiful copy of the Dhammapada, translated by K. Sri Dhammananda, complete with the traditional associated stories that accompany each verse, lots of nice artwork etc. It's 672 pages in total so it's one epic production and set to become a treasured Dhamma book in my home. :reading:

However, and here's the twist... it was originally published by a Buddhist society in Malaysia for free distribution, and the bookshop certainly didn't give it to me for free! Someone somewhere along the chain of events has not acted in accordance with the intention of the publishers.

I thought it might be interesting to open up a discussion on the ethics and logistics of the trade of second-hand Dhamma books intended for free distribution. Is there any blame to be apportioned? Is there anything to gain by not purchasing such books, which you would otherwise happily pay the cash for? Are there people actively profiteering from the sale of free Dhamma books, or it is an accidental or unintended process?

All thoughts, comments etc. welcome.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


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One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: The trade of second-hand Dhamma books

Postby retrofuturist » Wed Mar 04, 2009 3:16 am

P.S. A useful real-life case study...

After looking around on the Internet, it seems that this book sells for much more than the A$18 that I paid for it. Theoretically, though I have absolutely no intention of doing so, I could resell it on to someone else for even more. Would it be ethically wrong to sell the book seeing at I bought it myself in the open market?

:reading:

Many questions... but what are the answers?

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: The trade of second-hand Dhamma books

Postby Tex » Wed Mar 04, 2009 3:35 am

Great topic.

Personally I wouldn't sell any Dhamma book for any kind of markup. Covering printing costs is one thing, charging to make a profit is something else entirely.

Regarding the book you picked up, I think it would be nice to rescue such a book from a salesman's shop, where its publishers never intended it to land, pay the small fee, and then pass it on free of charge to another interested seeker or library or temple. We'd hate to see a Dhamma text that went unsold end up in a landfill or a recycling mill, wouldn't we?

And if someone is going to profiteer from it then at least we can ensure that it only happens once and get that teaching back on its intended track.
Last edited by Tex on Wed Mar 04, 2009 3:41 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The trade of second-hand Dhamma books

Postby pink_trike » Wed Mar 04, 2009 3:39 am

Books are paper,ink, and cloth.
Vision is Mind
Mind is Empty
Emptiness is Clear Light
Clear Light is Union
Union is Great Bliss

- Dawa Gyaltsen

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Re: The trade of second-hand Dhamma books

Postby Ben » Wed Mar 04, 2009 5:00 am

Hi Paul

I don't think there is any ethical problem in either purchasing or selling a Dhamma book.
Having been involved in publishing and bookselling, I can assure you that the mark up on a second hand book is peanuts. Given the demand in any community for a second-hand dhammabook, I don't see the day coming where booksellers are going to make a mint from onselling books previously distributed for free. The fact of the matter is, without the bookseller as intermediary, the book may have indeed gone to landfill. In all likelihood, the bookseller may have purchased the book as a 'lot' from a deceased estate, someone falling on hard times, someone selling a box of books after their interest in the Dhamma wained or for a whole variety of reasons. Should the bookseller not charge to sell the book because the publisher didn't? I don't think its reasonable. Booksellers still have costs to meet and make a livelihood. And I can assure you the livelihood of an independent second-hand book dealer isn't grand.

Putting a price on a Dhamma book isn't such a bad thing. It ascribes a value and indicates to the prospective purchaser that the contents have value. You may not believe me but it is a basic premise in consumer product pricing structures. Publishers and booksellers have costs to meet, and the cost of publishing, istributing and selling a book are extraordinary.
Most of my Dhamma books I have paid for. I think I paid in excess of $AUD100 for the Bhikkhu Bodhi translation of the SN and about $AUD95 for the MN. The books were sold to me by an Australian Dhamma Book non-profit organisation and published by Wisdom Publications, is a US-based non-profit organisation. Rarther than being a barrier for Dhamma to reach intended audiences, without the assistance of publishers and booksellers, there would be less translated and printed Dhamma in the world today.
Kind regards

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Re: The trade of second-hand Dhamma books

Postby Prasadachitta » Wed Mar 04, 2009 5:06 am

They have to cover the cost of keeping the book on that shelf so that it can wait for you to get it.

Seems fine to me. Someone who is running a small book shop is not making out like a thief. They are providing a valuable service by which we who want the Dhamma can find it when we look.

Metta

Gabriel

PS: Of course there would be a great deal of virtue in the book shop giving away such books.
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Re: The trade of second-hand Dhamma books

Postby jcsuperstar » Wed Mar 04, 2009 6:04 am

i thought this was gonna be about trading books....
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Re: The trade of second-hand Dhamma books

Postby retrofuturist » Wed Mar 04, 2009 7:00 am

Greetings JC,

jcsuperstar wrote:i thought this was gonna be about trading books....


Well you're welcome to start a topic for that too if you like.

:anjali:

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: The trade of second-hand Dhamma books

Postby Cittasanto » Wed Mar 04, 2009 7:07 am

I don't think there is anything wrong with selling dhamma books, and think this may of been an honest mistake.

there are overheads which I think should be met by each individual purchasing the knowledge and effort inparted may be free but the ink, paper, thread, etc aren't.

I have a number of free books, and have passed them on to others (got another copy later) and I think once the initial expence is covered it should be free from then on, or go down in price for every passing.

I have looked around for a copy of the Dhammapada like the one you mention and the only one I can find I have heard they can take some time to send it out so if anyone knows where a copy can be obtained please let me know.
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Re: The trade of second-hand Dhamma books

Postby retrofuturist » Wed Mar 04, 2009 8:32 am

Greetings Manapa,

You can get one for free at http://www.budaedu.org/en/

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: The trade of second-hand Dhamma books

Postby jcsuperstar » Wed Mar 04, 2009 8:36 am

i see free buddhist books for sale all the time at my local use book store. i wonder why they buy them? they only pay you what they see the book is worth online.. so they have to know its a free book so why would they buy it to sell it?

i'm glad you got it though retro, it probably needed a good home!
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Re: The trade of second-hand Dhamma books

Postby retrofuturist » Wed Mar 04, 2009 8:39 am

Greetings JC,

I suspect the deceased estates that Ben mentions might contribute a significant percentage of such books.

I'm glad I got it too... and boy, is it heavy!

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: The trade of second-hand Dhamma books

Postby Jechbi » Thu Mar 05, 2009 4:13 am

retrofuturist wrote:Someone somewhere along the chain of events has not acted in accordance with the intention of the publishers.
If the publisher gave it away as a gift but with strings or expectations attached, then it wasn't really a gift, in my opinion. Not that that would justify charging money for such a book. I think Ben was right on target with regard to booksellers, but I think private owners ought to be willing to give their Dhamma books away free (and without expectations) to friends, strangers, libraries, families, street people, anyone. I've given most of mine away.
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Re: The trade of second-hand Dhamma books

Postby salmon » Thu Mar 26, 2009 9:39 am

Hello,

Where I live in S.E.Asia, Dhamma books are given for free by the truckloads because donors send money to publishers to publish them and distribute them for free. Printers would normally give a huge discount on the printing costs as well. It's easy to find donors like these to make such dana because it is believed that the merit from such donations can help one be more intelligent in their next birth.

There are a few shops that try to sell these books by removing the cover which has the word (for free distribution) and replacing them with a fancier cover on better quality paper. I have bought some books from such shop, only because those are not in the "free print" circuit.

In any case, alot of those books now also come as eBooks. Which makes the task of finding them ALOT easier. :smile:

Personally, I don't subscribe to selling anything related to the Dhamma because if the Buddha didn't charge for his words, how can we?

metta.
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