Did anyone really need this?
Last year, California’s Governor Jerry Brown signed into law Assembly Bill No. 1570, which concerns collectibles, particularly signed-by-author or artist books. But it doesn’t mention books, and is confusingly written. What a mess.
Who asked for it?
It certainly wasn’t the struggling booksellers who have come to depend on signed authors’ copies. In the Age of Amazon.com, book vendors need to add value to stay afloat.* Author-signed copies help.
The law says that for signed-by-creator collectibles sold for more than $5 — yes, a mere five smackers — sellers must provide customers a Certificate of Authentication. The law specifies nine “helpful” directions for said certificates. So imagine an edition of Brian Doherty’s Radicals for Capitalism, signed by the author at, say, a non-profit dinner, or at a bookstore signing, or even a late-night bar —discounted to not much over five bucks.** The bookseller must not only provide a certificate, but list the book’s provenance. Talk about an added cost of doing business.
I mention Mr. Doherty not merely because of his excellent book, but because he has not unreasonably confessed that “my own interests could be harmed by any attempt to actually enforce the letter of this law.”
This week on EconTalk, economist Mike Munger mentioned the market’s built-in regulatory features — reputation being the most obvious — for helping consumers avoid getting ripped off buying books . . . and paintings . . . and anything else improved by creator signature.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.
* The number of independent bookstores plummeted (down a thousand) around the country between 2000 and 2007. But there seems to be an increase since then, despite (or because of?) Abebooks and Alibris and other dot coms.
** I found a signed copy of Doherty’s history at Abebooks for $10.