Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Rant About Out of Print Books

Captain's Log, Stardate 12.14.2011

Forgive me, but this is going to be a full-on rant.

My friend let me borrow her copy of Practice to Deceive by Patricia Veryan, a Georgian romance author who died a few years ago. Practice to Deceive was published in hardcover in 1985 (with a rather nice pencil drawn cover) with one other English version, mass market paperback with a truly horrid cover in 1986.

Practice to Deceive is the first book in the Golden Chronicles, one of the Georgian romantic intrigue series that Patricia Veryan was famous for. The series premise is fascinating--in the months after the Jacobite rebellion in England, there was a six part cypher that pointed to the location of Prince Charlie’s treasure and also the names of his financial supporters. The series is about the six parts, each carried by a different man, escaping the agents of the Crown.

The book was incredibly entertaining, but I also knew, even before I started reading it, that the copy I held was extremely rare. The paperback copy sells for a minimum of $45 on Amazon! It’s because the book is out of print, and the publisher no longer prints copies of it. Therefore, the few copies left out there are for sale for exorbitant prices.

I’m returning my friend’s copy to her (carefully stored in a plastic bag to protect it), and I’d like my own copy of this book but I can’t afford it! I think it’s ridiculous how some of these out of print books are being sold for so much!

Most of the time, readers just want to read the story, they’re not out to collect the books. Readers might want a copy (like I do) to reread occasionally, or to let someone else borrow it. Most typical readers don’t need pristine copies to keep on their climate-controlled collectors’ bookshelves.

(Okay, well, I’ll admit I’d prefer a nice copy but only because I’m a germaphobe, not because I need a pristine copy to collect. But I’ll settle for a used copy just to have the book to reread.)

Why do books go out of print? Why can’t publishers go through the contract processes to reprint them? Why do online book sellers have to charge an arm and a leg?

Why is it so hard for a reader to read a good book???????

If you'd like, you can also contribute to the discussion on my Goodreads group.


  1. Oh, I am so with you!!! Also, I have issues with people who are simply collectors who drive up the prices so we who just want a nice copy to read, that is not falling apart, but a copy that holds up while we read it for our kids, and instead we have to pay an arm and a leg. If it does get reprinted, it is often in a cheap paperback mode. I love the old copies of Sue Barton books, Gene Stratton Porter and Sally Watson's children's books as well as collect Beany Malone...but I want hardcover ones. I don't care if they are in mint condition, I just want to read them! I also have an issue with people who are more recently cutting up old books for makes me sick to my stomach. So, I am just a little, teensy, weetsy bit weird!

  2. I totally agree!

    I actually have a friend who cuts up old hardcover books to make art gifts, but she's also a writer, so she always first checks online to make sure the book is not rare or in high demand, and the books she uses are usually very ratty and not in a condition a reader would want to buy anyway. Unfortunately, I don't think many people go through that much trouble to check.

  3. I so hear you. As a homeschooler as well as a book lover - OOP books drive me nuts. I use Five In A Row and some of the books are OOP and if I can find them used on ebay or Amazon they are at crazy prices! I want a first edition of Gone with the Wind (I love the story, book as well as the collectible value) but I know that is only a dream as there are only a few and the price is great. Sometimes I have success with Paperbackswap but that is a big hit or miss.

  4. It seems that the OOP book dilemma would be a good venue for kindle & nook. There is so much debate about ebooks vs flip-page books. This seems to sway in the ebooks favor, IF they would pick it up and electronically copy it. Sure, one would still not have that book to hold, but at least it would be an option for reading (such as in a series!).

  5. Sarah--I can imagine it must be so hard when you need books for homeschooling! And many times if you start with a series you need to finish with it, right?

    Jaimn, I just mentioned on Goodreads too about how I'm glad that some authors are self publishing their out of print books as ebooks, but not all authors are computer savvy enough to do it, and some are dead. I think the publishers should take steps to arrange contracts with the authors or their heirs to publish the OOP books as ebooks if the author doesn't want to do it herself. Then at least we'd be able to read them! I wouldn't have been able to read Practice to Deceive if my friend hadn't lent me her precious copy of the book!


  6. The only thing is that the best part of reading old books is their smell and feel, just something you cannot get from a Kindle!

  7. I definitely like the feel of old books, but I have never really liked the smell, maybe because I've been burned by some really nasty smelling used books in the past. After smelling a truly foul B.O. smelling book, the musty smell of an old book stopped appealing to me.