Friday, October 02, 2009

Remembering Books

Ever wonder about the life of books? They’re here, then they’re remaindered and gone. If, somewhere along the line, the author becomes a huge best-seller, the book may be reprinted. But most books aren’t. Their shelf life is short -- sometimes only a few weeks, sometimes less. I remember reading about a huge airport with many bookstores - the shelf life there of books that weren’t big sellers was a counted in minutes - the time it took the person doing the restocking to box up the ones not selling, put out others, and move to the next store to repeat until he made a circle of the stores and started over again.

Some people DO remember books, though. To prove it, I present to you BookFinder’s Top 10 Most Wanted Out-of-Print Books. I’m listing the number 1 in each category, but you can follow the link to see the rest:

Arts & Music
Currier & Ives: Printmakers to the American People
Harry Twyford Peters

And I'd Do It Again
Aimee Crocker

The Pink Dress
Anne Alexander

Crafts, Hobbies & How-To
Carpentry for Beginners: How to Use Tools, Basic Joints, Workshop Practice, Designs for Things to Make
Charles Harold Hayward

Fiction and Literature
Ticket to Ride
Dennis Potter

Folklore of Highland County
Violet Morgan

Mysteries and Thrillers
Legally Sane
John K. Hahn with Harold C. McKenney

Popular Science & Technology
Murmurs of Earth: The Voyager Interstellar Record
Carl Sagan

Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror
Patricia Briggs

Society and Culture
In a Dark Place: The Story of a True Haunting
Ray Garton

And before you ask, I have no idea why there’s not a list for Romance.

There are some interesting ones on the lists, including two of Stephen King’s books.
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  1. I was talking to some booksellers about this topic last weekend. They said quite often the greatest blockbuster only has a short shelf life while others have slow and steady sales through the years.

  2. Interesting. I wonder why they don't reprint then?

  3. I love Currier & Ives, though am seeing less and less of their artwork as well :(

  4. How disheartening to spend years writing and getting a book published only to know it might only have minutes of shelf life! Sigh. However, I did find the list fascinating.

  5. You'd think if a book is in the top 10 of most wanted, the publisher would reprint it - or put it out on ebook.

  6. I'll take a slow and steady shelf life over the short-lived blockbuster anyday. This way I can keep my name and face in the public eye's longer. Slow and steady wins the race.

    Stephen Tremp

  7. Isn't it sad? Sometimes I feel haunted by the ghosts of out-of-print books from my past.

  8. W, you could write that book. It might only sell to other writers, but they'd be a lot of those who would read it!

  9. I agree with Stephen, slow and steady wins the race. However, I wouldn't say no to the opportunity of being the author of a runaway bestseller, either. (after all, that would just be rude).

    Demand rules every marketplace - it's the law of the jungle.


  10. A title by Nora Roberts is #2 on the Fiction & Literature list. I didn't think any of her books ever went out of print.

  11. Elspeth, your mother brought you up right. Never be rude, especially when they're giving you money and accolades.

    I'm with you Carol. I was surprised by Roberts and King. Maybe you reach a point where you have so many best sellers that one or two fall off the edge.

  12. Cool list. I want the carpentry book. :-)

  13. Man, that airport story is scary. I read somewhere that one advantage of being signed with a small press is they can afford to keep you books in publication because of POD and limited quantity printing. This would be, I think, for sure true for the self-published. Anyway, that small press thing has the ring of truth to it. Does it sound right to you?

    Best Regards, Galen

    Imagineering Fiction Blog

  14. And yet, time and time again, I see certain books still out there on display, books that don't belong there, (in my humble opinion). I don't know who makes these asinine decisions, it's the same with TV, they don't keep a new show on the air long enough for it to develop a following, or the fashion industry--one minute you're in--the next you're out.

    Super idea for a post. I enjoyed reading the comments too.

  15. Galen, some of the big pub houses do POD also. POD does save money. You can print as many as you need rather than guessing then taking back the ones that don't sell.

    I hear you, Elizabeth. It seems like stores keep the celebrity and political books on the shelves forever.

    Maryann, you and I will have to settle for some less informative carpentry book. I could use it to prop up the three legged stool I made.

  16. A good friend of mine is a librarian. She's often times been asked if it's an outdated job. She claims it isn't. The Internet is not a good source of validated information and there are things in the library that can't be found on the Internet, etc. She's passionate about her job and loves books. For me, the Internet cannot replace that feeling of turning the pages and the smell of leather book covers.

  17. I don't think bookseller will disappear any time soon either, Aleta and Helen. When I worked at a bookstore, I was often asked for suggestions--and how to find out-of-print books too (although we sold new titles, we'd find those too).

  18. This is why I love used bookstores. I certainly buy new books - sometimes I just can't wait, and I do like to support the authors - but I love finding an out of print treasure. In my early twenties, I discovered the books of Helen McInnes (sp?) at a used bookstore, and spent many months tracking down all of her titles.

  19. Laura, it does give me a thrill to see an old book in a store. I always hurry to see what it is and if it's a first printing (hardly ever).

    Conda, there are a few bookstores that specialize in out of print books, at least there used to be.

    Ooh, leather covers, Aleta. Haven't seen many of those in a while.

  20. Oooh, now I have a list for my too-infrequent visits to Powell's and other used book sellers.
    Interesting post. I was at a major bookstore yesterday and was surprised to see remainders from best-selling authors and some from folks who are getting rave reviews on their books.

  21. I bought a few extra of my first mystery because I knew it would go out of print before the second book was released. Sure enough, the 1st one is no longer available new (except from me). At least I have that inventory so I can make both books available at my signings.

  22. Now that there are POD and ebook platforms, I wonder how they will change this problem.

    Steamy Darcy

  23. Excellent idea, Patricia. I've seen quite a few authors doing that.

    Enid, I'm not sure, but it seems like with POD and ebooks, they could keep more books in "print" now.

  24. It's a shame that space constraints dictate how long a book can stay on the shelf. How many books might have become hits if allowed extra time?

  25. It is a shame, Laura. This quick turnaround is why authors have to start planning their marketing strategy way early, even before the manuscript is accepted.

  26. I love this sort of information - thank you!


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