In this the 11th annual BookFinder.com Report we publish a list of the top 100 most searched for out of print book titles from the previous 12 months. The books featured in this 2013 edition of the report run the gamut of publishing from true to life memoirs to science fiction, cookery to crochet, and firearms to photography.
Most of the books published over the course of history are out of print today. For hundreds of years the lifecycle for the vast majority of books has been the same: a book is written, it is published, many people buy and enjoy it, the book begins to fall out of favor and then publishers stop printing copies and the book falls out of print. This happens to exceptional books, average books and books that perhaps should never have seen the light of day in the first place. This lifecycle remained the same from the days Gutenberg walked the earth until the very recent past; a book being out of print meant it was a dead book. Once a book was dead the only way you were going to read a copy was to find someone to lend, give or sell it to you, or convince a publisher that issuing a new pressing was going to be financially viable.
In recent years, however, two technologies changed the landscape for out of print books, and created major debate among readers in the process. Print on Demand Books (POD) and Electronic Books (ebooks) have forced us to ask two questions
1) Are these technologies helping book lovers?
2) Does out of print exist in 2014 anyway?
Print on Demand (POD) technology allows anyone to create a bound book from any manuscript they hold the copyright for (or any work in the public domain) in a matter of minutes. Gone are the days of a required demand threshold to warrant a traditional print run. If a publisher wants every book they hold a copyright for to be available for purchase online they can now do it with an added marginal cost of essentially zero; no up-front print costs and no warehousing expense. Ebooks, of course, take this a step further and require no printing whatsoever and zero shipping costs, making even the most marginal title potentially worth something to someone.
Whether you think these technologies sound like a science fiction utopia or dystopia will depend on what camp you fall into. For many scholars, academics, and voracious readers (who merely want access to more books) this is a dream come true; the vaults of human literary and scientific achievement have been unlocked and no matter how esoteric your interest reasonably affordable access is easier than ever before. However, for collectors and traditionalists (who also love the book as an object unto itself) these technologies are essentially producing counterfeit goods. Based on the fact that each side has a very different use case for why they value the books in question, one could easily see the validity of either side's argument. This is why I don't see traditionally printed books and fine presses going anywhere anytime soon.
The second question is the one we struggle with when creating the BookFinder.com report. For our report we do not consider a title currently published as an eBook or POD to be in print. We felt that In Print meant printed on a page, with ink; so while a book only available electronically may be handy, it did not fit our criteria. We also decided some years ago that we would not consider POD published titles to be In Print. This was less to do with the quality of printing and binding (some PODs are indistinguishable from basic trade printings) but more that The BookFinder.com Report is meant to highlight books which traversed the entire traditional book lifecycle from life to death, and yet are once again sought after for one reason or another.
by Madonna (i.e. Louise Veronica Ciccione) (*1958)
Warner Books; New York, NY, 1992
Full-Metal, Spiral Bound; First Edition
132 pages. 32 cm
Madonna Sex (first published in 1992) was the highly controversial erotic photography book which features the queen of pop along with other early 1990s notables including rappers Vanilla Ice & Big Daddy Kane as well as model Naomi Campbell. The book itself is spiral bound and actually quite fragile making fine copies relatively rare; copies still found in their Mylar wrapping sheet command an extra premium. The book went beyond basic erotica of the day, with several shoots pushing various social taboos, and earned Madonna the moniker “Queen of the Obscene.” After the books initial, albeit large, print run Sex has never since been reproduced as Madonna has very typically moved on from this phase of her career. As such one can assume that Sex will probably remain out of print indefinitely.
by Stephen King (as Richard Bachman) (*1947)
Signet; New York, NY, 1977
Paperback, First Edition
211 pages. 18 cm
Rage (originally titled Getting It On) is the first novel by Stephen King published under the pseudonym Richard Bachman in 1977. It was collected in 1985 in the hardcover omnibus The Bachman Books. When King decided to let Rage fall out of print in the United States, it was available only as part of The Bachman Books. The other novels that appeared in that compilation (The Long Walk, Roadwork, and The Running Man) are now published as separate books in the USA.
3. My Pretty Pony
by Stephen King (*1947)
Knopf; New York, NY, 1989
Stainless Steel, First Edition
100 pages. 35 X 24 cm
"My Pretty Pony" is a short story written by Stephen King and illustrated by the artist Barbara Kruger. It was the sixth publication in the Whitney Museum of American Art artist and writer series. An original limited artist edition of 250 was published in 1989 and was an oversized fine press slip-cased book with stainless steel faced boards and digital clock inset into the front cover. A trade edition of 15,000 was later published by Alfred A. Knopf and was later included in King's collection Nightmares & Dreamscapes.
4. The Harvard Classics
edited by Charles W. Eliot (1869-1909)
Easton Press; Norwalk, CT, 1993
Full Leather, Reprinted
50 v. ; 23 cm
The Harvard Classics, originally known as Dr. Eliot's Five Foot Shelf, is a 51-volume anthology of classic works from world literature, compiled and edited by Harvard University president Charles W. Eliot and first published in 1909. It has been republished a number of times over the past century, including the latest publication which was by the Easton Press in 1993, which is currently out of print.
5. On the Nature and Existence of God
by Richard M. Gale (*1932)
Cambridge University Press; Norwalk, CT, 1999
422 p. ; 23 cm.
First published in 1991 this is Richard Gale's critical response to the plethora of defences of theism published in the 1980s. While this book out of print, currently it is also available as a print on demand edition.
6. Promise me tomorrow
by Nora Roberts (*1950)
Pocket Books; New York, NY 1984
Paperback, First Edition
296 p. ; 18 cm.
Described by some as the worst thing Nora Roberts ever wrote, Promise me Tomorrow has been out of print since this first publication, and will probably stay that way for the rest of eternity. Roberts has gone on record to say that this novel is so bad that she will never allow it to be republished, and that her fans should probably avoid it. That however has not stopped this novel from being a mainstay on the BookFinder.com Report, or from completest collectors regularly paying over $100 to aquire a copy.
7. The Jerusalem Bible
by Salvador Dali (1904-1989)
Doubleday; Garden City, NY, 1970
Full-Leather, First Edition
353 pages. 32 x 24 cm, thirty-two full-page color plates by Dali.
The Jerusalem Bible (first published in 1966) was the first truly modern Bible for Catholics. The translation itself uses a literal approach that has been admired for its literary qualities, perhaps in part due to its most famous contributor, J.R.R. Tolkien (his primary contribution was the translation of Jonah) The Jerusalem Bible was the first widely accepted Roman Catholic English translation of the Bible since the Douay-Rheims Version of the 17th century.
8. A Treasury of Great Recipes
by Mary and Vincent Price (1911-1993)
G.P. Putnam's Sons; New York, NY, 1983
488 pages; 29 cm.
First published in 1965 A Treasury of Great Recipes highlights one of Vincent Price's greatest loves in life, food. More than a celebrity cookbook A Treasury of Great Recipes captures an entire lifestyle -- the Postwar, globe-trotting, Pan Am, waiters in bow ties, gourmet lifestyle. What makes this book great is that Vincent was not only a food lover but actually a gourmet cook who had his own cooking show which aired in Britain called "Cooking Pricewise." This book features all of the Vincent and hiw wife's favourite recipes, collected from their many trips around the globe.
by Kyle Onstott (1887-1966)
Ballentine; New York, NY, 1983
639 pages; 18 cm.
First published in 1957 the novel is set in the 1830s on a fictional plantation in Alabama. The story centers around the plantation's owner, his son, and a Mandinka (aka Mandingo) slave named Ganymede and is a tale of the cruelty suffered by African Americans in this time. The book was the basis for a 1975 film by the same name.
10. The Centurions
by Jean Lartéguy (1920-2011)
Dutton; New York, NY, 1961
Paperback, First Edition
487 pages; 21 cm
First published in France in 1960, translated into English in 1961 by Xan Fielding, the novel is the first known work to use the "ticking time bomb" scenario in which the argument is brought up that a person or nation could justify the torture of a terrorist if they possess critical knowledge of a bomb or weapon which will soon explode and cause a great loss of life. There has been renewed interst in the novel in recent years as the use of torture in counter-terrorism has become a more regular topic of debate.
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