5:04 PM Earlier this week I received an email from someone asking where they could purchase my books online. Evidently they had tried Amazon.com and the book they were looking for was out of print. Then last night a friend asked if any of my books were out of print. The answer is yes, but that doesn't mean what it meant in the past. Years ago if book went out of print, you had to find a used bookstore and hope they either carried the book you were looking for or they knew where to find it. The advent of the Internet has changed all of that. I told my email correspondent that it's easy to find all my books, even the ones that are technically out of print. To be "out of print" used to mean it was virtually impossible to find a copy. Today out of print simply means the publisher doesn't keep the book in stock. There are many sources for out of print books on the Internet, but Amazon.com offers one of the easiest ways. Simply find the page for the book you want, then look underneath the major listing for the link called "Used and New." If you click on that link, you find a variety of booksellers that offer the book at prices below the Amazon.com basic price. Often those books are brand-new. Sometimes they have a minor flaw. Occasionally the book is a true "used" book that someone else owned and marked up. Usually each listing tells you what you are purchasing.
Let me illustrate. A few weeks ago Crosswalk Books released Credo: Believing in Something to Die For. The book retails for $12.99. Amazon offers it for $10.93, a 20% savings. The "Used and New" section offers 24 different places to buy the book, starting with a low price of $7.50 with various sites offering prices in the $8-9 range. Now since the book has only been out a few weeks, it's extremely unlikely that a truly "used" copy is being offered for sale. I note that a number of sellers say the book is "brand new." How can this be? Deciding how many copies to print is an art and a science. Publishers routinely sell books in large quantities to wholesalers at huge discounts. Those wholesalers can resell them to booksellers who can sell them through Amazon (and other sources) at very low prices.
If you like surfing the Internet, you can find new and used books for sale in all sorts of sites, including Ebay. Some of my earlier books are now on sale on Ebay for 25 cents or 50 cents. Occasionally I'll see one that says, "Signed by author." During my visit to Harrisburg last weekend, I signed a book for someone who said she was going to sell it on Ebay. I laughed and told her I hoped she got a good price for it. It doesn't bother me at all. I write the books. What people do when they buy them isn't my concern. I hope they read them and benefit from them but I can't control that.
That brings me to one or two final points. The whole concept of being "out of print" has also been changed by the development of "on-demand" printing. It used to be that publishers had to several thousand copies in order to justify a new printing. Technology has made it possible to justify extremely small print runs. That means books can go in and out of print and back into print very quickly.
Personally I started buying all my books on Amazon through the "Used and New" link several years ago, and I haven't had a bad experience yet. Once or twice I've ended up with a used book but that doesn't bother me. Most of the time I get a brand new book at a fraction of the retail cost.
There is much more that could be said but I will stop with one last thought. During this Christmas season many people will buy books as gifts. Most of the time there is no reason to pay full retail for a book. You can save lots by searching the Internet and by using the "Used and New" link on Amazon, including getting new copies of books that are technically out of print. Only people like Donald Trump pay full retail, but I doubt that he would anyway. Donald Trump wouldn't pay full price for a book, and neither should you.
5:04 PM 2317 miles.