How To Find Out-of-Print Books
note to librarians: Feel free to copy this and hand it out to patrons.
A lot of people have been e-mailing me, saying, in effect, that when they used my lists of unputdownable books I got their hopes up, inspired them with a longing for a particular book, and then they found out that the book was out of print, and would I please tell them what to do next? So, here are some tips from an old pro (book hunter, that is).
If You Don't Want To Buy It, Just Read It...Check WorldCat <http://worldcat.org/>, a database with the holdings of thousands of libraries, to find out what libraries near you might own the book. If it's not your own library, go to your public library, anyway. They should be able to get it for you on interlibrary loan. Nowadays, thanks to online catalogs, librarians can find out what books are owned by thousands of libraries. What's more, we can even ask online to borrow them, and often can get them within days. (Not always, though. The more obscure the book (and some of the ones I've recommended are nowhere near as well-known as they deserve to be), the farther afield your library may have to go to find it.) If you prefer a version you can read on an e-reader or mobile device, check your public library's web site to see if they offer digital downloads.
If You Do Want To Acquire It, and It's Out of Print
- Thousands of out of copyright titles are available as digitized texts that can be downloaded for free to computers, e-readers and mobile devices. One place you can start is Project Gutenberg, <http://www.gutenberg.org/>. Digital Book Index <http://www.digitalbookindex.org/about.htm> allows you to search for over 165,000 specific titles. Books and reports in science, medicine, and the social sciences published by the National Academies of Science are also free for downloading at <http://www.nap.edu/>.
- Haunt local antiquarian and used book stores. Let the bookstore owners know what you're looking for. There's also something special about the atmosphere of a good used book store, and there's a real tactile pleasure to handling the books themselves. Besides, when you browse, you often find something you didn't even know you wanted.
- Some multi-store search services are available online. I've linked them at the bottom of this page.
- Check with your local libraries to find out when they're holding their book sales. These library sales are a splendid place to find books, and dirt cheap at that. (I give children books at Halloween -- not instead of candy, but with candy -- and I buy them, 3 or 4 for a dollar, at library book sales.)
- Check out the remainder tables at every bookstore you visit. In some cases, these are books newly out-of-print, or on their way out of print. These are good places to find the ephemeral kinds of books that often don't get preserved, especially humor books.
- Visit discount book warehouses. These places specialize in remaindered books, and they have thousands of titles. Humor books, which are ephemeral, and appeal to a narrow audience, often go out of print quickly; they are especially likely to turn up at remainder houses or remainder tables in bookstores. That's where I picked up multiple copies of Henry Beard's delightful French for Cats and Colin McEnroe's bizarre How To Lose Weight through Great Sex with Celebrities (the Elvis Way).
- Try eBay.
- Visit your local Goodwill and Salvation Army stores and other resale stores, where books are treated as commodities and sold for as little as a quarter apiece. In one large, undiscriminating pile, you may find everything from very used copies of Danielle Steele to first editions of Leaves of Grass to children's books. It takes a certain amount of patience to sort through such disorganized piles, but gold is there waiting to be found.
If You Don't Remember the Author or Title . . .
You can use a good search engine, like Google, or possible even Amazon, with the information you DO remember. Like if you're sure the words CRY and COUNTRY were in the title, just search for CRY + COUNTRY; Cry, the Beloved Country will come up. When I was unable to remember the name of the fat mystery solver Nero Wolfe, or any book titles, or his author, I searched Google with what I DID remember: ARCHIE + ORCHIDS + FRITZ. A Nero Wolfe site immediately popped up which contained a complete listing of Rex Stout's books about Wolfe.
If you don't remember anything more than a plot line, ASK A LIBRARIAN. We have finding tools for this purpose, including reference books that are subject catalogs of fiction, both for adults AND for children, which may provide brief summaries and reviews as well.
And here's a useful site you could visit, Stump the Bookseller <http://www.logan.com/loganberry/stump.html>. For $2 you can submit a question, for the editor and readers to try to solve. For free, you can offer your own suggestions on other people's problem books and view the solved mysteries.
Dealers and Finding Services for Out of Print Books
Better World Books
My favorite place to shop for books because it sells libraries' unneeded books and splits the profits of the sales between the libraries and organizations promoting literacy worldwide.
Claims to be "the world's largest online marketplace for used, rare, and out-of-print books." Note there are also Abebooks sites in France, Germany and the UK.
AddALL Book Search and Price Comparison
partners with Bibliofind so that it will automatically check for used copies of any title.
the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America
Biblio: Used Books, Rare Books, and Out of Print Books
another meta-search engine for used book catalogs.
Old Children's Books
15,000+ rare and out of print children's hardback books.
A European antiquarian book dealer reminds me that there are European equivalents of these bookfinding services, including the following:
International League of Antiquarian Booksellers
SFB - Suche & Finde Bucher
On January 29, 2000, I received this comparison shopping advice from a rare book dealer and collector, Suzanne Price, co-founder of OldChildren's Books.Com (http://www.oldchildrensbooks.com/html/index.html) and I reprint it here with her permission:
There are many booksearch engines out there. However, if I were writing the internet section of your out of print library page today, I would recommend, in order of the rarity of the book,
And for rare books:
- Searching Bookfinder.com, with a backup search on ABE (sometimes Bookfinder doesn't pick up all the info from ABE). I recommend bookmarking Bookfinder's advanced search.
- Searching the book through sites mentioned on bookwire.com.
- Taking a look at ebay, especially if condition and data are unimportant to you and you aren't spending much.
- Leaving a want list on ABE
In children's books, the best are:
- Checking out the smaller specialist bookseller databases, like ours, which do not list books on the major services, through professional journals, metasearch engines and bookwire.com. Most of these small pages are specialist dealers.
- Using an experienced specialist booksearcher who searches off line as well as electronically. I don't know how to find these people without researching specialist journals.
- Children's literature and picture books-Connie Castle at Treasures from the Castle ( firstname.lastname@example.org) (http://www.abebooks.com/home/TREASURE/search_info.htm)
- Series and popular publishing- James Keeline at Prince and the Pauper (oldkidsbooks.com) Both of these people are very knowledgeable in the other's specialties, should you have a mixed group of wants.
So, good luck and good hunting. Remember, if you really want a book, the waiting and the stalking are part of the game--they make it all the more pleasurable when you finally find it. And I've found pretty much everything I want to own. I used to add "except for Jay Cronley's Screwballs and Leonard Wibberley's Mrs. Searwood's Secret Weapon," but I am pleased to say that people who have used this page actually located them for me while they were searching for their own books, so I now own them. People on the net are wonderful, aren't they?
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bookworm graphic by Prof. Leslie Bell, St. Ambrose University
Last updated December, 2011
This site is created by Marylaine Block,
Writer, Book Reviewer, and "Librarian without Walls."
Send comments, or suggestions to: marylaine at netexpress.net.