Getting hold of out of print books

Many of the books on this site are out of print - some of them by a handful of years, some by a few decades and a few by centuries. It is all very well me reviewing them, but how can readers get hold of them? Well read on...

One of the really good things about the Internet is that there has probably never been an easier time for getting hold of second hand or antiquarian books. In the good old days, the only alternative was to hunt around bookshops, write for dealers' lists, and to haunt the auction houses. Collecting books this way took time, but it was also fun and there was always the chance of picking up a real bargain, as the market was nowhere near as sophisticated as it is these days, when any Tom, Dick, or Harry can check out the price of a book on the Internet and set his price accordingly - and believe me, they do.

So the 'net is something of a two-edged sword. On the one hand, it lets you find books quickly; on the other, the fact that everyone knows what everyone else is charging means that the prices tend to cluster together. It is more than likely that you will find books in fine condition being sold by reputable dealers competing with questionable volumes touted around by out and out adventurers who are testing what the market will stand in the grandest traditions of Bluebeard and others of his kind. Caveat emptor never applied so absolutely and unless you are after a real cheapie, it pays to get a really good description of what you are buying before you even think of parting with money. I should add that it also pays to know what you are buying, because it is not unknown for second and even later editions to be passed off as firsts, for bad foxing to be omitted from descriptions and for books with missing plates to be sold as complete. Do your homework!

For books which are recently out of print, Amazon should be high on your list, largely because the "marketplace" lets you search for books which have gone the journey. The clue that a book is out of print is the tag line "available from these sellers", which generally takes you to a list of second hand book dealers. Follow the link and take your pick, but I don't recommend Amazon as a way of finding books more than a decade out of print, mainly because they seldom seem to be offered there.

The other way to go is to Abebooks. Abe is slightly more daunting than Amazon, but searches a much wider base of dealers - it also lets you into the next tier of books, the ones that have been out of print for decades, or even centuries. Try doing a search on Abe for Izaac Walton as author and then select "highest price" to order the list of results and you will see what I mean. One way of establishing whether Abebook dealers are bone fide is to do a search for the business using your favourite search engine - the more information you can find, the surer you can be. Abe will probably kill me for writing this, but if you can find a phone number, then most dealers will discount the Abebooks price slightly for dealing direct. Remember, you did not hear that from me (-:

Incidentally, when you are using any kind of Internet search for books, beware of what are known as "print on demand" copies. These are books which are scanned to order and advertise themselves by being presented with generic covers and sometimes (not always, unfortunately) the phrase "print on demand". I have bought a few of these experimentally and can testify that they are uniformly dreadful, although there is always the possibility that I have been unlucky. Somehow I doubt it. The ones I have come from various sellers and the scans vary from virtually unreadable to completely illegible. Do not buy them unless there is absolutely no alternative and even then, think hard. At the cheap end of the scale, they are a disappointment, at the expensive end, they are an unforgivable rip off.

Below is the list of dealers that I would recommend. If you are a dealer, don't even think of emailing me to get added to this list - to get listed on this page, you have to earn it the hard way. We will add a page to this site containing paid ads for dealers in due course.

Top of the list is John and Judith Head of the Barn Book Supply, in Salisbury. They are not cheap, but they are the best and if John and Judith send you a book, it will be exactly what it says on the tin.

John and Judith Head
The Barn Book Supply
88 Crane Street,
Wiltshire SP1 2QD,

Tel: +44 (0) 1722 327767
Fax: +44 (0) 1722 339888
email - click here.

John and Judith have a website from which their catalogue can be downloaded, but I would just ring them up and ask if they have what you want - generally, they will. Their catalogues are such a feast that there is little doubt that one day, perhaps not so far off, people will start collecting them, too.

Next on the list are Hereward Books. Hereward do not carry quite the same level or type of stock as the Heads, but unless your requirements are particularly exotic, they are a good bet and they list the lot on a rather good website, which you can visit by clicking this link.

Third in my list is Coch-y-bonddu Books, run by Paul Morgan, who maintains a vast warehouse full of remaindered and second hand stock. The descriptions are always honest and you can visit the site by clicking here.