3.19.2008

The Odd World of Collecting

I don't profess to be a seasoned connoisseur of collecting books, but I acquire twenty-five or thirty every year. I buy ten or fifteen new novels--mostly hardcover first editions--and I try to attend a book signing or two. This Saturday I'll try to find the time to get to Neptune Beach's The Bookmark to have a copy of Randy Wayne White's Black Widow signed. I want to support the author and the signature is, honestly, secondary. Mostly I'd like to meet Randy, a writer whose blend of thriller pacing and literary exposition is second to none in the market today.

I pick up fifteen or twenty used books every year (I'll go well beyond that this year, as I picked up thirteen titles in one weekend at the Friends of the Library book sale), and I look for older versions--quaint designs and yellowing pages.

But I've never purchased a numbered or lettered edition. The cost is pretty steep, often climbing well over $100.00. I think it's great that a market exists for print runs of 500 to 1000 copies of these artistic books, but my interest is still in reading them and not necessarily keeping them in a protective slipcover.

Maybe that'll change down the road. Hard to tell.

But in the same issue of The Twilight Zone that I referenced on Monday I found an article about the rip-offs that abound in collecting Stephen King. And this was twenty-two years ago! With all of the ARCs and galleys and other special publishing editions floating around out there, it's no wonder that e-bay does such a rousing business in rare and special edition tomes.

The article I read, written by Douglas E. Winter, discusses the unscrupulous predators that look to dupe the unassuming. When Winter asks a dealer if he has a first edition of The Shining, the snide dealer disappears into the ominous back room and then returns with a mint copy of the book. Winter looks at the copyright page only to find the "tell-tale speckling of a Doubleday 'remainder'--an unsold book dumped to the likes of Publisher's Clearing House to be sold at a deep discount." Winter asks for a quote and the dealer wants 200 clams for that sucker. $200! Winter tosses it back at him. "You bought that book for $1.98! How dare you!"

"You know that," he said, "and I know that, but they don't know that."

Sheesh...

Buyer beware, I guess. All that said, I'm happy blundering across cheap books that delight me for their cover design, content and quirky nature. I'm curious, though. Are there any collectors out there that read this blog? I'd love to hear any related stories that exist in the rare book subculture...

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