Posts Tagged ‘book collecting’

Remainder Marks

Friday, December 21st, 2007

Occasionally I will see a listing for a book on eBay that says that the book I am considering is “remainder marked.” Ive had a friend ask me lately what that meant, as she had encountered it too on eBay. Basically a remainder in publishing and in the music business is the same thing: Its returned product that the retailer was not able to sell after initial release or after an overzealous printer puts too many copies of a re-release. Here is how it works:

Sometimes publishers overestimate the market for a particular book. Sometimes the publisher will decide to print more than they can reasonably expect retailers to sell and actually anticipate some copies will go unsold. Publishers understand that books, especially hardbacks, have a limited shelf life, and that booksellers only have so much shelf space to display books on. So they allow retailers to return unsold books in bulk. At the point in time that this happens the initial demand has usually died down, so if there are more than a few copies, the publisher acknowledges that they will never be able to sell them in the marketplace, so they make them remainders by marking them and selling them for pennies on the dollar.

How are they marked? Usually in different ways. It used to be that they were marked the same way that unsold albums were marked: By a hold drilled somewhere in the hard cover. These days they usually take an easier approach and draw a thick black line on the bottom of the outside pages. Here is an example of the most typical type of mark:


Someone just aligns the books, turns them all over, and runs down the line with a marker drawing on them all, never picking the marker up. For some reason this guy took a return pass, but thats the way it goes, huh? Ive also seen much more blatant markings, such as one entire edge being painted purple, yellow or black, and Ive seen other marks that are so subtle that you would swear that someone made a mistake and accidentally marked a book. Usually when a publisher is trying to be subtle they will put a small stamp of some figure on the book somewhere, usually never under the covers, but on the spine or the end papers. I have been meaning to send out messages to my list of publishers to ask if they could tell me how they mark remainders, but have not gotten around to doing that yet. I suspect that many will not tell me, especially if they do a subtle mark.

Whenever you purchase a used hardback book, or even a new one, you should be aware to look around for a remainder mark. If a book has one, it is of course worth less on the collector’s market because it is defaced.

Moby Dick

Wednesday, November 7th, 2007

How many of you have ever read Herman Melville’s Moby Dick? I don’t think it was required reading for many people my age, as lit classes in high school during the 1980′s were less concerned about the hefty volumes. So unless you’re older than 40 or so, you may not have read it before. Well, if you are a SF genre fan then you may want to go pick it up and give it a try. Im not saying that Melville was a genre writer, but this odd story about man vs. nature definately has something in it that will be of interest to genre readers. That is: The white whale! I think that the whale is a proto-SF beast, and even though may not have come at all from an SF tradition, Melville definately influenced those who came after him.

Think about it: Its a giant inhuman beast that displays intelligent thought and motivation when looked at closely, but still on the surface seems to act as an animal. It was animalistic, strange and powerful, and at the same time it acted with purpose, just like a pulp alien monster would. Just like an alien monster would Its definately more than just intelligence. The whale intends to do what it does, for an intelligent reason? That presumed intelligence creates mystery around it. That and the fact that its a non-human really do, in my opinion, make it the proto-type for SF monsters that came later. Like Godzilla. Godzilla differed in one critical way in that it was created in an atomic blast, and Moby Dick was just a whale in the ocean. But there is kind of an other-worldly oddness about them both, isn’t there?

Compare the whale and the shark from the movie version of JAWS. That story was really a man vs. nature story. In the end the shark bought it because it was an animal and couldn’t understand mans technology (it bit onto a container of gas, and the container was shot). The shark in that movie was just hunting to eat, and we the viewers were terrified by that, and the ferocity of its attacks. Now that may have been confused a little bit by the film makers who were trying to scare the pants off of the viewers, but the shark really didn’t become anything larger than its place in the food chain.

In Moby Dick it really was the captain vs. the whale, not nature itself. The whale’s status as an adversary was raised to that of a worthy opponent. Ahab hunted it because of vengeance, not for public safety. The whale took on the role of a villain in a way that the shark in Jaws never really did. And in the end the whale overcomes Ahab, despite his technological advantage. At the time that this was written I think that was to show the futility of Ahab’s purpose, and the consequences of giving up on the world. But I also think that later authors took that victory to heart and the concept morphed to become in additon to the costs of hubris, the victory of unknown technology over the unprepared (of course, only in the rare case when the hero lost to the alien/monster, which was almost always a temporary loss to be rectified by the end of the book).

Anyway, Melville was writing a long time before SF really got going. he wasn’t trying to make a SF beast, but it seems to me that he did influence those SF writers who came later. And for that reason, I keep a copy of that book in my SF collection.

Used Book Condition Guide

Monday, November 5th, 2007

One thing you should always remember in reading someone else’s rating of a particular book, it is subjective. You will not be able to know the true condition of a book until you see it. Book dealers are notorious for upgrading slightly every book that they list, especially on the web. Make sure to either check the book yourself before purchase, or buy from someone you trust who will honor the agreement you will have to make before purchase to return books that don’t match the advertised condition.

Condition of a book is usually in the form of New/New, VG/VG, Fine/Good, VG/–, etc. The first part is the condition of the book, the second is the condition of the dust jacket. If a “/–” is present, it usually means that the dustjacket is not present or that the book didn’t come with a dusk jacket, though the ad may say “W/O dust jacket, as issued.”

Plus (+) and minus (-) may be used to signify a better description. Note that any defects such as missing pages, loose pages, markings, etc. should be noted in the description.

New – This is a new book, in print and generally available from most general booksellers. Prices are based on suggested retail price. This is the same as “Mint Condition” to coin collectors. Some dealers will insist on individual wrapping if that is how the book was issued.

As New – This is a book that is in immaculate condition similar to how it was published. This book had no defects, no missing pages, no library stamps, etc., and the dustjacket (if it was issued with one) imperfect, without any tears. Some dealers will insist on individual wrapping if that is how the book was issued.

Fine (F/f or FN/fn) – This book is close to being as new, but it lacks the crispness of a new book. There must also be no defects and if the jacket has a small tear, or other defect, or looks worn, this should be noted. I have seen the designation of “Near Fine,” but I don’t think that there is any difference between this and Fine.

Very Good (VG/vg) – This describes a book that show some small signs of wear – but no tears of the binding or paper. Any defects should be noted. For many collectors this is the minimum acceptable condition for all but the rarest items. There may be some small stains.

Good (G/g) – Good traditionally means, to a book collector, not very good. This book is in average worn condition. It has all pages or leaves present.

Fair – This is a worn book that has complete text pages (including those with maps or plates) but may lack endpapers, binding, jacket, etc.

Poor – This book is sufficiently worn, to the point that its only merit is Reading Copy because it does have the complete text, which must be legible. All missing maps or plates should still be noted. This copy may be soiled, scuffed, stained or spotted and may have loose joints, hinges, pages, etc. Any defects should be noted. There is no standard term for books in a condition below poor. Their normal fate is to be discarded or to be broken into individual pages if these have any value, unless they are ex-library books, or are very very hard to find otherwise.

X-Lib: Indicates book came from a library, normally a public or school library. This includes library stamps, markings to identify the book and probably pockets glued in. Additional information will be added for a better description. Example (X-Lib, in VG + condition).