Old Books, New Life

Have you ever had that conversation with another booklover, they recommend a book, you look it up, and it’s out of print? Yeah, that’s happened to me quite a bit. That might also be the biggest flaw traditional publishing has right now. They don’t give older books as much love as they do to new ones. If they’re older books from popular authors, they’ll get reprints. If they didn’t sell that well, tough luck. You had your chance and no one can discover your books anymore unless a library still has a copy or you stumble upon one in a second hand bookstore.

Shelf space

For a publisher, books are business. If they sell, they will put resources into making them available but as soon as their not sure they’re going to get their money back, they might drop you from the activity list. That means no more marketing, no more reprints of your book, no more shelf space in bookstores. And that’s what sold books before the ebook revolution. If people couldn’t find your book, it’s impossible to sell without the internet.

Shelf space in bookstores is expensive and it’s easier for a traditional publisher to get books on the shelf than an indie publisher. The bookstore also wants to make sure it has stock that sells. Just putting books on display they love even when people aren’t going to buy them is wasted space. The store won’t survive doing that. Stores know that trad publishers will do anything to sell their books. Their marketing is much stronger. But the power a trad publisher is also bigger. They’re in charge of the book’s life. If they decide it should be taken off the shelves, it will. If they stop making or selling the book, no one would ever be able to read them. Unless they give back the copyright.

Plenty of older books, pre 21st century, got lost that way, even if they were good. And that’s a shame.

New technology

That said, things have changed a lot in the publishing world. Printing on demand (POD) isn’t something only a few people use. How great would it be for publishing houses to start selling their old catalog again via POD? They, and the authors, can still make money while they no longer have to worry about reprints or expensive shelf space. And the fans still have a change to discover this one gem they couldn’t read before for whatever reason.

I don’t know if publishers still have all the old manuscripts, but it would be crazy not too if they still have the copyrights to sell print. Why keep them on the shelf gathering dust while they could be making you money? Ask the authors if they want to see their books in print again, even if it’s through POD with lower royalties. Or the estate holding copyright to the complete works.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could rediscover every genre by reading the books that didn’t win the awards? The ones often forgotten but possibly even better than the ones still available today. I think there’s an opportunity here the whole book loving community could benefit from.

Which books would you like to see in print again? What are some hidden gems you’re dying to read?

One thought on “Old Books, New Life

  1. Flora says:

    Love this post, Tessa. I’ve got so many searches saved on eBay to catch out-of-print books! POD is still a fairly new concept to me but it sound like the perfect solution, I don’t really know much about it so I’ll have to do some research.

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