Why are these books out of print? ???

Here’s a post from James Nicoll at tor.com: Why the Hell Are These Books Out of Print?

I’ve read two of the books on Nicoll’s list: Growing Up Weightless by Ford and Doorways in the Sand by Zelazny. I’ve read other titles, not the ones mentioned, by Donald Kingsbury and Joan Vinge and Liz Williams, and since I like and admire their writing, I wouldn’t mind picking up other books by them — apparently not the titles Nicoll picks out, though, unless they’re available used.

I noticed Growing Up Weightless in particular because I sort of liked it and sort of hated it, and this ties into a post from yesterday: The relationship between the protagonist and his father is not toxic, but it is a very difficult, tense relationship. And the ending is tragic in an important sense; not that anybody dies, but that the relationships between the protagonist and his friends are basically destroyed in a surge of extreme bitterness. Nothing in the description emphases either point, but these qualities have always prevented me from re-reading the book despite agreeing with basically every point in Jo Walton’s positive review.

Doorways in the Sand I liked, but I’m not sure I would pick it especially for a list of the books that should most urgently be brought back into print. What I would choose … hard to say. Let me think …

For such a list, I think it’s best to include only books that aren’t available as ebooks. Those are the ones that are most thoroughly out of print. If I had ages to think about it, my list might be different, but off the top of my head, I would include:

1. The Ivory trilogy by Doris Egan, plus I really wish she had been able to go on with this series.

2. The Gandalara series by Randall Garrett. I still like the giant cats in this series, even though I’m less inclined to enjoy giant cats in fantasy than I used to be. Garrett is one of the only authors I can think of who treats his giant cats as real characters with desires and needs that don’t necessarily line up with their human companions.

3. Sword of Winter by Marta Randall. An excellent novel, Randall’s best imo. I remember turning to the scavenger hunt scene to specifically look at the craft involved in writing such a fast-paced scene.

4. The Plum-Rain Scroll, The Dragon Stone, and The Peony Lantern by Ruth Manley.

I would PARTICULARLY like these to come back into print because I have the first one and the other two are unavailable. I mean, unless you are willing to pay $500 for a copy. The last book doesn’t appear to be available, period.

Interesting information about Manley’s trilogy:

The three books in her series are: The Plum Rain Scroll, first published in hardcover by Hodder and Stoughton, Sydney, in 1978 was named Book of the Year by the Children’s Book Council of Australia in 1979. It was published in paperback in 1980.

The Dragon Stone, first published in hardcover by Hodder & Stoughton, Sydney in 1982 and shortlisted for the 1983 Book of the Year by the Children’s Book Council of Australia. It was published in paperback in 1983.

The Peony Lantern, first published in hardcover by Hodder & Stoughton, Sydney in 1987 and never released in paperback.

All of them are set in some mythical unspecified time which is no time, a parallel Japan almost, where figures from any age from the Age of the Gods onward may be encountered, a Japan of all times and eras. Their pages are filled with eccentric lords, dotty ladies, nutty monsters and ghosts and all manner of magical happenings in which favourite Japanese legends are incorporated into the story as part and parcel of the events befalling the heroes (one of the joys is that of recognition). All is written in a bright, descriptive down-to-earth style with some delicious turns of phrase.

Look at that. The first one was Book of the Year, then the next was shortlisted, then the third was never released in paperback and is now completely unavailable. It makes one wonder about Hodder & Stroughton, it really does. Ruth Manley died in 1986, it says here, so these books have no one to bring them back. I guess her heirs are never going to put her books out as ebooks. It’s a damned shame.

Any books on your shelves that you especially love but that are now out of print? What would you put on this list?

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17 thoughts on “Why are these books out of print? ???”

  1. Offhand, I can’t think of any books to bring back into print, but your description of Manley’s trilogy reminds me of the Chronicles of Master Li and Number Ten Ox. I would recommend them to you, but you mentioned in a previous post that you’ve read Bridge of Birds, so you already know.

  2. Allan Shampine

    I have pruned the vast majority of my physical book collection, but I still have my copies of the Gandalara series. One of my favorites by Randall Garrett! I didn’t realize they were out of print.

    I remember a few years ago trying to find a copy of an old Western and managed to contact the author, who was quite old but still alive, and he referred me to a print on demand service that you could still get his books from. Don’t know how common that is, but given the huge amount of new content being generated, older work often slides into obscurity. That’s something I like about the retro Hugos. A chance to catch up on some great stuff that I missed the first time around (by dint of not being born yet!).

  3. Most of those books have come out as ebooks, so it is not quite as dire as was made out.

  4. Yes, I would very much prefer that my 2008 / 2009 contracts had specified that ebooks did not count as “in print,” but there’s no denying that ebooks definitely count as “available to readers.”

    OTOH, I recently got an ebook copy of High’s Invader on My Back and the typos were so extreme that I was VERY pleased to find my paper copy. Fortunately, I’d mis-shelved it, not lost it.

  5. Oh yes, to the Doris Egan ones, and as ebooks please. Not just ebooks, but ebooks I’m allowed to buy. I hate geo-restrictions with a passion and Daw, who published the Ivory books seem to be particularly bad. Even now, they publish ebooks I’m unable to buy, and there are others.

    Sorry, hit a hot button issue there.

  6. Selling a copy with OCR errors intact is poor practice. Rather shocking to see it, and I usually ask for money back before finishing it.

  7. Wen Spencer was complaining about how she would like to write a sequel to one of her earlier books, but can’t get the rights back from her old publisher because of the constant trickle of ebook sales.

    She also mentioned how that phenomenon keeps authors from being able to do reissues with new publishers like they used to.

  8. Monica Edwards MG/YA books were my example of books that deserve to be reprinted, but though still not available as ebooks both the Punchbowl Farm and the Romney March series have been reprinted in large paperbacks by a new publisher recently.

    I was very happy with all the backlist books being made available by the publishers, as it keeps them endlessly available to the reading public without all the business of older books in a newfound series or from a newly discovered (by me, I mean) older author gone out of print, unavailable for a few years or maybe for ever, who knows?
    I never realised this would limit the author’s ability to shop the books *and possible sequels* around to other publishers, to generate more income and give us more of what we’d like to read.
    I know C.J. Cherryh’s been saying she wanted to continue with her Union-Alliance books but the original publisher wasn’t interested, but now there will be a new book in that series coming out this year from a different publisher, and a related short story that she will be publishing in ebook format herself on Closed Circle. So the old publisher keeping the trickle of ebook sales going has not completely blocked those new developments, but maybe it makes a difference that she’s already a well-known author.

  9. Speaking of cats, Clare Bell has her Ratha series available as ebooks, but my favorite book of hers was Tomorrow’s Sphinx, and that’s out of print. I’d like to get an ebook version if only because my paperback is very old and the pages are falling out, and replacing it would be expensive.

    I’d also love to have Anthony Horowitz’s ORIGINAL version of the Pentagram Chronicles, starting with The Devil’s Door-Bell (getting hold of book 4 at a price point that doesn’t make me weep is an ongoing challenge). He redid them later as a new series, and I do not care for the revisions at all. Revisions shifted some characters from likeable to annoying, diluted the horror aspect, added a ton of prose that was really just padding length without adding any substance, etc. The biggest offender being book 3, which originally took place in New York but the climax featured a skyscraper being demolished, so the whole plot was scrapped due to 9/11. The remake tries to ape the high points but it took a city story and moved it to the middle of a desert.

  10. Sorry, hit a hot button issue there.

    And with good reason. I get that the publisher needs to have sold rights in whatever country before they can make a book available in that country, but I don’t get why they don’t therefore go on and sell rights in that country. Too much of the time publishers seem to just blow off foreign rights, which is terrible for the author as well as the reader.

  11. Wen Spencer is totally right and it is indeed extremely unfortunate. Even if some authors manage special deals, it’s awful for most of us.

  12. Here’s a link to A Book Dragon, if anybody wants to take a look. I’d never heard of it. Here’s a brief description: Nonesuch, the last in a line of dragons, uses his unique ability to change in size to survive for six centuries, during which time he observes such different humans as a medieval monk, an eighteenth-century London chemist, and a modern American bookseller. Sounds worth checking out, but the very cheapest used copies are around $10.

  13. Megan, interesting that Horowitz did that huge a revision. I wonder if it was an earlier version that he always preferred to the edited version? Because your comments make me think of King’s The Stand, where the edited (significantly cut) version was imo far superior to the uncut version King put out later.

  14. We have The Book Dragon ! I haven’t had it off the shelf for years, but remember it fondly. (Makes note to reread it.)

  15. Allan Shampine

    Agree completely on The Stand. I remember getting done with the unedited version and saying to my father, “now I appreciate what a great job the editor did.” The edited version was about a third shorter, maybe more, and every one of those cuts improved the book.

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