Booked til Tuesday

Life, Law & Libros

Discussion: Quickly Out of Print

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I got a chance to chat with Victoria Schwab and a couple of local authors at a recent book signing event. The topic of how much work YA authors are expected to put into promoting their books, apart from the publisher's efforts, came up. In the current YA climate, publishers seem to go on social media blasts for the first few months of a title, and then they're on to the next set of new releases. YA paperbacks are out the year following their original releases. And booksellers feel compelled to keep the most recent new hardcovers stocked for various reasons. The result is that titles move from frontlist to backlist in a very short time period.
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It's kind of genius, in an evil sort of way. (I suspect Disney had a hand in creating the strategy.) If I'm understanding correctly, more YA titles more quickly moved to publishers' backlist equals fewer printings, less time stocked in brick and mortar stores, and less time for readers to find and buy them. The supply is available for a limited time only, in perception if not reality, which drives up demand and pushes readers to buy while they still can. High demand and "low supply" means publishers can sell the more expensive copies with the larger profits. Like the Disney Vault: evil, but genius.

Not too long ago, I decided to track down a book my friend Mara had been raving about-Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George. It was only a few years old. Amazon didn't have the hardcover in stock. The marketplace vendors did, used and new, but Amazon didn't. With e-books, we technically have extended access to all sorts of titles that are hard to find or out of print, but let's face it. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think old ebooks get looked at as much as old books on a shelf.

Besides the fun of tracking down used books in the narrowing time frame between "old enough to get cheaper" and "old enough that there are few enough in circulation to drive up the price," how many books, recent and old, aren't getting found because of this accelerated pace? Who is best placed to make these missed books visible again? The authors? Librarians? Booksellers? Bloggers?

What do you think? Is this a good thing for publishing, or readers?

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