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I’m Not Sure, But I Think I’m a Book Collector

With apologies to Scott Cupp, our resident Geek with Lots of Books, I must submit evidence of my own addiction.

I have never considered myself a “Book Collector” even though I have bought lots of used books in my day. Sometimes every day, sometimes several times in one day. This is not me bragging, this is me admitting to a personal flaw of logic and reasoning. Simple mathematics will tell you that I own more books than I can possibly read in my lifetime.

Part of the problem? I’m a sucker for a book series. If someone, somewhere said a book in some series was good, I would have no problem obtaining all volumes in the set. Even worse, in some cases I had to own all of them before I’d even start reading the series. I never called myself a “Book Collector”, mind you, this was just something I did.

And that was how I came to start not-collecting Gardner Dozois’ Year’s Best Science Fiction series of anthologies.

Once I would find one I didn’t have, I’d scoop it up. But that became harder to do because the older ones were hard to find. I reached the point where the only ones I did not have in hardback were Volumes 1, 2 and 5. I searched high and low for it. It became an obsession to the point where I set a “watch” on Amazon for the much-adored Volume 1 to appear. It was selling in their merchant pages for $600+ at the time — way more than I was ever willing to spend – so I set the watch at $100 (which was still more than I wanted to spend) and forgot about it, except when it came to renew the watch, which I did without hesitation. That was about 2 years ago.

Well, last week, I received an email that the book was not only available, but was on its way to me. I couldn’t believe it. I forgot that I would be immediately charged and the book shipped as soon as it became available. The selling price was about $70 which is the most I have ever paid for a single book. Surprised? Yes. Regrets? None. This copy is a nice-looking-but-marked-up library copy (see the picture above) and the biblioholic in me can’t believe I am able to hold it in my hands.

In fact, I was so caught up in Collector Mania that I found another seller who had a library copy of Volume 5, and I scooped that up for $40. (Seriously, how could I not? I have already established I was willing to pay seventy bucks, and I was still thirty bucks under my max…so when you think about it, this was only ten bucks!) So, Volume 5 arrived this week. I am now only missing Volume 2.

I think…I think I may be a Book Collector after all.

About John DeNardo (13012 Articles)
John DeNardo is the Managing Editor at SF Signal and a columnist at Kirkus Reviews. He also likes bagels. So there.

14 Comments on I’m Not Sure, But I Think I’m a Book Collector

  1. You’re something all right!

  2. i’m so envious. that’s a collection i want so badly to start, and every year it gets more and more difficult. keep an eye on your copies all the time, you never know when there will appear an unscrupulous collector….. bwahahahahaha!!!!

  3. $70.00 is the most you’ve ever paid for a single book? Dude, you’re a rank amateur!

  4. Well maybe next to you, monkey boy.  😉

  5. Peter Nel // October 1, 2009 at 2:56 pm //

    No doubt about it, John – you are one sick puppy.

    On the other hand, I think we may well be the same person.

    Answer these questions, and answer them honestly. If you find the answers disturbing, that’s how it should be.

    Have you ever bought the same book more than once?

    Even worse: Have you ever bought a book of which you already own a perfectly good copy?

    Have you ever had two books in the same series, but found that you simply couldn’t sleep because they weren’t in the same format?

    Have you ever been embarrassed to tell friends what book you just bought, because they know you already have a number of related books which you’ve admitted not reading?

    Have you ever bristled with annoyance when someone says, “Oh, the physical book itself isn’t important. It’s the CONTENTS of the book that count”, as if this is an arrestingly original idea?

    If you even consider answering “yes” to any of the above, you definitely need help.

    And remember, it’s a long way down …

    1. Yes.  Sometimes because I didn’t know I already owned it, sometimes because I didn’t feel like digging out the one I had.
    2. Yes.  See previous.
    3. No.
    4. No.
    5. Yes.  They just don’t get it.

    I guess I *am* hopeless.  Oh well. 🙂

  6. Funny – I got this little shiver of delight reading about you at last having That Book in your hands. :o)

    Okay, now, tell me this: Did you stop the Amazon search, or leave it running? I think that’s a sign of someone (like me) who is really over the edge: When just one copy of That Book, whatever it is, is not enough, and you need to keep looking. Just in case.

    I think often of the scripture about laying up treasure in heaven because on earth, moth and rust doth corrupt, and thieves break in and steal. What if a really sci-fi literate thief broke in and stole That Book? What if it got mildew (the book version of moth and rust)? That’s why you need two!

  7. Peter Nel // October 1, 2009 at 5:16 pm //

    I once bought a lovely new hardcover of a book. I already had an old paperback copy of the same book, so I gave the paperback away to a friend.

    About six months later, I ran into the book – unmistakably the same copy I’d given away – in a second hand bookstore. So I bought it back again. I had absolutely no need of it; I was just so happy to see it again. The book was The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume 1, edited by Robert Silverberg, by the way.

  8. I don’t know if this makes me a collector or not – I have all the Dozois’s volumes from one to this past year’s volume in trade paperback because I bought them as they came out and that is what I could afford.   Now, I would never sell them – but also, do I not  feel the need to have them in hardback.  So, I feel kind of in between here…

  9. If you want used books, you’re much more apt to find them — mostly, not always — on than on Amazon.

  10. Gee, whiz, and to think I got mine for free from Jim Frenkel at the Bluejay office.  Too bad I don’t still have it, and the rest of my old collection, sigh.

  11. Dino Mascolo // October 2, 2009 at 12:22 am //

       I became obssesed with the same exact series. In fact it was the start of my 2000 or so collection of books. I have them prominently displayed in one of my bookcases. The only one I don’t have is number 1. Also, my 2, 4, 5 & 7 are paperbacks. The number 2 I found for 50 cents and the number 5 is brand new. I never paid more than $10 for any of them (before shipping if found online). I have many extra copies because every time I see one I snap it up. I stopped searching for books online a while ago.

  12. Yes, I feel your pain.


    I paid about $100 for volume #1 six months ago….which completed my collection of this series after several years tracking them down.   i had started to buy them as they came out around volume #10 but the first ten WERE very hard to get hold of.  #1 took me a year to find…one (insane) fellow wanted around $400 for it at one point……hee hee.

  13. Incidentally, John, my old friend and former employer, Jim Frenkel (publisher of Bluejay Books, who started Gardner’s series, if anyone is unaware; Jim was before that a longtime sf editor at Dell, and for many years now has been an editor at Tor), in email yesterday confirmed my somewhat vague memory — and, yes, I checked with him to be sure it was okay to quote him in public — that “we printed 7500 of the tpb and 1500 hardcovers on that first [Gardner Best Annual anthology].”  Jim mentioned that the total number of copies on order before publication “was only about 4,000 tpb and 400 hardcovers,” but he was dead sure that the anthology would sell far more once published, and that, indeed “after the starred Kirkus and other great reviews, and reader response, we had to go back to press for another 1500 paperbacks pretty fast.”

    So not counting copies that were somehow destroyed  or lost, there should be something on the order of somewhat less than those number of copies still Out There. 

    Jim is the one who deserves credit, by the way, for coming up with the original idea of having such a large collection of Best Of The Year stories; nobody had ever done anything beyond the various standard mass market paperback size and word count before; it was Jim’s vision that let him see that having a supersized volume would be a huge selling point and attraction, however obvious that might seem in retrospect.  He met with resistance to the idea, but pushed it through and made it work.

    Same for a lot of stuff he did at Bluejay.  (To be sure, I’m biased as a former freelancer for Bluejay, whom Jim once tried to hire fulltime, and as a longtime friend of Jim’s — but he did a ton of great books at Bluejay, and before that at Dell — where he found Vernor Vinge, and Joan Vinge, and many other great writers — and since then at Tor.)

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