Friday, September 25, 2009

Some Funny "RARE" Books

Vintage RARE Nancy Drew Book LoT Double Books C. Keene Item #300338900982

Since when are Twin Thriller editions RARE? I laughed when I saw it, which is why it ended up in my watched items list for mention here later.

This next one is even funnier:

RARE Nancy Drew Mystery stories 7 Hollow Oak ATTIC bell Item #360181180489

Now ordinary Nancy Drew picture covers from the 1970s are RARE. I really laughed at this one! Also funny is how the books were placed on top of a bush for the photo. I would never have thought of photographing books on top of a bush.

This next one is an example of a seller stating rarity for the wrong reasons.



Back ten years ago, not finding a book in the completed listings actually meant something. Completed listings went back three months. For quite a few years, completed listings went back 30 days. That length of time has now been reduced to 15 days. So what the seller was really saying was that the Applewood Hollow Oak is a rarity because one had not been seen on eBay in the previous two weeks. Wow. I did not know that rare books are ones that have not been seen in two weeks.

So what about Linda Carlton's Perilous Summer and Linda Carlton's Hollywood Flight which no one can find for their collection? Hmm? The books were published in the 1930s and have all but disappeared from the face of the earth. A few people own them, but most people will never ever see a copy, even if they search for 30 or more years. I am not exaggerating. Isn't that what "rare" ought to mean? No wait... that is what "rare" means to people like me, which is why I laugh at these listings.


keeline said...

"RARE" is a four-letter word in my way of thinking. Although it should mean a book that a specialist dealer sees once in their entire career, on eBay you'd think it meant something that was not on the shelf of every Barnes & Noble store.

More often "SCARCE" is the better term to use--something that says that the number of copies available in collectible condition is smaller than those seeking it. This sets up a supply and demand imbalance and usually leads to higher prices.

Of course "SCARCE" is 6 letters compared with 4 and the limited length of eBay titles is a factor in this. It's one of those unintended consequences of design decisions. Sniping is another one because of the fixed ending time of the auctions.

Getting to Linda Carlton, I can readily see why these books are so hard to find. Most people find this series through the Saalfield cheap reprints sold in the dime stores. Of those, few have ever seen one of the A.L. Burt originals, especially not in DJ.

The reason? Price. Around 1930 the typical A.L. Burt book like these were sold for 75c -- that's 50% more than the 50c Grosset & Dunlap or Cupples & Leon offerings. They were not the most expensive books our there but they were much higher than so-called "popular prices".

Linda Carlton's Perilous Summer was published by A.L. Burt in 1932 and Hollywood Flight in 1933. These were bad years in the Great Depression and the thought of spending so much on a book was out of the question for many families. If books were purchased at all, they were the 25c copies from companies like Saalfield, Whitman, Goldsmith, World Syndicate offered in the dime stores.

The good news is that there are a few copies of these titles in libraries. Some may make them available through inter-library loan.

Perilous Summer
Hollywood Flight

Even if these were still under copyright protection, it should be possible to get a "fair use" photocopy of the books. Since the A.L. Burt books were better made, hopefully the libraries would think that they could survive the process. University of South Florida may have microfilmed it as they have some other scarce books but I don't see evidence of this in the catalog right now.

Checking, I don't see that these titles were renewed. For books initially issued in the US between 1923 and 1963, a copyright renewal after the first 28-year term was required for them to continue to have protection today. Likely no one thought the book was marketable after 28 years (the wise reason for a short term) so the book was allowed to enter the public domain.

This means that the photocopy could be used to build a print-on-demand copy with Lulu or another service. One might only sell a dozen copies but the investment is minimal for scarce books like these.


beautifulshell said...

For books like this that are so hard to find (and no longer under copyright), do you think collectors could be motivated to volunteer (or lend their books) for Gutenberg archiving? I'm not losing sleep over never finding these books, but having them online to read would be GREAT for those of us who are just curious.

I've noticed that Gutenberg has a lot of early titles in series (like the Outdoor Girls), but rarely the late titles (for obvious reasons). I have a copy of a Grace Harlowe Overseas book, and I'm thinking it would be a good thing to volunteer to get that up, since they're so pricey, relative to the rest of the series.

keeline said...

It depends on what you mean by the "obvious reasons."

If you think that the issue is the scarcity of a late volume, that is not the problem.

If you think that titles published after 1922 are not listed because of copyright concerns, you are correct.

Project Gutenberg was an interesting idea in the 1990s with plain text files for the books. However, the PDF files with page scans are much more interesting to me since you can see the original typeface, layout, and illustrations.

A plain text copy can be created from a scanned book. However, recreating the original layout and illustrations from the plain text is not as satisfactory.

Scanners are available which can take a stack of sheets and scan each sheet. This can serve as a starting point for making a PDF of a book. I have done this for a number of Stratemeyer texts, either where I have photocopies or the book itself.

If someone is willing to provide a photocopy of the two rare Linda Carlton books, I will put time into the scanning and clean up of the page images to make these available.


Jennifer White said...

I do have a copy of Linda Carlton's Hollywood Flight. I will consider scanning it. I don't want to commit just yet because I have been too busy lately and keep getting sick. It was when I purchased Hollywood Flight that the seller said it was only the second copy she had seen in around 25 years. Talk about scarce! And people call common Nancy Drew books "rare."

The A. L. Burt books were made rather well. They are larger and heavier than the Grosset and Dunlap books of the time, so it makes sense that they were more expensive. I wish that this had not been the case, because it is so very hard to find Burt books from so many different series. The Burt company sold some very good series books, but they are so hard to find nowadays.