Fuse #8's "Out-of-Print Crimes Against Humanity" list (on her right-hand sidebar, scroll down a bit) spurred me to thinking about all the books I love, or just want for my library, that are also out of print. Of course, many of them are quite old. But even newer titles don't stay in print long; it's just not the publishing trend.
Yesterday, a teacher came by to return the copy of Welcome to the Ark that I'd recommended to her-- it's a dark, intense, thought-provoking YA novel featuring four telepathic gifted kids in a dystopic terror-ridden future, and I figured if she read it she'd know just the Middle School students who can handle it.
She loved the book, and had already looked up Stephanie Tolan's website and discovered that it was the first in a trilogy. "Do you have the next volume?" she asked, quite reasonably.
We didn't. A minute's poking around on Amazon and we found out that the sequel, Flight of the Raven, is out of print. It was only published a few years ago, but the reviews were mixed, and the publishers just let it go.
Another anecdote: George Shannon is coming to visit our school next week. I called the bookstore today and asked if they could send over a copy of his book This is the Bird with the other titles we'll be selling during his visit; I've read the public library copy to a few classes, but our library doesn't own it and I wanted to buy one.
"Oh, I'm so sorry," the bookseller sighed. "It's out of print."
"Really? Oh, it's a lovely book! The kids really liked it, and the pictures are great, and it ties right into the curriculum-- they read The Keeping Quilt in 3rd grade every year-- and--"
"I know," she said. "It happens faster and faster. Really, it's a shame."
Now, neither of these books are incredibly popular, and neither got stellar reviews. But they're both perfectly solid titles by well-known authors, published within the last ten years. It just feels intuitively wrong that they should be out of print so quickly.
I know that more and more children's and teen books are published every year, and it stands to reason that publishers don't keep up the backlist for as long as they might. And of course there's always abebooks.com, the great used-bookseller clearinghouse, if you really really want to find that favorite childhood title.
I just hate the feeling that books are becoming like magazines, and that if I don't buy the latest ones now, in a short time it'll be cleared off the shelves to make room for the next issue.