Naturally, Too Good To Be True

Last week I told you about ordering a Subterranean Press edition of Carlos Ruiz Zafon's Shadow of the Wind (Something that normally lists in the $100 range), for $37 (with shipping). I had a nagging suspicion that it was too good to be true, but I risked it anyway. Even at a price of $34 (essentially $10 over a new book's cover price), I thought I would be, at the very least, purchasing a used first edition in Good + condition.

I am pleased to say that the book arrived today - however, what I found when I opened the package was not a limited edition Subterranean Press copy, not even a first edition, but a used Book Club Edition, complete with someone's takeout receipt marking the spot where they stopped reading the book. (Cue the cacophony of clown noises, "zoiks" exclamations, and sorrowful "wah, wah, wahs").  

The condition of the book was overstated in the book seller's description - something I won't fault them with, since a used bookstores version of "Very Good" and a collector's version of "Very Good" is potentially quite different.

I rechecked the seller's description of the book, which I copied just in case, and it does state the Subterranean Press ISBN (in no way similar to the BCE ISBN).  So now, I am gladly going through the process of contacting the seller and arranging for the book's return and my refund. Thankfully, the seller's profile states that I have 30 days to return merchandise for a refund no matter what the reason.

What I received looks like a smaller version of the First U.S. edition, my first clue that what I have, is indeed, a book club edition:

Buck Creek Marketing has a great page over on eBay explaining how to identify Book Club Editions (should any confused book sellers happen onto my blog). There are similar posts on My Wings Books, and Book Think. In my case, there are four or five tell-tale signs that the copy I received is a Book Club Edition:
  1. the smaller size of the book (it measures 8 1/2" x 5 7/8" rather than 9 1/2" x 6 1/2"), 
  2. the lack of a price on the inner flap of the dust jacket,
  3. the lack of the price code adjacent to the ISBN (bar code) on the back cover,
  4. the five and seven number string boxes, displayed in the lower center and lower right corner of the back cover.
  5. & a less tell tale sign is the fact that this copy lacks a headband - that little strip of woven thread/cloth found at the spine-edge of the top of the book - which just means that the book was made as cheaply as possible in an effort to print more at a lower cost.
... and one of the lovely things about the ISBN number (9781594200106) is that it contains a Publisher Code that allows you to identify the publisher of the book (if for some reason the copyright page were missing) - in this case 59420 = Penguin Press. (Subterranean Press = 59606) - of course, if that copyright page isn't missing you could just open up the book to determine the publisher.

That said, there are two confusing aspects to this BCE copy: First is that the copyright page lists a full number line and only one copyright date, so if all you're looking for is that one cue, you can easily mistake a BCE for a First edition. Second, nowhere does it state that this is a Book Club Edition, BCE, or BoMC.

So, when looking for books, or when buying online, it helps to know as much about the book as possible - including the size, whether or not the price is listed on the dust jacket flap, and whether or not there are other tell tale signs identifying the edition. Many reputable (& experienced) book sellers will include this information in their description of the book.

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