I'm getting more questions regarding how & where I find my collectible books. There's no one source of information or one place I turn to—and if there were, that would probably take some of the fun out of it for me. I like the thrill of the hunt.
First, I do the research
As for how I determine if something might be a collectible, I do A LOT of research. I read trade magazines, bookseller descriptions, publishers' websites, author websites, independent bookstore newsletters, library publications, book reviews—whatever I can get my hands on. The more information, the better.
Some of the publications I turn to:
- Publishers Weekly: PW will publish the run-down of books that are soon-to-be-published. The information included in these briefs may include print run numbers or how the rights were acquired (via auction or pre-empt)
- PW Tip Sheet: PW newsletter with industry news, and information about books & authors.
- For reviews: Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, Library Journal, Booklist
- Bibz2.com—Brodart has a database for librarians that sometimes includes the first print run numbers. (this is by subscription only)
- Advanced reading copies of specific books—sometimes this gives information on the print runs and the marketing plan, including whether or not the author will do a book-signing tour.
- Bookseller listings at Abebooks. Many times there are small bits of information or leads about why a book might be considered collectible. I look for terms like "rare 2nd printing," or "first state dust jacket," or "low print run," etc.
I'm looking for something that resonates
I'm looking for anything that gives me the sense of the book & how it came to be published. It's not scientific—it's instinctual. I'm looking for "the feels" as Sam Cooke would say. Something that resonates. A book that resonates with the public is more likely to fall into the collectible realm.
It doesn't have to be something I read and loved (although sometimes that helps).
I pay attention to the book buzz by reading reviews and asking booksellers & librarians what's popular or different. For more "organic" reviews, I look at Goodreads
& Amazon (because they seem to be the most populated). Goodreads seems to have less of an agenda than Amazon, although at Amazon, if people really
like the book, they're more like to post a lot (the opposite is true as well).
I pay attention to the big book fairs, festivals, and conventions
I do a lot of Google searches
Once I figure out what titles to be on the lookout for, I start researching those titles specifically to figure out what the print run numbers are, if they're up for any awards, etc. I do a lot of Google searches.
Where I look for books
I tend to shop the used bookstores and book sales in my area—this requires a lot of patience and the ability to hold lists in my head (or keep them in my phone).
I do better with actual bookstores, but have had some success with buying books online.
- Abebooks: I trust Abebooks the most, as sellers tend to be more aware of book conditions and print runs.
- Powell's (in Oregon) is my second choice, although I have to know exactly what I'm looking for—they're really good for ordering signed books, since they have signings at their store.
- VJ Books (in Oregon)—is also good for signed editions (>> there's a link in the sidebar >>)
Bricks & Mortar:
- Half Price Books: I've had a lot of luck with Half Price Books. We don't have a Half Price Books where I live, but every time I travel back to the Midwest, I hit one of their stores and usually leave with a much lighter wallet and a much heavier suitcase. I wouldn't necessarily suggest you buy from their online marketplace though. Their listings aren't always accurate as far as condition goes & they ship their books without much protection or care.
- Local / Indie Bookstores
- Barnes & Noble: I'll usually shop here when I have a gift card, when they've had an author signing, or during the Christmas season (when their leather bound books are on sale or when they offer signed editions).
On occasion I'll shop the Amazon marketplace, but this is hit or miss, so you have to be prepared for disappointment.
I never shop eBay. There are just too many counterfeits and misrepresented listings and it's too easy for sellers to pull up stakes & disappear. Although there are a number of fairly good eBay guides for collectors.