Saturday, 10 September 2011

The Times They Are A-Changin’ # 2

An undoubted casualty of the internet has been the old-fashioned reference book. Many have an innate distrust of reference material online, especially those with “user-generated content” such as Wikipedia, but there is a wealth of information out there today which is surprisingly useful. Much of it is also free. There is undoubtedly mistaken and misleading information on the net, but we mustn’t forget that this was also the case with printed reference books, which often perpetuated errors through successive editions, and were just as prone to bias.

Perhaps standards of scholarship, editing and proof-reading were once higher, but at least the internet allows for immediate revisions of mistakes when they are noted, and there is certainly no excuse for information being out of date. Arguments about elitism in the past, and the present democratisation of information, suggest that things are no better or worse – just different.

As the compiler of the Guide to First Edition Prices for the last fifteen years, I have to admit that the internet has become a more and more useful tool. The basis of the Guide is the 700 bibliographies I have compiled, and to be able to check titles and dates with not only the British Library and Library of Congress websites, but also with sites created by fans and enthusiasts, has been invaluable. And when it comes to the values of books, bookseller websites offer a vast amount of (often conflicting) information. It takes a lot of experience to know which booksellers have prices and descriptions that can be trusted.

The 2008/9 edition of the Guide to First Edition Prices was our magnum opus, printed in full colour on heavy art paper (a few copies of this coffee table book are still available). The most recent edition (the eighth) has been revised and enlarged again, but it has not been printed in colour. Sales remain steady, but the influence of the internet, coupled with the problem of selling through traditional booksellers like Waterstones, mean that the heyday of the lavish reference book has probably passed.

We are not downhearted, though! In an attempt to embrace the modern world we are now making the Guide to First Edition Prices available as an ebook. You can buy it as a mobi file for Kindle here, or as an epub file direct from us here. It contains values for over 50,000 titles and is ludicrously cheap for the vast amount of research it contains.

And what’s more, it is still available for real book lovers as an oversized paperback for only £19.95 direct from us, or through any good bookshop.

"...curiously fascinating." Times Literary Supplement, 23rd May, 2008.

"…a browser’s delight, as illuminating as it’s absorbing … no collector will be fooled by the £25 tag. It’s priceless." The Bookdealer, October 2007.

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