So out of this list of 100 books David Pringle likes so much, a good chunk are out of print, which is really a sad commentary on the state of the publishing industry. The long tail theory hasn’t quite kicked in yet, because I know through my experience as a bookseller that almost every day I look for a classic title for a customer/myself/the store that’s no longer available. I think we live in the time of the sure thing–if it’s not Harry Potter, a NYT bestseller, or touted by Chavez at the UN, there’s a good chance that a couple of print runs later you won’t be able to find it.
This leads me to Limbo by Bernard Wolfe, my current read from the list. This is a novel, if you don’t know, that was considered on literary par with Brave New World and 1984 in the 50s and 60s. Technically, there is an expensive hardcover version in print that is quite difficult to get a copy of, but realistically, this book has been out of print for almost twenty years. For me, it’s made this project difficult. I’ve had to read it at its only location in the St. Louis region, UMSL’s Utopia Collection, which is part of a closed library that’s only open on one of my days off, closes for a least an hour in the middle of the day, and kicks people out of the “reading room” at 4:30 in the afternoon. This isn’t a slam against them, by the way. The people that work there are great, and I’m so thankful that they’ve been letting me read the novel there, even though I have no affiliation with the University of St. Louis system whatsoever. But why hasn’t this book been picked up by a publisher? It’s for sure still used in sf literature courses taught at both American and British universities. My only hope is that print-on-demand will take off at some point or someone will invent a viable electronic text display–something portable with no glare or difficult fonts…you know, like what Jake from DS9 used to write and read on. Speaking of, I’m also waiting for holodecks and replicators, too.