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Great Science-Fiction & Fantasy Works
Science-fiction & fantasy literature: a critical list with discussions.
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Buying Books On Line
“‘In the meantime,’ continued Mr. Larkin, ‘how would you like to sell some books? That’s always fun. You’d be surprised at the great quantity of odd people who read books. Some even buy them. I wonder why?'”
– Rain in the Doorway
Buying Books On Line, New & Used
If you want to buy a book currently in print, and want it new, and live within reasonable proximity to a good bookstore, well and fine. If you want to buy a used copy of a book—whether or not still in print—you can,if there are some near you, used-book shops; but the odds of finding a given book in a given used-book shop are small to vistually nil. The answer to these problems is to buy your books on line.
My experience is that the best single source for books on line, new or used, is ABEbooks. If you click the link, you will get (in a new browser tab) to a page at the ABEbooks web site that explains who they are and what they do; but the lonng and the short of it is that they are a combined virtual storefront for thousands of book sellers, large and small, around the world. When you query a book at ABEbooks, each of their member booksellers’ matching stock is displayed. And that stock can include both new and used editions.
Throughout this site, whenever a book is listed with a link, that link is of one of two kinds: usually it is a search by book title and author name, but when it is for what I call a “preferred editiom”—a particular edition of some book—it is a search by that edition’s ISBN. At times, books are listed here but not linked—typically because they are components of a recommended omnibus volume that is more convenient, and often rather less expensive, than acquiring each book separately. But, if you want to seek out individual copies of such omnibused works, you can use ABEbooks’ Search Page, which is also good for, obviously, searching out any books not listed here.
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About “Condition” for Used Books
There is a standard set of terms used by used-book sellers to describe the condition of the books they sell, and it behooves the potential buyer to be acquainted with those terms. While ABEbooks has a useful page describing those usual terms, here is a quick summary (but see the linked page for more detail, including some modifying descriptors).
- As new (or Like new) means that the book is in the state that it should have been in when it left the publisher. This is the equivalent of mint condition in numismatics.
- Fine (F or FN) is “as new” but allowing for the normal effects of time on an unused book that has been protected. A fine book shows no damage.
- Very good (VG) describes a book that is worn but untorn. For many collectors this is the minimum acceptable condition for all but the rarest items. Any defects must be noted.
- Good (G) describes the condition of an average used worn book that is complete. Any defects must be noted.
- Fair shows wear and tear but all the text pages and illustrations or maps are present. It may lack endpapers, half-title, and even the title page. All defects must be noted.
- Poor describes a book that has the complete text but is so damaged that it is only of interest to a buyer who seeks a reading copy. If the damage renders the text illegible then the book is not even poor.
- Ex-library copies must always be designated as such no matter what the condition of the book.
- Book club copies must always be designated as such no matter what the condition of the book.
- Binding copy describes a book in which the pages or leaves are perfect, but the binding is very bad, loose, off, or non-existent.
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This page was last modified on Wednesday, 21 October 2020, at 6:23 pm Pacific Time.