From the Editor

by Craig Stark

#5, 3 November 2003

It's first edition identification time again - oh, boy - and, as usual, we have good news and bad news to report. The good news is that edition state isn't an issue for the vast majority of books. As a result, many booksellers and collectors get by, indeed can function indefinitely, without knowing the first thing about it. The bad news is that, when it is an issue, it really is an issue, and if you choose ignore it, sooner or later there will be a price to pay. If paying prices isn't a concern, at least ask yourself how many wealthy booksellers you know - and why their numbers compare unfavorably to the current worldwide population of white tigers.

We'll try to simplify things in our first article, "A Short Introduction to First Edition Identification," then take a close look at book club editions (or BCE's) in our feature article, "How to Identify Book Club Editions." Why BCE's? Well, like much detective work, first edition identification is often accomplished by eliminating the most likely things first; we begin by attempting to establish that what we have is not a first edition but a later printing, reprint or, as is so often the case, a book club edition.

As inefficient as this might sound, it's in fact distinctly efficient in the case of BCE's because actual print numbers of most of these so often outstrip printings of trade editions, sometimes by a factor of ten or more. In other words, in the case, say, of a copy of a popular book of fiction (pending further examination, that is), odds are heavy going in that it's a BCE, not a trade edition. Fortunately, many BCE's bear markings that trade editions don't, an obvious example being a blind stamp on the back board. We'll look at the major book club players here, particularly at their designations, and also discuss the inevitable exceptions.

Finally, in "Collecting the Science Fiction Book Club," Tim Doyle examines Science Fiction Book Club's practice of using gutter codes to designate edition states. In the process of researching this article he compiled what may be the first appearance of a comprehensive table of code usage - an invaluable tool for SF booksellers and collectors alike.

Results from our informal and statistically unreliable survey on emailing the BookThinker Update are now in. Without exception, those who replied expressed interest in receiving this new feature by email too, so beginning with the November 10 Update, we'll begin distributing the BookThinker Update to our entire subscriber list. If for some reason you wish to receive only the BookThinker (and not the Update), please email me at, and we'll maintain a separate list for this purpose.

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Questions or comments?
Contact the editor, Craig Stark

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