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The Da Vinci Code and Other Matters
Millions of Americans collect first editions. These collectors find their books in almost as many places as there are collectors, and for many, the hunt is every bit as satisfying as actually the having the books. Hidden rare books show up at yard sales, book shows, on the Internet, and even in bookstores. Every serious collector has stories about how that "rare find" was bought for next to nothing. It's what makes collecting so much fun. When asked what mattered most about buying books, collectors invariably list the following (in order of importance): being certain a book is a true first edition, condition, and price. It's interesting that the price is not paramount. As a matter of fact, my experience as a rare book dealer since 1984 is that price is often not much of an obstacle when collectors find books they want.
The biggest source of confusion for new book collectors is the question of first edition identification. In book collecting, the term "first edition points" refers to those details present in any given book that confirm it's a true first edition. But not everybody agrees on what a first edition is. To a publisher, a first edition is a first edition until its contents are changed - no matter how many printings have been produced. To a collector, on the other hand, only a first printing is accepted as a first edition. The challenge for first edition collectors, therefore, is to build up a personal body of knowledge that enables them to accurately identify edition states of the books they are looking for. With few exceptions, publishers have little or no interest in clarifying the identification process.
By far the most common question dealers hear from collectors is, "How do I know that this book is a true first edition?" This is exactly why most serious dealers have reference libraries. Understanding that the average collector couldn't possibly afford to assemble a similar set of reference books, the Book Emporium decided, in 1994, to produce a small booklet that put into writing first edition points for roughly 500 of the today's most popular fiction titles (based on its own book sales). These booklets - 500 of them - were given to Book Emporium customers as a holiday gift. In return, we asked that, where inaccuracies were suspected, customers let us know so we could further research questionable points. Collectors are not always aware of it (dealers are), but very often serious collectors know more about certain authors than dealers do. We have a couple of Stephen King collectors who know just about every imaginable detail about King's books. The exercise was so successful that requests for more of these booklets began to be received. At that point we decided to produce an expanded version of the booklet and offer it for sale. Our first commercial edition came out in 1996. Since that time we have produced 7 additional editions, with the most current edition - the 2008 edition - being published just last month.
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