I’m never going to buy a limited edition. There, I said it.
I prefer just plain old bookstore books, or second-hand books. Some of my best books have been second-hand. I’ve bought A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Ulysses, all my Doris Lessing books, Blood Meridian, and TED Klein’s Dark Gods and The Ceremonies - all at the second hand store. I spent less than thirty bucks for all those books and I treasure them.
I should give you a little background here - for nearly a decade I was taking care of two children. When my first son was six months I was with him full-time, and when the second was three months old I was full time with him as well. I was up to my elbows in clothe diapers and baby shit, and I didn’t have much time for anything. I’d been a devoted reader of horror fiction but I’d fallen away from it. I no longer went to horror movies and I didn’t read very much at all. When the oldest started going to school, I slowly began to emerge from my self-imposed cultural exile and dared to read again. Since publishing in general has become so web-centred, I got on the internet and looked for horror. Every horror writer on earth has a website; there are discussion boards everywhere. There are a whole lot of horror authors I never would have known existed if I hadn’t ventured out and looked at the online world of dark fiction.
I learned a lot about limited editions - beautiful, signed, numbered and lettered (whatever that means), new or re-released, and on sale for fifty or eighty bucks a pop with the near certainty it will sell for mega-cheddah on the secondary markets. Every few days a little notice will pop up : Hey kids, there are only ten copies left of Satan’s Zombie Ate My Gramma so you’d better set eighty bucks aside!
I can’t bring myself to ever buy a limited edition. I can’t understand why anyone else would want to buy one either.
Whenever I’m out in public I see people reading books. Like anyone, I read the covers. I’ve only ever seen two horror authors read by the general public - King and Koontz. No one else, save for the one time I saw a young woman with World War Z. King and Koontz are the biggest names in the biz, and take up entire shelves. Incidentally, the other two space-takers in the shelves of bookstores (at least in Canada) are women: Kelly Armstrong and Laurell K. Hamilton. All four sell a tonne of books, and their books are easy to find.
I understand that the industry is suffering, that it’s hard to get on those shelves in the first place, and hence the mail-order, small-press route many authors are taking. But… why not ebooks? Why not cheap physical books that are made cheaply and ship fast? Why the necessity to guarantee that your reader’s have received a book that no one else will be able to read? I think books should be made available for anyone who wants to buy them, but that’s just me. I like to think there’s a place for the reader that no one talks about - the guy who wants a quick and easy horror book for the weekend. When done, it will be either given away or lost under that bed amid the dust-bunnies and old plates.
I can see the logic: if a books comes out in limited numbers, and there is no way to read it in any other form save by that limited, numbered edition bound in pixie-hide, then your primitive brain tells you that it must be something special. Yet whenever I’ve read a borrowed copy, or read the previous incarnation of a book that has become a collector’s-item re-release of a classic horror novel, I’ve been unimpressed. I get the feeling that if you dusted the mystery off this book that has rarified itself to near archeological status, it wouldn’t stand a chance next to King or Koontz.
So what are we buying when we buy a book that is designed to become a collectible, much like those plates or coins you see on the infomercials? I have no idea. I’d rather just read a good book.