Science Fiction Immortality

Everyone wants to live as long as they can, and that’s true of books too.  A writer sells a book to a publisher and they print up a bunch of copies.  As long as the book keeps selling they keep printing.  Most books never sell out their original print run and  go out of print.  Some books are popular enough that they stay in print – that’s a sign of a great book.

I’m in an online science fiction book club called Classic Science Fiction.  We have just voted on the 24 books we want to read in 2011 and I thought it would be interesting to see how many are in print, and whether or not they have an ebook edition available, or even an audio edition.  Real classics should be available in all formats.

As a rule, if a book isn’t easily available, it doesn’t get read by many members in the book club.  Some members won’t read the book unless they already own it, can find a cheap copy at a local used bookstore or get it from the library.  Used bookstores and libraries are very important for keeping a book alive.  I’m hoping ebooks will catch on as a new form of literary life extension.

The prices I used below are from Amazon, and I used the cheapest edition in each category.   As can quickly be seen, some books are out of print in all formats, not a good sign.  The book title is linked to the Internet Science Fiction Database to reveal it’s publication history.  Finally, I decided to see if the book is at my public library.  It’s wonderful to think that libraries are Heaven for books, where they never die and will be protected and preserved for all time.  Sadly, that’s not true.  Modern public libraries routinely purge uncirculated titles.

Title Print Ebook Audio Library
Midnight at the Well of Souls
Jack Chalker
Yes
Monument
Lloyd Biggle, Jr
$15.00 Yes
Brain Wave
Poul Anderson
$3.99
Rite of Passage
Alexei Panshin
$12.74 $4.79 Yes
Restoree
Anne McCaffrey
$7.99 $6.29 Yes
The Mote in God’s Eye
Niven and Pournelle
$7.99 $17.24 Yes
The Cosmic Puppets
Philip K. Dick
$11.07
Earthlight
Arthur C. Clarke
Yes
The Man Who Folded Himself
David Gerrold
$11.86
Tau Zero
Poul Anderson
$3.99 Yes
Galactic Patrol
E.E. Smith
$14.17 Yes
Empire Star
Samuel R. Delany
$10.20 Yes
Earth
David Brin
$7.99 $6.29 Yes
Flashforward
Robert J. Sawyer
$7.79 $7.99 $15.73 Yes
Brasyl
Ian McDonald
$12.46 $9.99
Beggars in Spain
Nancy Kress
$11.16 $9.99 $9.44 Yes
Primary Inversion
Catherine Asaro
$13.99 Free $14.68 Yes
Risen Empire
Scott Westerfield
$10.17
Calculating God
Robert J. Sawyer
$5.98 $9.99 $18.71 Yes
The Life of Pi
Yann Martel
$8.30 $7.78 $19.40 Yes
The Barsoom Project
Niven and Barnes
$10.87 $9.99 Yes
Replay
Ken Grimwood
$10.97 $18.99
Spin
Robert Charles Wilson
$7.99 $7.99 $30.95
On Basilisk Station
David Weber
$7.99 Free $18.71 Yes

JWH – 11/27/10

20 Responses

  1. It’s probably going to be too late for your group read, but Blackstone Audio is producing a bunch of Poul Anderson titles next year. Brainwave will be narrated by Tom Weiner and released in June…

  2. It will certainly be interesting to read your reviews of whichever of these books you get to in the coming year. I’m very interested in your thoughts on all of them.

    A few years back they released a $3.99 new version of On Basilisk Station, by the way, similar to what they did with A Game of Thrones.

    I’m interested in many of these. I have The Barsoom Project, but don’t have any of the others. I know my library has Brasyl, but I probably won’t be getting to it until I read River of Gods and Ares Express, two McDonald books that are already on my shelves.

  3. Thanks James, it sounds like fun. Not having the pressure to read every book is great, because as you know my reading is all over the place. Anyway, I went ahead and signed up. Starman Jones is a Heinlein book I haven’t read so that will be a really fun place to start.

    By the way, on a whim I picked up the two-novel omnibus Confederation of Valor by Tanya Huff and read the first novel, Valor’s Choice, this weekend and started on the second. Although it took a little bit to get into it because she introduces a number of races into the story during the first half without info-dumping, I ended up really liking it and am enjoying the second novel so far.

  4. Catherine Asaro’s “Primary Inversion” is also available free at Baen Books, Jim. I haven’t looked around for the others, but I knew this one was available there (in many different formats).

  5. Sometimes, I think we are of one mind Jim, just before thanksgiving I checked out which of the books I could get onto my nook and was disappointing that so few of the classics were available in e-book, but happy that a lot of the newer stuff is available that way.

    • John, maybe by next year at this time ebooks will more standard. I noticed in the Sunday ads that there were numerous ebook readers for sale, many of which I’ve never heard of before. And the new Nook Color ebook is very exciting. I think the Nook content will quickly catch up with the Kindle. It’s obvious the #2 reader now, quickly passing Sony.

      • Oh, I think you miss read my post, all the stuff that is available for kindle is also available for Nook. I was just disappointed that more of our read selections weren’t available for e-readers.

  6. I’m not entirely convinced that a growing number of ebook readers won’t actually hurt the market, unless for some reason it drives it towards all ebooks being compatible with all readers. This whole thing reminds me of a more chaotic version of the blu-ray, hd-dvd situation. Not that I care for myself, being a long way from wanting to get an ebook reader, but I do care simply because I am a reader and ultimately want to be supportive of things that get people to read and keep the book industry profitable.

    If I was going to get one at this point, it would be the Nook Color. The only thing that might help make up for the loss of all I hold dear in being able to hold a physical book in hand is at least being able to have the book cover art in its actual color rather than a black and white equivalent.

    • Yes, you are so visual Carl, that I can’t imagine you liking a B&W ebook reader. Have you seen an iPad. They are gorgeous to look at, and the 10″ screen really helps for art and photos. The Nook Color is more the right size for text reading though. The iPad would be perfect for those Peanuts books you reviewed.

      Eventually, if there are a great number of ebook readers, I hope publishers will develop one standard format that works with them all.

  7. Yes, a friend of mine has an iPad and has brought it into the local comic shop a few times to let me play around with it. I am envious, but it is too pricey of a toy for me right now. My next big purchase, after debt is paid off, will be a nice big screen tv and blu-ray. After that I may consider the Apple toys that are out there. The iPad seems like it wouldn’t be as convenient to carry around as the Nook, Kindle, etc. The only one I’ve actually played around with is a Nook and it seemed like a nice size.

    • In the next year, I think the next big thing is going to be e-readers with twin screens. This will be a major competitor for the i-pad as an e-reader for stuff like photo spreads, comic books, etc. So if you’re iffy about an i-pad, I’d just wait another year and see what shakes out.

  8. The Nook color is good for reading magazines and newspapers and a great way to browse the web in wi-fi hot spots, but I do not believe it will replace the b+w nook for a couple of reasons. One, it is back lit so it will hurt your eyes if you use it to read for too long like happens on a computer screen. Two, since it is back lit and uses color, and if you browse the internet is using the wi-fi, it will not have as long a battery life as the b +w Nook. Also I heard there will never be a 4G version of the Nook color otherwise it would be the world’s cheapest way to get on the internet.

  9. “Collected Stories of Arthur C Clarke”, still very much in print, includes original short story version of some half dozen of his novels, including “Earthlight”.

  10. Thanks Tinkoo. Someone else wrote me about this too, and it turns out there is a short story version and a novel version. The novel version seems to be long out of print. Tinkoo, do you only read short stories? If not, you’d be a good person to have in our book club. But even if you don’t read novels, we try to read one online short story a week, and that’s your specialty.

  11. Short stories became my specialty only because I was in a hurry to get introduced to science fiction when I started 3 years ago – it allowed a broad exposure to genre in limited time. Somewhere in the process, I actually started preferring them to novels because they cut the flab & get to the point fast, & bad ones don’t waste as much time as a bad novel would. I do read novels – but relatively few & generally avoiding fat ones – may be averaging 1 a month – mostly classics. I’ve read pretty much every novel of Clarke & Asimov, & a good many of Eric Frank Russell & Hal Clement; relatively few of others.

    I see your book club is a yahoo group. Will sign up tonight, unless I forget.

    • I avoid big fat novels too. Our club is slowly developing a momentum for reading one online story a week – so you’ll be a great supporter for that momentum. I just finished a Clarke book and I’m working on Asimov’s I, Robot short stories.

  12. Star Trek Klingon film actor debuts science fiction suspense thriller novel THE POWDER MERCHANT
    David Orange who portrayed The Sleepy Klingon in Star Trek VI film has garnered 5 HIGHLY RECOMMENDED professional critiques for THE POWDER MERCHANT who inventive premise it: a mastermind seeking to escape judgment attempts to inhabit Cyberspace forever before a lady cop can stop him.
    Now an EBOOK for $1.99
    Amazon Kindle Books
    Barnes and Noble Nook Books
    http://www.davidorange.net

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