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Many books - even from popular authors - are out of print (examples are The Collected Jorkens from Lord Dunsany or Round the Fire Stories from Arthur Conan Doyle). What options do I have if I want to get hold of a copy (because I want to be able to read the complete works of the author) without beeing forced to pay collector's prices?

I can think of the following options, please let me know if I forgot any:

  • Bite the bullet and pay £100 and more to buy one of the rare copies on the market
  • Abandon the idea of being able to place a physical copy into my book case and try to get the e-book or pdf
  • Find the full text electronically (for example on Project Gutenberg) and have it printed and bound by some copy shop
  • Start a crowd funding campaign (kickstarter or the like) to get the work back into print
  • Find a public library that has a copy, visit the library wearing a long trenchcoat and dark sunglasses and conceal the book under my trenchcoat when I leave

Are there any other options?

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  • I fear that this question is too general to answer. However, Arthur Conan Doyle is a popular and old author, so you will find all of his books full text on the internet. Round the Fire Stories that you mention are under en.wikisource.org/wiki/… (one page per story), as well as gutenberg.org/ebooks/54109 on Project Gutenberg, found by author name from gutenberg.org/browse/authors/d#a69 .
    – b_jonas
    Jul 2 '21 at 14:47
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    A relevant question on meta is literature.meta.stackexchange.com/q/652/139 What are some good (legal) resources for finding the text of books?
    – b_jonas
    Jul 2 '21 at 14:51
  • Round the Fire Stories seems to have been in print as recently as 1991 and is readily available in second hand paperback editions for well under a tenner. So step one, remember to check online for affordable editions. if you are looking to get PDF's printed and bound, you could print them yourself and learn bookbinding.
    – Spagirl
    Jul 2 '21 at 16:27
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The only option I see missing is the 'buy it from a used bookstore or library sale and hope it's not priced at a collector price' which requires a lot of searching, but is feasible and how many places selling to collectors source their books.

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  • Similarly, charity shops/goodwill, church sales, jumble sales, house clearances, garage/yard sales, etc.
    – Stuart F
    Sep 29 '21 at 14:01
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The first option on the list, "buy one of the rare copies on the market", is not as simple as it sounds, because finding an antiquarian bookseller that still has a copy of the book is the most challenging part of finding the book.

Depending on where you live, you need to find a way to identify sellers that might have the book. For example, if you live in the European Union and you can deal with a German user interface, Buchfreund.de is a good place to start. The site offers a federated catalogue of antiquarian booksellers in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic and Hungary (and possibly a few other countries that I have not yet come across in my searches). Since the largest share of booksellers represented on Buchfreund.de, the majority of books are in German. However, I have been able to find many academic titles in English that had been removed from university libraries. You can also search for antiquarian or out-of-print books at ZVAB - Zentrales Verzeichnis Antiquarischer Bücher (literally "central registry of antiquarian books").

If the book you are looking for is an academic publication, you may find it on sites specialising in that types of books, such as Studibuch in Germany.

If you can handle a French user interface, Chapitre.com may be a good alternative. According to Livre à Paris, Chapitre.com is an online bookseller specialising in antiquarian and out-of-print books, with a catalogue of over nine million items. In France Place des Libraires also allows searches over many book sellers; most books offered here are new but with some luck you can find an out-of-print book.

(The article Acheter un livre ancien, épuisé, rare ou indisponible also also mentions Abebooks, Amazon and Price Minister as sites where you can find out-of-print books, but these are sites which many people are already familiar with.)

Without those specialised sites and federated catalogues, you'll need to contact individual antiquarian booksellers, such as Skulima in Germany (academic titles). The post Les bonnes adresses de bouquinistes et librairies provides lists for antiquarian booksellers in France (mostly), Belgium, Quebec and Ireland. Leslibraires.fr provides a map of booksellers in France and tells you whether the specialise in new books or out-of-print ones. (If you live in Paris, you can also visit the famous Bouquinistes, but that is not a very efficient method.) You can also use the directory of the Independent Online Booksellers Association or check the list of booksellers' associations on Wikipedia.

Another big search engine for used and rare books is BookFinder, which appears to work like a meta search engine, since it provides results from sites such as Buchfreunde.de, ZVAB, Amazon, Alibris etc. This allows you to compare prices from different sellers and marketplaces. This is worth doing, since prices for out-of-print books can vary considerably.

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