Though books, including classic works of literature, drama and satire, can introduce readers to different emotional spaces and inspire fresh and seemingly-transcendent perspectives, they ultimately are a product. As consumers in the 21st century, people never completely leave the marketplace. Books are as involved in the overwhelming traffic of the marketplace as gold, cars and real estate.
If a literary product fails to sell and make profit, then the publisher will terminate any future publication of the work, leaving the book out-of-print and left to a limited population.
For example, Madonna’s infamous and promiscuous book Sex was published by Warner Brothers in 1992. Besides the loyal Madonna worshippers able to recite verbatim every lyric from the Immaculate Collection, this provocative take on 20th century sex was a poor seller. Consequently, Warner Brothers, the all-encompassing media mogul, decided to permanently shelve the work and halt any future publication. Since it reached the publication graveyard, Madonna’s Sex has been resurrected to become highly valued as an out-of-print book; the cheapest listing on www.amazon.com is $68.
Besides the Material Girl’s photographic thesis on the highest form of physical intimacy, other famous out-of-print books include Winston Churchill’s World Crisis, a personal history on World War I by the famous British Prime Minister.
Even the work of literary giants, such as Hunter S. Thompson’s Curse of Lono and Sinclair Lewis’ It Can’t Happen Here, made the list of popular out-of-print books. Evidently, no author, no matter the extent of his or her critical acclaim, is immune to succumbing to the terminal disease of being out-of-print.
As in the case of Madonna’s book, many rare and out-of-print books can experience a resurrection; however, this will not happen though its original publisher. This revitalization is ironically due to the same powerful, abstract entity responsible for kicking it to the curb years before: the marketplace.
With Web sites like E-Bay and Amazon, no book is ever off of the market and no reader is ever left wondering if their beloved, out-of-print text has disappeared forever. The Internet is the unlikely savior of initial literary failures and has resuscitated the lives of thousands of books, ranging from topics like Irish-knitting to letterpress printing. Other sites to uncover rare and out-of-print books include Bookfinder.com, Alibris.com and abebooks.com. Also, local used bookshops frequently shelve written diamonds in the rough within their dusty, but textually-fertile shelves.
An afterlife does exist within the marketplace of literary products. With the likes of the Internet and quaint vintage bookstores, finding a rare or out-of-print book is a possibility. All it requires is access to the Internet, eager persistence and an ironic sense of gratitude to the marketplace of books.