If ''More of the Straight Dope'' is really out of print, how did I buy a new copy?

No online or bricks-and-mortar bookstore including the Straight Dope Store can sell me a new copy of More of the Straight Dope. Or so I though, until I visited amazon.

It was sold to me as new, and when it arrived a few days ago, it certainly appeared to be new. I paid $8 (plus shipping), but now I notice their price is up to $10 (but shipping is now free if you order two or more items). Their description says “This title is currently on back order. We expect to be able to ship it to you within 3-5 weeks.” But in fact, they shipped it only 5 days after I ordered it.

How is it that they can sell it, but the Straight Dope Store can’t? Is it back in print, or does amazon have a secret stash of them somewhere?

Since this is a Straight Dope product, I’ll take a chance that a commercial link will be acceptable. amazon’s More of the Straight Dope

They probably have a stash of them somewhere, and don’t want to tell anyone. I tell you, the bookselling biz is weird, no offense to any of our posters in that biz. Don’t EVEN get me started on stripped books, which I consider to be a personal affront.

“Out of print” means that no new copies are being printed. Distributors may still have unsold copies they can sell.

People already covered it pretty thoroughly, but the most likely scenario is this:

  1. More of the Straight Dope goes out of print.

  2. The Publisher of MotSD (I’m ashamed to say that I cannot recall whom this is) notifies its customers (distributors and booksellers) that they have a certain period of time to return the title, after which they will no longer accept returns that they cannot sell.

  3. Someone, probably multiple someones, is lax in returning their copies on time, and they become nonreturnable. This always happens to some extent, but there are times when a particular bookseller will just plain forget to do timely returns, at which point they may end up with a crapload of copies of a nonreturnable title in stock.

4a. Amazon, being who they are, finds out about this, and offers to sell them through their website. You’re seeing an Amazon listing, but your book is really getting shipped from the formerly unlucky bookseller to Amazon, and only then to you. This is why they advise that there may be a delay.

4b. Alternately, a distributor (such as Ingram or Baker & Taylor) has a bunch of late returns from booksellers that they do business with - they got them before the deadline, but disn’t ship them to the publisher in time, or they honored late shipment returns for whatever reason). In this cse, they may shop them to companies like Amazon for a deal similar to the previous one - Amazon doesn’t actually buy any copies until they get an order for them, then they buy copies to cover the orders, and have them shipped to the buyers.

I could get into the economics of stripped books, but that’s another thread.

Nicely done. And true.

Thanks for all the explanations.

your humble TubaDiva

Oh please tell me about stripped books. They sound intriguing.


If you really want to know, go ahead and as k in GQ, and I’ll answer it there :slight_smile:

I just noticed today that you can now buy More of the Straight Dope directly from the Straight Dope Store