Friday, December 18, 2009

The Lost Books of Alan Lomax & the Strugatsky brothers

Immediately after we went 'live' with Ginger we started encountering some 'purgatory' books; books that were still in copyright (either the author was still alive, or their estate was in charge), but were completely out-of-print in the U.S. The whole issue of rights management suddenly became a part of what we now deal with as booksellers.

Before, we just assumed that if the book was in the store, it was sellable, either as a new book or a used copy. Now, what happens is that we get requests and we have to scrutinize whether we can print the book or not. Part of the complexity is our commitment to have as many books as possible accessible to our customers. Google Editions hasn't scanned every book every printed yet, and Project Gutenberg & Internet Archive have an a decade or more head start.

I've found several books that are public domain pdfs that are possibilities for turning into what we call Third Place Press Exclusive Editions. We create a cover to go around the cleaned-up pdf and print it for the customer, at a slightly higher price than a regular paperback. It's a one-off, but that's ok; that's what the EBM was created for. An example is a book called "The Devil's Picture Book: A History of Playing Cards" a fascinating little book about card games from around the world, including Tarot.

A customer sent me an email requesting several titles by different authors, and one was on our database, "Roughing it in the Bush", which I then printed; another was a Ted Hughes book that was obviously still in copyright, just out-of-print here in the U.S.; the final books were by Russian-born Boris and Arkady Strugatsky, classic writers of visionary Science Fiction in the 60s and 70s. I found several versions of the brothers' books online as downloadable pdfs and text files, but since Boris was still alive, I felt uncomfortable with creating a print edition. So I sent word to a literary agent-friend, and hopefully I hear the final word soon.

And then there's the case of Alan Lomax a brilliant musicologist, who recorded and interviewed musicians of all kinds, around the world, preserving their musical knowledge and skills for future generations. A co-worker of mine wanted to get a copy of "The Folk Songs of North America, in English", for his friend; apparently the book is exhaustively researched and contains many chapters with techniques that would be valuable to folk & bluegrass musicians (which he and his friend are). It turns out the copyright still stands (Lomax passed away in 2002), but unfortunately the book is currently out-of-print. That's a shame since a book like that would do well here in Seattle with the Folk community... So if the Lomax estate is listening out there: contact me, I'd like to bring that book back in print for you.

Really, it's that easy with the EBM technology. Back to "Leaves of Grass"...

No comments:

Post a Comment