Collectibles February 26, 2009
Hardcover? Or paperback?
Illustrations? Or just text?
First editions? Or you don’t care?
Signed by the author? Or not?
My first response was, huh? For two out of the four questions, the buyer has limited control. Not every book has an illustrated edition available, and if the author never comes within 1000 miles of your town, you're probably not getting a signed copy unless you're prepared to spend hours on Amazon.com.
As for the other two questions, for me, it depends on the book. I really prize my harcover, first-edition, purchased-at-2AM Harry Potter books, even though I got only the last half of the series that way, since I didn't get into them until the summer that book 4 was released. I bought my boyfriend a nice edition of Tolkien's The Children of Hurin, and I'm glad I did. I'm even glad I spent $30 on it when it's now remaindered at $5, because it was a more meaningful gift that way.
I have a couple of signed editions. One is John Elder Robison's Look Me In The Eye, which I got in the course of demonstrating my sincere interest in a job that since got cancelled due to lack of funding. Still, I'm glad I met him and glad I read the book, even though it's the "cleaned-up" edition that's suitable for classroom use.
The other is meaningful on a personal level: Dave Barry's Peter and the Starcatchers young adult novel. My family has enjoyed his column for many years. We were shocked to find out that he grew up in the same town as my father, and have since determined that he was a year older than one of my aunts and a year younger than the other one, but may have been in my grandfather's Cub Scout troop. Barry makes frequent references to where he grew up, teachers he had, and kids from his school. My father's always gotten a kick out of knowing those people too, and when the book was released, they finally had a chance to meet him. He was signing copies in Florida, and since I was the one who turned the family on to the columns, my parents bought me a signed copy as a gift.
Beyond those very few examples, though, I consistently go for quantity over quality. I'd rather have cheap editions of lots and lots of books than good editions of only a few. I don't have many hardcover books at all, and a lot of my hardcovers were second-hand. I love the remainder section at Barnes and Noble, because you can really maximize your money there and get decent editions of the books to boot. But generally, I'd rather just have lots and lots and LOTS of books.