What is the SINGLE most important factor when adding a book to your collection?

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What is the SINGLE most important factor when adding a book to your collection?

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 28, 5:44 pm

So, recently I was looking at purchasing a fine press edition of a book. It's a decent price for a nice letterpress book. It's signed by the artist... but sadly the author had died some years earlier. However, there is another edition that IS signed by the author, but it's not letterpress and is about 1/5 the cost of the letterpress edition. So, I'm pondering what to do here, because I greatly value the author's signature. That in turn made me ponder - what is the single most important factor when purchasing a book? Before everyone starts replying saying "there is no one single factor!" -- let me say, I am well aware of that :)

What I'm wondering, if you had to choose ONE factor, what would it be?

Inherent value?
Something else?

Again, I know there is no one single factor, but it would be interesting to hear people's thoughts on what matters most. To make things simpler let's assume we're discussing works of comparable quality - so there's no need to compare letterpress with offset etc.

For myself, I'm still pondering what to do with the two books. Honestly, I'm leaning towards the less expensive volume primarily because it has the author's signature. If the letterpress edition was signed by the author that would easily have been my pick.

huhtikuu 28, 6:17 pm

Given your assumptions, illustrations. Signed edition is nice if same cost, I would not pay extra for a signature. Who knows if it's real anyway.

huhtikuu 28, 6:32 pm

How much time do I expect to spend reading it, and what are my expectations of the quality of that time - which is affected by the design and production qualities of the book, and by illustrations if there are any, as well as by the most obvious factor, the text. Signatures of obscure authors do appeal to me, I'd never be willing to pay the premium required for signatures of the more renowned: and all things being anywhere near equal I welcome volumes that look well on the shelf.

huhtikuu 28, 6:49 pm

Do I want to read it soon?

huhtikuu 28, 7:07 pm

Content. I'm not going to buy something I don't want to read.

For books by Folio, the illustrations are most important seeing as in most cases I can get the content for free from the library. If I am going to pay for a physical book of easily accesible content at Folio's prices the illustrations need to be good enough to justify the cost.

huhtikuu 28, 7:20 pm

Assuming we’re talking about decent quality (decent paper, sewn binding), then definitely content. I would prioritize a novel I really loved above any book and don’t really care about the finer details of the crafting.

huhtikuu 29, 12:04 am

For fine press books, it's execution, which is little bits from a lot of your categories but could be summarised as the synthesis of the parts. Obviously the subject matter has to appeal somewhat, but I've bought fine press editions of authors and poets that I probably wouldn't have sought out normally, because the construction of the text and the book sold me on it. There are some titles I'd buy almost regardless of their execution, and some I'd never buy no matter how well done, but by and large my collection is a surprise to myself, as I've been drawn into many books that are quite unique from what I buy in trade format. So it may sound like a cop-out answer, but it's "the book itself" for me.

huhtikuu 29, 12:14 am

Space and budgetary constraints require that I only add a work interesting enough to re-read several times - even if it is only to admire the illustrations and production quality.

huhtikuu 29, 2:34 am

Definitely content / subject matter first. Then the binding and size. I like my books to be tidy and preferably not too big. By tidy I mean neat and clean. Preferably with a cloth or leather binding. Then the quality of the paper, not too smooth or too thin. No open bindings.

The illustrations should fit the content. I would rarely buy a book due to the illustrations, although there are a number of times I have been put off buying a book because of poor illustrations, the Rob Roy LE being a good example of this.

A signed copy is very low in my list of priorities.

huhtikuu 29, 2:53 am

Assuming I want the content (otherwise not much point I think), and that the quality of the binding is good…

I’d have to say the design of the outer boards/jacket - will it look good on the shelf. Call me shallow.

But as I said, that’s assuming the binding is good quality and it sits in the hand well and is a pleasure to read overall. Interior illustrations don’t really rate for me…although they are a ‘nice to have’.

huhtikuu 29, 3:05 am

Assuming you get the basics out of the way (content + cloth bound hardcover), the personality captured by its aesthetics.

huhtikuu 29, 3:47 am

Assuming that I already like the content, the main factor for me would probably be availability - are there any other nice editions of the book? Will I regret not buying it when it's gone? So I guess it's bascially FOMO, which probably isn't ideal!

huhtikuu 29, 4:32 am

Whether it's published by Folio is the first consideration. They are the only books I buy.

huhtikuu 29, 5:08 am

If its a Folio, there is no second thought. Its an instant buy for me.
Those books are made to last forever.

huhtikuu 29, 5:16 am

The single most important factor is 'Am I going to actually read it?'

huhtikuu 29, 6:46 am

Illustrations matter to me the most.

huhtikuu 29, 7:55 am

I think the question for me is what extra does it bring. For a trade edition, it suffices for me to like the textual content. For the next step up, e g., Folio, it is usually the illustrations that make it worthwhile. For fine press the cost is yet higher still so there needs to be something else; it would normally be the totality of the design of the book.

huhtikuu 29, 8:02 am

If we are specifically talking Folio Society books, the my primary consideration is price. I will buy any FS book if I see it cheap enough - even if I am not planning to read it any time soon, I trust the publishing judgement of FS enough that it might be a book that I would enjoy at some point in the future.

Equally, for any particular FS book, there is a price above which I would not go.

If we are not talking FS books, then my most important consideration would be content. There are plenty of subjects that do not interest me at all - for example, I would not want a biography of a reality TV contestant no matter how well it was produced or how cheap it was.

huhtikuu 29, 8:20 am

I wouldnt buy an Folio just for the illustrations tbh. Normaly it's just 6 of them and not worth the premium price in my humble opinion. You need to see the book as a whole.
There is a Game of Thrones CE from HarperCollins with hundreds of illustrations for the price of an Retail HC .

huhtikuu 29, 8:23 am

Content is king. I have no room on my shelves for books I won't read regardless if it's made of hand made paper that a monk in a remote village made right before he died and it can't be got anymore or some such.

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 29, 10:27 am

It has to be content.

That is such a basic essential, and no book is worth having if that criteria isn't satisfied, I'm asuming that is a given?? If so, I'd have to say font. The book has to be comfortably readable. I've even been known to prefer an e-book to the physical version, simply because the physical font is too small and crammed to enjoy.

huhtikuu 29, 10:29 am

Ha, I didn't notice this was posted in the FSD forum rather than Fine Press (I'm in both), so my earlier answer is less germane here. With regards to the question as pertains to FS books, it's basically the content. If it's a good edition of a book I will love (Roadside Picnic, The Pillow Book, etc), then that's what sells me on it. Even if I can get the book (or already have it) in a "lesser" format, I'll get the FS edition if it's something I'll enjoy having.

huhtikuu 29, 12:51 pm

Intrigue. Something about it must grab my attention. Usually it's content (story or theme, not pictures) but sometimes the intrigue is generated by someone else's recommendation or excitement.

huhtikuu 29, 2:14 pm

Only buying FS books that i intend to read again and again. If it’s a one time read, then the ebook shall suffice.

huhtikuu 29, 3:44 pm

After content it's illustrations for me. Rarely it's those alone (as in The Luttrell Psalter and other facsimiles of very visual books). In the case you described, I'd only go for the more expensive edition if I liked the illustrations a lot. If it's an author whose signature I really care about, that would trump any illustrations that don't really pull me in. That being said, if I loved the illustrations and admired the author enough, I'd be very tempted to get both editions if at all possible. Which would explain why I at times have several editions of the same book despite shelf space being an issue. But then I don't know the prices so the more expensive edition (or even both) might not be a good option based on that.

huhtikuu 29, 5:00 pm

Some books I feel I would not only read, but truly deserve to sit on my shelf in a fine press edition. If the price is right, those I buy. Others may merit a fine press edition, but I won't read them, so they won't sit on my shelf. Others earn a spot on my shelf, but they're not books for the ages, so I'm fine with a regular edition, including paperbacks. Content is key for me, as with many others. Design and illustrations can kill my desire for an edition, but will not get me to buy on their own.

huhtikuu 29, 5:46 pm

>22 Shadekeep: Ha, I didn't notice this was posted in the FSD forum rather than Fine Press (I'm in both)...

Neither did I, hence my very general answer (" Signatures of obscure authors", etc.). Still, the answer is why I've practically stopped buying Folio books: the text is the thing, and almost always with Folio's recent releases I either already have it in a perfectly acceptable edition (sometimes from Folio) or I'm unlikely to read it.

huhtikuu 30, 10:16 am

Content is far and away the most important factor. I used to buy any Folio book I could get my hands, mostly if I found a great bargain which was much easier years ago with their amazing sales and before deals were snagged on ebay or facebook within minutes. Now I've been selling a lot of my Folio books that either fetch a handsome price or I have no interest in reading.

Since Folio's new direction I rarely buy anything from them anymore and have turned more to fine press books with my annual NYRB and Archipelago memberships for my mostly paperback reading. Now I mostly buy books that interest me with a big splurge here and there. For instance I saved money and sold books in order to obtain a copy of Arion's Don Quixote but I would never spend something similar for St James Press Park 1984 or Prototype Press Ham on Rye, which I find both decent books, but have absolutely no regrets about never being able to obtain either. Although they both look gorgeous the content isn't there for me and even if I inherited a hefty sum or made more money I would still unlikely buy them.

huhtikuu 30, 11:52 am

>28 Joshbooks1: ...and even if I inherited a hefty sum or made more money I would still unlikely buy them.

For the sake of argument, what if you inherited the books from a mysterious benefactor/ good Samaritan/ rich but dead relative? Would you still sell them for a handsome price, keep them, or something else?

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 30, 2:53 pm

>29 mr.philistine: Keep them. They're too beautifully made and although the subject matter isnt totally my taste I'd have trouble letting them go.

Others I'd sell and even I'm at a bypass for The Wanderer since I bought it for cheap years ago and now its in the 2-2.5k range. It's nice but in my opinion not as nice as Ham on Rye or 1984.

toukokuu 1, 2:12 am

Whether i am going to reread the book or not. Yes, it can happen that i don't even get to it, but i fully intend to reread the books i actually own. If i read something and don't like it enough to want to revisit it in the future, i just get rid of it. My collection is made up of books i want to reread and then reread.

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 1, 6:32 am

>30 Joshbooks1: The OP specifies 'the single most important factor when purchasing a book' whereas the title states 'adding a book'; and since adding ≠ purchasing, wouldn't you agree that it is price over content/ aesthetics for you? After all, you are willing to keep a book hitherto untouchable(?) unbuyable, if acquired free of cost!

toukokuu 1, 6:43 am

>31 sekhmet0108: nice one. So, I’m curious, roughly how many books in your collection are on the reread list? (acknowledging that a bunch of them won’t be cover to cover rereads and will be dipped into)

Briefly looking at my collection (around 550 books), I’d say roughly 30-40% are yet to read, and of the 60% I have read, if I’m honest, maybe only a fifth of those I’ll reread or dip into again…

…however, I do get lots of enjoyment from them on the shelf. And picking them up and quickly looking through them from time to time…

…I do think part of the joy of a book collection is its mere presence…but like you I do get rid of ones that don’t speak to me.

toukokuu 1, 7:55 am

If it's just the one factor I have to say price. At the right price I can overlook not liking the illustrations or having a bad binding or being a book I'm only slightly interested in. I think this is ultimately true for everyone, otherwise the second hand market wouldn't look like it does. There's also many threads about how people have been 'priced out' of buying new Folio books they're interested in; I'm no different, I'm far less able to take a chance on books that look interesting or are heavily recommended given the new price level.
That said, content is a close second.

toukokuu 1, 12:47 pm

there is no one single factor!

toukokuu 1, 1:34 pm

>34 A.Godhelm: Good points. I may have to change my answer. There are a lot of FS books I want content-wise but the price keeps me at bay.

SPQR is an example. When it came back in stock I was excited but the price point is rough when there are good trade hardcovers available for 1/7 the cost. Obviously the quality is not comparable but the FS edition surely isn't THAT much better. It's probably more like 4 or 5 times better.

toukokuu 1, 1:39 pm

This collector's Hierarchy of Needs:

Illustrations / binding design.
Binding Materials
Critical Apparatus
Paper Quality
Market value
Letterpress Printed
Ribbon Marker

toukokuu 1, 2:58 pm

>23 treereader: nice answer!

For me it’s intrigue/beauty/hand-feel/price tempered by as much realism as possible eg it looks intriguing but realistically is it one I’m going to start but not finish? A concrete example might be ‘The Origins of Totalitarianism’, prob wouldn’t finish that one to be honest. Another factor for me would be expected resale value. If I don’t like it could I sell it without too much loss?

toukokuu 2, 6:47 am

For me there are usually 2 factors. Does the subject matter interest me and is it a book I'd actually like to read. This applies whether it's a cheap paperback or a limited edition/fine print.

Although I've bought some books and only managed a few chapters before giving up, generally, I do like to give them a good chance.

The only real exception is with Art books where the images usually take precedence, though it would still need to be an artist whose work I'm interested in.

toukokuu 8, 5:35 pm

Content. Am I going to read it more than once?

Quality. Is the paper nice and thick so I can't see the printing behind it? Is the font comfortable now and hopefully when I am elderly?

There is absolutely no reason for me to purchase a beautiful copy of any book out there that I am only going to read once. I can pick up a paperback for that and then sell it off. I want beautiful copies of the books I plan to read and reread over the decades, and I am a huge rereader. I get through 120-150 books every year, and at least a 1/3rd of that is a FS copy or a nice hardcover. But I am picky with what I buy, too!

toukokuu 9, 1:41 am

>40 Lady19thC: This sounds like a solid philosophy all round.

The 'when I am elderly' point is well made...as I approach 50, and my eyes are tired at the end of a work day looking at a computer screen, I am also thinking about this quality more and more...

toukokuu 9, 3:34 am

>40 Lady19thC: Do you have some paperback publishers you prefer quality-wise? I order all my English books online (I’m in Germany) and am often disappointed at the ‘newsprint’ quality of the paper and find the relatively small font a strain for my eyes. Can anyone tell me which paperback publishers have the better standards? I don’t need premium, just slightly more pleasant than what seems to be the norm nowadays…

toukokuu 9, 7:03 am

>42 stopsurfing:

You sometimes get a better font size from UK publishers, but their paper and print quality tends to be worse than a lot of US books. Not a pleasant choice to make, but it has been the reason why I bought some books / series from the UK instead of the US.

toukokuu 9, 12:30 pm

>42 stopsurfing: Mine are so many different publishers. I don't have one I particularly love and collect. Paper quality and font size is such a personal thing. I used to love Penguin Books, but they have become so cheap lately, unless you get the Penguin Classic Deluxe Editions with the French flaps. I also find the paper quality and print in the basic Barnes & Noble collections are nicer and cost less than some of the more popular publishers. Lately I have preferred Oxford Classics to Penguin because of their larger print and slightly thicker paper quality. Again, as I am not usually keeping these books in my collection I am a lot less picky about how good they are. When I resell them I get the same price. No one cares who the publisher is of them when buying 2nd hand, unlike some who collect those orange Penguin books, which I never see around here in New England.

toukokuu 9, 9:47 pm

>42 stopsurfing: NYRB Classics and Archipelago are both amazing publishers with unparalleled literary titles and well made paperbacks.

toukokuu 10, 7:29 am

>42 stopsurfing: >45 Joshbooks1: Agreed, I would also add Pushkin Press, Galley Beggars, Stinging Fly, & Other Stories, SALT, Melville House, Peirene Press - all independent publishers who have interesting and varied catalogues and focus on producing high quality, well-designed paperbacks.

toukokuu 10, 8:09 am

Europa Editions produces some solidly built paperbacks as well.

toukokuu 10, 12:57 pm

Thanks for the tips everyone. It doesn’t sound like there are any mainstream publishers that consistently do ‘acceptable’ quality. I’ve got a nice long list of more niche publishers to check out though. Thank you again!

toukokuu 11, 11:58 am

I'll add a recent one, whether the book is going to give me a hernia...I used to love elephant folios, what have you....not so much now 😭

kesäkuu 1, 10:00 am

I am running kind of low on shelf space so need to be picky now. I would say at this point it has to be something really high on my want to re-read list and the edition grabs my attention. I have pretty much pieced together most of the books I actually wanted to own over the past few years and have probably a few hundred books sitting around that I need to read already. I've also gotten better about going to the library instead of buying books. Another thing that might get me buying is if it is obscure and I can't find it in the local libraries and I really want to read it, or if it is an art book I think I will want to have around and go back to.

One book that has helped me curb my spending is Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals. That book has made me think a lot about all the crap I have and makes me consider if I will actually ever get around to using most of it, including all my books.