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Shopping for books around the world- Some good news for collectors

If you're a book lover, a collector or an author looking for references which seem to only stay on the shelves for a few seconds in recent times, the global book market is your chance to avoid the frustration. Even if you're looking for special book printing editions or large print books, the world's booksellers can help.

Photo: uitdragerij

Global shopping basics

The best way of finding a book is to start by searching online. Strangely, even Amazon can help with your search, because they'll tell you whether the book is easy to find, and a rough price range. Amazon itself has a few drawbacks for collectors, because they're basically an aggregator of sales, and tracking back to a seller can be an ordeal, often not worth it. Information tends to be lacking, and unless the seller is a professional bookseller, you probably won't find out much about the edition, the condition of the book, or even which printing it is. Making inquiries can be a time consuming or frustrating experience.

The best online booksellers also have brilliant search engines and good databases. If it's ever been printed, someone will know how to find it. You can also find specialist booksellers, which is particularly useful for those looking for technical, military, and historical materials.

Specialist booksellers

This is where the global expert booksellers get involved. The big US site Abbey Books is a good example as a general hunting ground, and the sellers are all reliable dealers. If you get in contact with them, they'll answer promptly. They'll also provide all the information you could possibly need. They speak the language of the collector, understand the enthusiasm of the book lover, and can follow the logic of the author.

Far more importantly, many of the global booksellers are specialists. They know how to find the books you want, particularly the out of print classics the big publishers are so ready to take off their lists. The huge advantage of online book hunting is that you can track down people who are genuine experts, with instant access to inventories Amazon and retailers simply don't have.

These are the people you need on your side when hunting for your books. Some of them are truly excellent, and will check information for you and also check the condition of any books they find. They're so good that even their newsletters are worth reading.

Special editions

If you're looking for special editions, it's a good idea to have a few booksellers keeping an eye on what's available. The special editions tend to disappear when collectors find them, and you've got your work cut out for you if you don't get some help. The booksellers are also a good set of indicators of degrees of difficulty in finding a particular book.

If you've got three booksellers saying they can't find something, you'll need a Plan B to get it. Booksellers will suggest any options they can think of, if they can't help. Whatever you're looking for, start with the experts.