Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Book Club Editions: The next best thing to first editions

Ever since I purchased a book club edition of The Valhalla Exchange by Harry Patterson (Jack Higgins) at the Books by Weight exhibition currently on in Mumbai, I have been scouting for more of these books whose dust jackets and print layouts make them look just like first editions.

However, there is conflict over their worth. One opinion is that a BCE is not worth the paper it is printed on while another opinion dispels the myth that it has no value. Both views are backed by sound analysis and are convincing. I don’t know whom to believe. I happily settle for book club editions because I rarely ever come across 
first editions.

© Prashant C. Trikannad

My purchase of the Jack Higgins hardback—my very first acquisition of a book by Harry Patterson as opposed to Jack Higgins—prompted me to look up the other book club editions in my possession. I found two: To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee and The Mapmaker by Frank G. Slaughter.

All three hardbacks are identical to their first editions—cover design, summary on the inside of the front flap, original year of publication, author profile on the inside of the back flap, and a black-and-white picture of the author on the back cover. 

© Prashant C. Trikannad

Apart from the Book Club Edition mentioned inside, a keen eye can tell the not so obvious differences between a BCE and a first edition.

If you are only a book collector, you’ll be happy with your BCE; if you think you can make a nice little bundle, you’ll be tearing your hair.

Still, don’t get rid of your book club editions. I also read that some of these books do have value. For instance, a limited number of book club editions of the Harper Lee classic were apparently published at the same time as the first editions and are actually worth something today. 

Replica of my edition. © www.ebay.com

My book club edition of To Kill A Mockingbird is a replica of the first edition published by J.B Lippincott Company. The credit page merely says ‘Copyright © 1960 by Harper Lee. Printed in the United States of America’ and Truman Capote has been credited for Lee’s famous portrait on the back cover. Do I smell gold?

Incidentally, Truman Capote became best friends with Harper Lee after the latter, who was a bit of a tomboy, defended the timid Capote from bullies. They were both very young and lived next door to each other. I believe he was grateful to her for the rest of his life. Lee didn’t like her pictures taken but she allowed Capote to click the one that became famous.

Replica of my edition
© mainecrimewriters.com
The only hardback first edition I have is Reading Like A Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them (2006) by Francine Prose, distinguished critic, essayist, and author of several books of fiction and nonfiction.

In Reading Like A Writer, which should be on every reader’s bookshelf, “Prose invites you to sit by her side and take a guided tour of the tools and tricks of the masters. She reads the work of the very best writers…and discovers why their work has endured.”

Among praise for this book, I liked what Publishers Weekly had to say: “The trick to writing, Prose writes, is reading—carefully, deliberately, and slowly. While this might seem like a no-brainer, Prose masterfully meditates on how quality reading informs great writing, which will warm the cold, jaded hearts of even the most frustrated, underappreciated, and unpublished writers…”

Prose has dedicated Reading Like A Writer to three of her teachers and begins by asking the "reasonable" question—“Can creative writing be taught?” If you see the book, buy it. It will get your creative juices flowing.

14 comments:

  1. Great post, Prashant. I must admit that if I see "BCA" on a spine when I'm browsing the shelves of secondhand bookshops or charity shops, I pass; and the same with any online listings. I always prefer a true first edition (and first impression). Which is daft really; as you say, often there's very little difference between a a book club edition and first edition, and sometimes they even come from the same print run: book club editions can be run-ons from the first printing. But for collectors, the proper first edition is the thing they desire.

    More interesting to me than book club editions which replicate the first edition are those that have different dust jacket designs – often by great artists, like Val Biro – or that are book club exclusives. For instance, I have a book club omnibus of the first two Jack Reacher novels, Killing Floor and Die Trying, which was produced especially for BCA, and which is quite uncommon:

    Killing Floor and Die Trying

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  2. I've got quite a few of these book club editions, And a lot of library editions of various books

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  3. I buy book club editions only if:
    1) I need cheap reading copy
    2) the first edition costs too much, that much that I probably never could afford it.

    Otherwise, that's what Nick said.

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  4. In college, I used to book stalk all the resale shops to find first editions. Aside: they were some of the mustiest stores..... Anyway, the book club edition *may* have some value, it just depends on how hard the book is to find in *any* condition BCE or 1st edition. I avoid BCE like the plague because often they are worthless. Nobody wants them unless the the book is hard to find. BCE's are nice to have but if you're in the business of finding HTF books, usually BCE's were to be avoided. I sitll collect 1st edition.

    I have a story for you: a friend of mine online found a rare first edition, Toni Morrison that she paid 25 cents for that sold for almost $1,000 bucks in very good condtion. That only happens once in a blue moon but what a find. That's what most collectors can only dream of...if you're in the market to sell. She also sent me a first edition Michael Connelly, signed, for the The Concrete Blonde, my favorite book in the series next to The Last Coyote. Sorry to ramble but I could talk about finding/shopping in resale shops for books all day long as you can see, LOL.

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  5. One other tip, Prashant: Book club editions do not have a price stamped on the inside flap like most other books do. Also, there's usually a small indentation in the shape of letter (forgot which) on the back outside cover (not the dust jacket) - though I admit I've never found this mark on my book club edition but some experts swear it's there.

    I used to collect first editions once upon a time but now my budget is more constricted. But I have a few nice first editions on my shelves though nothing very rare. I have a nice copy of Robert Crais' STALKING THE ANGEL in what they call, First First Edition. Signed charmingly by Crais whom I adore. I also have a First of Lee Child's KILLING FLOOR but with a small spot on the spine.

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  6. I am so far out of the loop on this subject that I wouldn't know how to tell a first edition if I held one in my hands.

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  7. I buy books for myself, their value (for me) is their content so I couldn't care less whether they're genuine 1st editions or Book club editions. I understand that those who see books as a financial investment will differ but I never concern myself with such matters.
    Anyway, I have loads of BCA editions - they have given and continue to give me pleasure, and that's really all that's important to me.

    Colin

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  8. Nope, not bothered about 1st editions. Book club is fine by me, but paperbacks even better because you can carry them round easily, and it doesn't matter if anything happens to them. And now I have my Kindle anyway....

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    1. ... But I'm really interested in the Francine Prose book, which I'd never heard of, and will go and look it up.

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    2. Moira, the Prose book is really interesting and informative. You'll enjoy reading the author's perceptive views on the writings of many famous authors and their books.

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  9. Most of the hardback editions of Rex Stout books that I own are BCE and not in good condition and some of those would expensive now if in good condition. (The ones I have I got pretty cheap, I am sure.) Even why I buy a collectible copy it is for me so it doesn't really matter much what it is worth.

    Glen has some photo books that he bought at a reasonable price or when new, that have appreciated over time. That is fun when it happens. But he is happy with a reprint if it contains photos he enjoys.

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    1. Tracy, I have a few western paperbacks, which, while not first editions, are out of print. I often buy reprints of such books, if available.

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  10. I'm not too fussed on editions to be honest. I'm more interested in what's inside. Any copy will do as long as it is intact.

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    1. Col, I usually don't go looking for special editions unless they turn up while browsing in used bookstores and at book exhibitions. That's how I picked up all three.

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