Okay, you want a book and you discover that it is out-of-print. This means the publisher no longer has it in stock, either because it has sold out and they haven't bothered to reprint it, or because they got sick of their surplus and sold them off as remainders. Even if it's only a year or two old, that isn't uncommon, despite the volume of books that chains and distributors handle, if a book is out-of-print that means it is not on their computer system, they can't get it, and as far as they're concerned, it's yesterday's news and doesn't really exist.
A book search is a service in which a bookseller tries to find a particular title for a particular customer. We have an open shop, so we always check there first, but no store has everything. If it isn't sitting on the shelf, we'll put it on our wants list which is sent to friends, book scouts, and fellow dealers in the trade to check against their inventory. We also check sources on the internet and advertise in trade magazines dedicated to this purpose. Sometimes it takes awhile, but that's the nature of trying to find something considered unobtainable.
Nothing. Really. If we find the book, you can pay for the book. Will the book cost a lot? No, not necessarily. You should count on any book costing at least $15 though, because that's usually the minimum cost for searching, finding, and obtaining a book (unless it's a common title already sitting on the store's shelf). Obviously the condition, edition, scarcit,y and desirability of a book will affect its price. If we find your book, we will send you a quote stating its condition and cost before you decide whether to order it, and there is no obligation to order it. So you have nothing to lose.
If we find the book, we will send you an e-mail quote with the bibliographic information of the book, i.e., the author, title, illustrator, publisher, copyright, edition, condition and price. Here's an example:
Fitzhugh, Louise. Harriet the Spy. Illustrated by the author. NY: Harper & Row, 1964. Early edition. DJ has a 2″ tear and is worn at edges, but interior is clean and bright. VG/G $18 postpaid
You can assume the book is hardback unless otherwise stated. The condition grade (VG/G in the above example) translates that the book is in Very Good condition, and the dust jacket (DJ) is in Good condition. Refer to the page on condition grades to better understand this scale and vocabulary. And yes, postpaid means just that: the price includes postage via USPS book rate anywhere in the US. You can also add $3 for priority mail or we'll quote a specific rate for international delivery.
Here's the book you've been waiting for! Is an early edition in good shape with dust jacket what you want? Is the price reasonable? Then simply respond to our e-mail promptly and we'll hold the book for you until we receive pyament. Then we'll send the book to you. We accept payment via cash, check, money order, PayPal, Visa, or MasterCard. It's really quite simple.
It takes some effort to search for books, so if you find it before we do or you get it for Christmas, we would appreciate notice from you so we can discontinue our search. Likewise, a yea-or-nay reponse to our quote is very much appreciated. If the price is too high or the condition too rough, let us know so we can find a more appropriate copy for you. If we send you a quote and don't hear from you, we will remove your request from the search list. Consider how long you've been searching for this obscure memory. Let us try for you.
Obviously, the more information you can give about the book you're looking for, the better. We don't need ISBN numbers, but a title and author certainly help. However, some lone titles or authors are clear or crazy enough to search for quite successfully (like Little Squeegy Bug or Dawn Powell). Occasionally we can also recognize a book from your description of a childhood memory, but not always. Check out our Stump the Bookseller page read some wild requests that we need help identifying and Solved Mysteries for titleless requests that we have figured out. Feel free to help decipher any of these mysteries.
We put a great deal of effort into a book search on the assumption that you really want the book. We ask that you give a prompt yea-or-nay reply to any quote we send about books found for you so we can promptly order them from our source or let that source sell the book to the next available customer. Our search is based on information that you provide, thus we must assume that it is accurate and that you really want Genevieve Foster's George Washington's World and not Jean Fritz' George Washington's Mother. Once ordered, the only acceptable reason for return is if the book is not as described. There is a basic condition vocabulary and rating system amongst book dealers for describing books, and it works pretty well. We tend to overdescribe flaws and undervalue the condition grade so that the book looks better than you expected it would. But these are used books, descriptions tend to be subjective, and we are often relying on someone else's description of the book when we send you a quote. So if you think the book you receive is not as it was described, you may return it within ten days for a full refund, minus shipping fees. Advance notice of your intent is appreciated.