The Paper Chase

By Loretta

You’ll be reading along, minding your own business, and there it is – a quote from some obscure author in some long-forgotten book that was published in 1923 by a publisher who went out of business during the Depression.  The quote is just the appetizer; you want the whole enchilada.  Where O where do you go from here?

Your first stop should be your local library.  There’s a possibility the very book you want is on our shelves.   But even if it isn’t, we have this wonderful thing called INTERLIBRARY LOAN, the greatest thing since the combustible engine.  You come looking for a book, we don’t have it, BUT we search until we find it at another library and then we borrow it for you.  It is shipped to us and you pick it up at our front desk, just like any other book. What a concept!   And, believe it or not, our trusty ILL Librarian almost always finds what you’re looking for.  Your only obligation with ILLs is to pay their return ticket home.  Usually that amounts to about $3.00 (give or take) for a single regular-sized volume.  Not too bad, for that “can’t-live-without-it” book.

OK, but what if we can’t get the book on ILL?  It does happen now and then, sad to say.  Your next best bet is a digitized version online.  First you could try our new e-book site at e-iNC.  (The link is also on our homepage.)  When you get to e-iNC, you just log-in with your Fontana library card and you’re good to go.   Of course, most of the books there are new bestsellers, so you may have a little difficulty finding that depression-era tome.  You might like to try a few of the e-book sites that deal mainly in classic works.  Project Gutenberg has over 36,000 free ebooks, many of them important scholarly works with great historical significance, like some of the rare books published in the Middle Ages. (And while you are there you can read about Michael Hart, who invented eBooks in 1971.)   You might get lucky and find your book there.  Or you could try Classic Reader or Planet eBook. They have thousands of classic ebooks free for the reading.  Another huge library is available at the University of Pennsylvania site, called The Online Books Page, with over one million free ebooks available.  Your search could end at one of these sites.  But, then again, it might not.

At this point, if you haven’t found a reading copy, you will probably have to buy the book – if you can find it for sale.  You can begin this type of search right in your own backyard, so to speak.  We have both new and used bookstores right in the community.  If they don’t have it and can’t get it from their regular vendors, some bookstores offer a finders service and will complete the search for you.  Just ask.  Please don’t forget to check our Friends of the Library used bookstore, though.  They offer thousands of titles at very good prices.  Maybe the book you want is just sitting there waiting for you.  But if it isn’t…

Move on to one of the many booksellers on the Web.  Amazon, of course, comes to mind first.  You can often find older books at Amazon for a very reasonable price.  And when you search their marketplace sellers, you are searching all over the U.S.   If Amazon doesn’t have it, there are other sellers who are as reliable, like Alibris, Barnes & Noble, Bookfinder, and AbeBooks, just to name a very few.

When all else fails, you might special-order the book.  Lightning Source, a print-on-demand (POD) book publisher and a division of Ingram Book Company, is a good starting point, if you hope to buy something that has long been out-of-print.  If the title is one they offer in their catalog, they will print you up a new copy of the book at a very reasonable price, usually, especially considering the high quality of the paper and bindings.

(Not all POD publishers offer a catalog of works to be reprinted, however.  Some of them are in business strictly to publish works created by their customers. You will probably need to research that a bit.   This site (click here) lists a comparison of publishers, but you would need to verify if they can print a random book, rather than your own work.)

I hope you’ve found your book by this point.  If not, I hope you have at least enjoyed the chase.  But always be sure to check with your library first.  It might save you a lot of time and money!