How to buy a book early
September 1, 2008 6:48 PM   Subscribe

I'm headed out of the country for three weeks, and I'd like to buy the new Neal Stephenson book a few days in advance of its release.

So next week the new Neal Stephenson book -- "Anathem" -- is being released. I am headed overseas for about three weeks, and I'd really like to save a cubic foot or so in my carry-on for this book. Unfortunately, my flight leaves on Saturday!

My question to you, Metafilter: is there any hope of buying this book a few days early? (It'd have to be Friday.) Pertinent details: I live in Palo Alto, CA, and I am willing to drive around to snag it. How would I go about persuading somebody to break the sell-date? Any place in specific I should try?

Thanks!
posted by headlessagnew to Shopping (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
I'd say it would depend on if the book is embargoed or not. Most of the time stores will get their stock days or even weeks before the actual release date, and most of the time the stock goes straight on the floor. If it is a special release and the item is embargoed than there is no way that they will sell it before the sell date. Your best option is probably to go and chat to the people in a couple of bookstores and see what they can do for you.
posted by cholly at 6:57 PM on September 1, 2008


Where are you heading? You might be able to get an import copy in local bookstores.
posted by Artw at 7:16 PM on September 1, 2008


Will you be somewhere where you can get mail? If so, a friend -- or Amazon -- could send it to you.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:50 PM on September 1, 2008


Ebay lists a couple of ARCs (advance reading copies) -- these won't quite be the final book (they're made from a slightly earlier stage, so may contain errors), but are close enough. One of the auctions seemed to end soon enough that you may have a chance of getting it in time, if the seller could ship it overnight.

Note that publishers usually request that ARCs not be sold and bought, since the author doesn't get royalties from them, so if you can get the book any other way, you should probably do that. (Or maybe you can buy a "real" copy once you return to the U.S.)
posted by cider at 8:04 PM on September 1, 2008


There's a copy on eBay in Oakland with two days left in the auction.
posted by judith at 8:05 PM on September 1, 2008


(and this is why we preview!)

For others in the Bay Area, Stephenson is speaking Tuesday night at the Long Now Foundation and selling signed copies.
posted by judith at 8:06 PM on September 1, 2008


If the book is embargoed, there's the chance that a bookstore could get in trouble for selling it to you (usually it's just a slap on the wrist or other stores in the area are allowed to sell the book early... but a publisher could go as far as to stop selling to that store (IIRC)).

That said, your best bet is to find the least competent bookseller you can find and ask them if they have it in stock (or visit the signing mentioned above). There's the slight chance they'll find a copy in back and not notice the bright notices mentioning the strict on sale date.

Otherwise, you could try looking at places that just carry books as a sideline (Target, Costco, etc.) and see if anyone has put it out early. They might not pay as much attention to a strict on sale date for a book as they would a movie or CD.

Someone somewhere is willing to sell books early though, as nonfiction books have been leaked to place like the Times by people breaking the embargo dates. The probably use a method like those above, or have a friend who is a bookseller.

Just FYI, the one time someone broke an on sale date for any place I've worked, the loss prevention team interviewed everyone who might have been involved to try to find out what happened and made it clear that it was a VERY BIG DEAL (though in this instance it wasn't with books).
posted by drezdn at 8:26 PM on September 1, 2008


That said, your best bet is to find the least competent bookseller you can find and ask them if they have it in stock (or visit the signing mentioned above). There's the slight chance they'll find a copy in back and not notice the bright notices mentioning the strict on sale date.

Please don't do this. It's unfair to all the other stores who are waiting until the street date to sell the book. The reason why publishers set street dates is mostly to make it fair for all bookstores, so that stores who get stock early don't have an advantage. Plus, why should you be so special that you don't have to follow the rules even though everyone else does?

(It could also get the bookseller fired, but if they're so stupid they break an embargo on purpose, then they probably deserve it.)
posted by Violet Hour at 12:10 AM on September 2, 2008


Okay, this is kind of weird, but if you've thought of buying a Kindle... well, "Anathem" is available right now for Kindle, apparently. Odd.
posted by taz at 2:13 AM on September 2, 2008


Try Amazon.co.uk? The release date was yesterday (1st Sept) according to them.
posted by biffa at 2:31 AM on September 2, 2008


Cancel that. Just ordered it myself with them, doesn't look like they actually have them.
posted by biffa at 3:01 AM on September 2, 2008


Okay, this is kind of weird, but if you've thought of buying a Kindle... well, "Anathem" is available right now for Kindle, apparently. Odd.
posted by taz at 2:13 AM on September 2 [+] [!]


Not so odd if you read the box on the right. You prepay for it and then it's downloaded on 9/9, just like prepaying to have a book shipped. You can't actually read it any earlier.
posted by Violet Hour at 3:36 AM on September 2, 2008


Ah! Thanks, Violet Hour. No fair hiding vital information in plain sight! :)
posted by taz at 4:20 AM on September 2, 2008


You might be in luck just by doing what you are doing. Airport bookshops always seem to have books before the official release date.
posted by ninebelow at 9:09 AM on September 3, 2008


My advance copy is spoken for. I'm keeping an eye on a bookstore that's put out stock early before. My understanding is that while breaking release dates on music & movies is a very bad thing, heavily policed, most books aren't like that.
posted by Pronoiac at 11:14 AM on September 4, 2008


Bay Area peeps: he's hitting four places here on tour. The Long Now / Booksmith thing isn't at their usual locations, by the way, & it's $10. But there's throatsinging, I think.
posted by Pronoiac at 11:18 AM on September 4, 2008


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