Finding Out-of-Print Books

My last two reviews were of books that are no longer being printed by their publishers. Books go out-of-print for various reasons - lackluster sales being the most prominent. This doesn't mean, however, that the book has no value or hasn't been a good seller in the past.  But when a book is no longer in print and you want a copy, where can you go to find one?

Several years ago, I offered a booksearch service where, for a small percentage of the price of the book, I'd search different online sources to find the best copy at the best price for a desired out-of-print or rare title. Since that time, these sources are more widely known, thus making books easier to find for everyone.

Here I've listed several sources for finding out-of-print books:

  • - This is the first place I look, because booksellers from all over the world have listed their inventories here, and this is where I've had the best success finding what I want.

  • - Similar to Abebooks, Alibris is a good source that offers coupon discounts on purchases from time to time. Sign up for their newsletter to receive their offers.

  • AddALL - Here you can search for in-print as well as used books from over 20,000 sellers and over 40 book sites.

  • - Together with their JustBooks partner sites, you can search for titles from sellers throughout the world, in not only English, but French, German, Italian, and Dutch.

  • - This is kind of a T.J. Maxx for books.  You'll find books that are in- and out-of-print at bargain prices.  You never know what they'll have at any given time.  All books are new, but some copies are sold as "Scratch and Dent" and will be listed as such. If you find a Scratch and Dent copy, be sure to check if they also have an identical title as a Bargain Book.  Typically, the Scratch and Dent copy will cost a few dollars less, since it will show some wear.

    This is a fun site to just browse and you'll want to sign up for their newsletter as well, since they offer coupons quite often. Usually it will be either free shipping or $5 off for orders over $35.  Their standard shipping times are not the fastest, I've found, but some great bargains can be had on brand new books, making them worth the wait.

  • - Now partnered with eBay, is a site where anyone can list books for sale at a wide range of prices and conditions, used and new.

  • Amazon Marketplace - also offers a listing service where sellers can list books for sale.  Simply search for a title, then look for links listed as new, used, or collectible.  They also have a Bargain Books in Gardening & Horticulture section.

  • has a search service for used and out-of-print books.

These are just some of the sites where you might find a book that isn't readily available in major bookstores. You How To Know the Wildflowers.

    How To Know the Wild Flowers

    How To Know the Wild Flowers
    by Mrs. William Starr Dana

    346 pages
    Charles Scribner's Sons, 1893 (1915 printing)
    List price: $2.00

    There is a certain charm that old books possess - their musty scent brings back memories of something you can't quite put your finger on; something you've smelled before, but can't remember just where or when. Bibliophiles know the perfume well.

    When I saw this historical book in a used bookstore, I knew I had to have it. Not only do I love wildflowers, I also love the colored plates and line drawings - over 150 of them - scattered throughout the book.  It's a handy little volume to have, being still useful for identifying many of the wildflowers common in our area.

    Plants are sorted by color: white, green, yellow, pink, red, blue and purple, and miscellaneous. If a plant has flowers in two different colors, they are listed in both sections. Both common and botanical names are given, and this is where it gets interesting, due to name changes over the years. Details are given as to the appearance of all parts of the plant.

    A small paragraph accompanies each listing and many are beautifully descriptive:

    "The small flowers of the bitter-sweet, which appear in June, rarely attract attention.  But in October no lover of color can fail to admire the deep orange pods which at last curl back so as advantageously to display the brilliant scarlet covering of the seeds.  Perhaps we have no fruit which illuminates more vividly the roadside thicket of late autumn; or touches with greater warmth those tumbled overgrown walls which are so picturesque a feature in parts of the country, and do in a small way for our quiet landscapes what vine-covered ruins accomplish for the scenery of the Old World."

    The book has been reprinted many times over the years, but if you're lucky enough to find an older copy, it's worth more than the cost, which can be right around five dollars.

    Frances Theodora Parsons (née Smith, 1861 - 1952), usually writing as Mrs. William Starr Dana was an American botanist and author active in the United States during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  Her most important botanical work was How to Know the Wild Flowers (1893), the first field guide to North American wildflowers. It was something of a sensation, the first printing selling out in five days. The work went through several editions in Parsons's lifetime and has remained in print into the 21st century.¹

    ¹Wikipedia, "Frances Theodora Parsons"

    forcing, etc

    forcing, etc
    by Katherine Whiteside

    154 pages
    Workman Publishing and Smith & Hawken, 1999
    List Price: $24.95

    It's too bad that this book is presently out of print, because I've yet to find a comparable title that presents such a useful variety of information on forcing bulbs.  But don't dismiss that "etc" in the title.

    You might expect profiles on each of the commonly-forced bulbs, such as hyacinths, tulips, daffodils, and crocuses, and these are included here, but the detailed information on growing tender bulbs such as Amaryllis (Hippeastrum),  Oxalis, and Clivia helps add even more character to your winter quarters.  If those aren't enough, suggestions for houseplants that can fill in the gaps between bulb blooms will keep a gardener entertained until spring.

    Also included are instructions for forcing branches from flowering shrubs and trees into bloom weeks and sometimes months before their usual time. Who wouldn't love the bright yellow forsythia blooms in February? Cut a branch at the end of January, bring it inside, put it in water, and three weeks later - sunshine in a vase! There are suggestions for thirteen such trees and shrubs.

    Yet another section gives tips on propagation and there's a resource guide with a few suggestions for where to find what you need.  Smith & Hawken, whose name is on the front of the book, is one of the listed sources, but sadly, they closed their doors this year.

    Adding to the comprehensive how-to information on the subject matter is the beautiful photography of Richard Felber.  That alone is inspiring enough to motivate a gardener to try their hand at forcing, etc.

    Copies of this book can be found in many places online, including Amazon, which has several available via their Marketplace.

    Katherine Whiteside is an award-winning freelance garden writer whose stories have appeared in Elle DecorHouse & Garden, Town & Country, Martha Stewart Living, The New York Times, Vogue, Garden Design, Metropolitan Home, and many foreign publications.  Her first book, Antique Flowers, won two Awards of Merit from the Garden Writers of America.  Her second, Classic Bulbs, was a Main Selection of the Garden Book Club. She is also the author of The Way We Garden Now.

    Richard Felber is a leading garden and landscape photographer who regularly contributes to major publications and books.

    The book reviewed was purchased by the reviewer.

    Black Magic and Purple Passion

    Black Magic and Purple Passion
    by Karen Platt

    208 pages
    Black Tulip Publishing, 3rd Ed., 2004
    List price: $26.99

    Karen Platt knows her way around in the dark.  A resident of Sheffield, England, she has been studying, researching, and promoting black plants for nearly 20 years and her Black Magic and Purple Passion, now in its 4th edition as an e-book, as well as the print 3rd edition, is a testament to the vast knowledge she has acquired.

    Featuring profiles of over 2,750 dark plants, with 425 color photos, this is the best reference work on the darkest plants and flowers in the plant world in print. As I sat and thumbed my way through page after page of luscious lovely licorice plants, my list of wants grew to an impossible length, even for this gardener who has a full acre of land to work with.

    While the photography is gloriously detailed, the information in the book is also complete, including explanations as to why a plant appears black, which hues are considered to be black, and ideas for using black plants in the garden.  Entries are listed alphabetically by genus, then species, with instructions on how to grow them. There are worldwide sources given for finding many of the plants in the book.

    If I have one complaint about this book, it's that it isn't available in hardcover. I know I'm going to wear this one out, for all the poring over its pages, especially in the gloomy days of winter.  Yes, that's right - nothing like a book about dark plants to bring a ray of light to the dark days.Though we in the north long for the sunshiny warmth of summer, and dream about our spring gardens that are months away, we use this time to scheme and plan for the next growing season and Black Magic and Purple Passion provides plenty of inspiration.

    Karen Platt is a gardening author and publisher. She began her horticultural career with research on black plants in the early 1990s. In 1996, she founded her publishing company and released The Seed Search, selling over 10,000 copies. Her successful color series of books on gardening is recognized worldwide.  She is also founder of The Black Plants Society.  For more information, visit her website.

    Also by Karen Platt:

    Gold Fever
    Silver Lining: 2400 Silver Plants for the Garden
    Emeralds: 1000 Green Flowers and 500 Choice Green Foliage Plants
    The Seed Search
    Lifestyle Gardening: Plants, Features and Materials for Today's Gardens
    Plant Names A-Z
    Seed Sowing and Growing Success
    Plant Synonyms: 21,000 Plant Name Changes Simplified

    The publication being reviewed in this blog post was the sole compensation for reviewing the product. All opinions expressed here are mine. If I like it, I'll say so. If I don't, I'll say that, too.

    Everything You Can Do in the Garden Without Actually Gardening

    Everything You Can Do in the Garden Without Actually Gardening
    by Philippa Lewis

    216 pages

    Frances Lincoln Limited, October 2009

    List price: $24.95

    This eccentric book is a history lesson (prominently British, including many anecdotes about the Royals), disguised as a romp through the gardens. Much has been said about the what and how of planting and tending to our flowers and veggies, but a garden is more than its growing parts. Once the garden has been established and necessary chores are done, then what?

    Through time, the garden has been a part of our lives in various ways, but aside from the act of gardening itself, it is also a backdrop for the rest of what we do in our leisure time. As I read this book, I had to remind myself that the author is British, and where she comes from, a garden includes the lawn. This came into play when reading about playing croquet or badminton. Not in my garden, you don't!

    The retro-style illustrations and photographs peppered throughout the book depict scenes that provide proof of past activities that have taken place in gardens, many that are either taken for granted or have been forgotten altogether. This book provides suggestions that help us integrate and elevate the gardens to a place of prominence in our everyday activities, once the deadheading's done and the beans have been picked.

    Phillipa Lewis
    is an author, picture researcher and photographer. Her previous books include Details: A Guide to House Design in Britain and (with Gillian Darley) A Dictionary of Ornament. She is married to the painter Miles Thistlethwaite, and lives in Somerset.

    The product or merchandise being reviewed in this blog post was the sole compensation for testing and reviewing the product. All opinions expressed here are mine, with no suggestions whatsoever by the manufacturer or distributor. If I like it, I'll say so. If I don't, I'll say that, too.

    10 Great Books For Gardeners

    Christmas is less than three weeks away and I'm betting there are others out there that are faced with the same dilemma that I am: what to get for Aunt Marie? One of the criteria I use for purchasing gifts for others is to ask myself if I'd like to receive it. Not everyone has the same tastes and interests, but in many cases, it's a good starting point.

    I'm a gardener and a reader, so a book that has anything to do with gardening is always a good choice. But there are thousands of books to choose from, so which one to buy for the gardener on your list?

    Here are ten of my favorites:

    1. Planthropology: The Myths, Mysteries, and Miracles of My Garden Favorites
      by Ken Druse

      I just LOVE this book. It's visually pleasing and is written by a real plant lover. Ken writes about several of his favorite plants in an everything-you-always-wanted-to-know-but-were-afraid-to-ask kind of way. It's a fascinating read, peppered with beautiful photography, in a coffee table format. You can't go wrong with this one.

    2. The Well-Tended Perennial Garden: Planting and Pruning Techniques
      by Tracy DiSabato-Aust

      Tracy has earned her credentials as a gardener in-the-know and in this bestseller, she shares her tips for growing a beautiful garden. She's written other excellent books, but this is the best selling of them. I have personal knowledge that she knows what she's talking about, because I've met her and seen her garden in central Ohio.

    3. Bulb
      by Anna Pavord

      As far as I'm concerned, most bulbs are success stories in the garden, in that they require some of least care of anything you could plant. As long as you choose those that are hardy to your area, or pot up those that aren't (or lift from the garden) and bring them in for the winter, you can enjoy their beauty year after year.

      Ms. Pavord helps you make important decisions about what to plant, where to plant it, and how. All the essential information is here, and it's beautifully presented.

    4. What's Wrong With My Plant? (And How Do I Fix It?): A Visual Guide to Easy Diagnosis and Organic Remedies
      by David Deardorff and Kathryn Wadsworth

      No matter how good a gardener you are, you're going to encounter problems with your plants. This guide will help you diagnose and treat those problems. Help doesn't come in a much easier way than this.

    5. The Perennial Care Manual: A Plant-by-Plant Guide: What to Do and When to Do It
      by Nancy Ondra

      Perennials are the mainstays of the garden and Nancy tells us the basics of their care in easy-to-find and follow manner. The best thing about this how-to guide is that Nancy is a genuine gardener who has learned what works and what doesn't through her own experience and you'll recognize that as you follow her great advice.

    6. The Curious Gardener's Almanac: Centuries of Practical Garden Wisdom
      by Niall Edworthy

      This may very well be the perfect gift book for the gardener on your list. It's jam-packed with valuable information in a fun format. It's easy to read because of its presentation in bite-sized morsels of fascinating facts and gardening tips. Even a non-gardener would enjoy this book.

    7. Gardening All-in-One for Dummies by the National Gardening Association

      This one is for the novice gardener on your list. As silly as it might sound, this really is a good overall guide to gardening. It provides an overview of gardening basics in easy-to-understand terms and in such a way that encourages everyone to give it a try.

    8. American Horticultural Society A to Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants
      by Christopher Brickell

      At 1,104 pages, this is a hefty book, loaded with just about anything you'd ever want to know about more than 15,000 plants, with over 6,000 photos. It's the definitive plant guide and well worth the cost of $80. Shopping hint: Amazon offers it for $50.40, with free shipping.

    9. From the Ground Up: The Story of a First Garden
      by Amy Stewart

      I've mentioned before on this blog that I think this book is charming and a delight to read. It provides encouragement for new gardeners and seasoned ones will smile as they see themselves in Amy's story of her first garden.

    10. My final suggestion isn't a book, although there is a publication involved. A membership to the American Horticultural Society is the best value out there. For $35 a year, you get six issues of The American Gardener, a quality magazine that always contains practical gardening information. But the best part of being a member of the AHS is their reciprocal membership benefit. This alone more than pays for the cost of membership.

      In one year, I enjoyed free entry to Marie Selby Gardens ($12), the Cincinnati Flower Show ($20 weekday, $25 weekend), Cleveland Botanical Gardens ($7.50), and numerous visits to my local Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory ($5). You can get a dual membership (two memberships) for $50, although only one magazine subscription will be provided. Romie and I have a dual membership so we can both enjoy free admission to the various gardens we visit together.

      The AHS is a non-profit organization and $25 of membership fees are tax deductible. ($10 is for the cost of the magazine subscription.)

    There are hundreds of great gardening books out there and hundreds which I haven't yet read. Which ones are among your favorites?

    The Gardener's Gripe Book

    The Gardener's Gripe Book
    by Abby Adams

    256 pages

    Workman Publishing, 1995

    List price: $10.95

    As satisfying as gardening is, there are those times when whining is appropriate. Perennials fail to return in the spring, we get too much or too little rain, the bugs get the better of our blooms. Abby Adams joins us in our misery, and therein lies the charm of The Gardener's Gripe Book. Misery loves company, you know, and she manages to not only find humor in it, she makes us feel like real gardeners in spite of our shortcomings.

    Who can't relate to this?

    "...the garden hose, unquestionably the most hateful device ever invented. Drag the heavy cumbersome thing all the way out to its fullest length (which is six feet short of where you need it), turn it on and nothing happens - there's a kink somewhere. Unkink it and it takes off, spritzing everything in sight, like a water-breathing dragon. Meanwhile its path through the garden is strewn with broken and uprooted plants, victims of its progress."

    I could have written that.

    Sometimes we don't want solutions to our problems, we simply want to wallow in them. There's therapeutic value in just being honest about our feelings. And while you might think this book is a downer with all this griping going on, you'll be pleasantly surprised to find that reading it is actually a feel-good experience.

    Abby Adams is the author of An Uncommon Scold (1,000 quotes from women) and, with her husband, High Jinx and Transylvania Station. Born and raised in New York City, she has at various times lived in San Francisco, in London, in Woodstock, New York, and on Fire Island. She has always gardened.


    * The book reviewed in this post was purchased by the reviewer.