Thursday, 30 September 2010

Book Collecting 101 - Part 2 - Familiarising Yourself with Book Dealing Terminology

Before you even start searching for the books you've chosen to collect I advise you to familiarise yourself with the jargon of the book dealing community. It will certainly help you avoid the disappointment of receiving a book that doesn't meet your expectations. Most dealers in collectible books use standard terminology and abbreviations when describing the format and condition of the books they list and it can often seem like a foreign language to the virgin collector. I could provide you with a whole list of book collecting terminology right here, but it seems a little redundant reinventing the wheel, so I am going to recommend the Glossary of Book Terminology produced by the Independent Online Booksellers Association (IOBA). Please click on the link and take the time to have a look through. I guarantee it will be worth the time and effort.

If you'd rather purchase a hard copy reference on book terminology and book collecting in general, my recommendation for those just starting out is the ABC for Book Collectors by John Carter. This classic has long been a must have for beginner and experienced book collectors alike. Whilst a newer edition of the book is preferable, any edition would be useful as a start-off point. All entries are listed alphabetically making it super easy to use. I still use my copy quite frequently, so it will definitely be a good long-term investment.

What I will cover just briefly here is some book terminology standards in relation to book condition and book sizes. Please note that the book condition and sizing definitions listed here have been referenced from the ABE website.


4to - up to 12 inches tall. Also referred to as a Quarto book.
8vo - up to 9.75 inches tall. Also referred to as an Octavo book. Most large softcovers fit into this book size category.
12mo - up to 7.75 inches tall. Also referred to as a Duodecimo book. Most small mass market paperbacks fit into this book size category.
16mo - up to 6.75 inches tall. Also referred to as a Sextodecimo book.
24mo - up to 5.75 inches tall.
32mo - up to 5 inches tall.
48mo - up to 4 inches tall.
64mo - up to 3 inches tall.
Folio - up to 15 inches tall.
Elephant Folio - up to 23 inches tall.
Atlas Folio - up to 25 inches tall.
Double Elephant Folio - up to 50 inches tall.


When book dealers list the condition of a book it is usually in the form of VG/VG, Fine/Good, VG/--, etc. The first part is the condition of the book, the second is the condition of the dust jacket. If a "/--" is present, it usually means that the dust jacket is missing or unavailable. If there is no second part at all this normally indicates the book was not issued with a dust jacket. As a guide, most book dealers use the following condition terms. The book condition definitions are meant as a guide only and buyers should be aware that all sellers will have slightly different interpretations. Good book descriptions should always include specific details on defects rather than just generic statements like "may show general wear and tear". The use of this kind of phrase with specific details is fine, but is bad practice when used in isolation. If you are ever unsure what a seller means by a term they are using to describe a book, we encourage you to ask them directly for clarification, or request that images of the book be sent.

New - A new book is unread, in print and in perfect condition with no missing or damaged pages.

As New - A book that is in the same immaculate condition to which it was published with no defects, no missing pages, no library stamps, etc., and the dust jacket must be perfect without any tears.

Fine (F or FN) - Approaches the condition of As New, but without being crisp. There must also be no defects and if the jacket has a small tear, or other defect, or looks worn, this should be noted.

Very Good (VG) - A book that does show some small signs of wear, but no tears, on either binding or paper.

Good (G) - Describes the average used worn book that has all pages or leaves present. Defects must be noted.

Fair - Worn book that has complete text pages (including those with maps or plates) but may lack endpapers, half-title, etc. (which must be noted). Binding, jacket (if any), etc., may also be worn. Defects must be noted.

Poor - A book that is sufficiently worn to the point that its only merit is as a reading copy. It should still have the complete text. Any missing maps or plates should still be noted. This copy may be soiled, scuffed, stained or spotted and may have loose joints, hinges, pages, etc.

This article is Part 2 of a series titled Book Collecting 101. Click on the following link for Part 1 of the series - Choosing What Books to Collect. Part 3 of the series - Sourcing Second Hand Books - will be coming soon.

Friday, 17 September 2010

New Giveaway - Mockingjay - Hunger Games Book 3

We've given away the other two books in this fantastic young adult series by Suzanne Collins, so it's only fair that we give away a brand new copy of the third and final instalment - Mockingjay!!

To enter our book giveaway just leave a comment that includes who you want Katniss to end up with - Peter or Gale? Read the following information to see how you can earn bonus entries.

Bonus Entries
+1 Entry = Follow our Blog 
+1 Entry = Liking the Ambire Secondhand Books Page on Facebook (Click here to do so!!)
+1 Entry = Following us on Twitter (Click here to do so!!)
+2 Entries = Provide a Link to our Giveaway on Your Blog
NB: If you're eligible for bonus entries, make sure you let us know when you leave your comment!!

Entries are open until 5pm EST on Friday 1st October. The competition is open to residents of Australia, New Zealand, Canada, USA and the UK. The winner of the competition will be announced on Tuesday 5th October. Good luck to everyone!! 

Monday, 6 September 2010

Booksellers Who Give Away the End of the Book Should be Shot!!

At the last meeting of my local book club, one of our members suggested that we read The Room by Emma Donoghue. After perusing the back of the book, we unanimously voted it in. However, it was the story behind the purchase of this book that has stayed with me since. Rhonda, the woman who bought the book, was appalled at the behaviour of the local bookstore owner who sold it to her. Turns out that the bookstore owner actually told her how the book ended as she was buying it. Call me crazy, but I thought this was bookseller 101 stuff - never tell the customer how the book ends unless they actually ask you to. Apparently not! Rhonda still read the book, and still enjoyed it for that matter, but it got me thinking - how often does this happen? Personally, I can't think of anything more frustrating, but I'd love to hear about any similar experiences you might have had.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Book Review - Portnoy's Complaint (by Philip Roth)

I can sum this book up in one word - hilarious!! It had me laughing out loud within the first few pages and I was still laughing as the book came to a close. Did it leave me feeling a little dirty? Yes!! Whilst reading Portnoy's various, and certainly creative, ways of spanking the monkey, I did question what might have attributed to the dog-eared, heavily creased, moisture marked copy of the book that I was forced to read (pictured left). What was the book all about? Well, I'm still not too sure, but I don't care because it was such an enjoyable ride.

Philip Roth's Portnoy's Complaint is the ramblings of Alexander Portnoy to his psychoanalyst Dr Speilvogel. Portnoy is afflicted with a condition that results in uncontrollable and often perverse sexual impulses. Over the course of the book Portnoy details his compulsion to masturbate as a teenager and various lewd sexual encounters as an adult in an attempt to discover what has caused his affliction. We learn that he feels trapped between his need to delve deeper into degradation in search of sexual enjoyment and his overiding sense of shame at his actions. Portnoy begs of Spielvogel: Is my condition the result of the orthodoxy of growing up in Jewish America? Can I attribute it to my obsessive relationship with my overbearing and repressive mother? Does my bowel-challenged father have something to do with it? Or, am I just a symptom of society - the American male of the times?

Written in the late 1960s, the books' heavy sexual content made it something of a scandal and in some parts of the world it was actually banned. With chapters titled 'Whacking Off', Roth makes no attempt to hide the main theme of his book. Though times have changed, I'd venture to say that some readers would still find the contents confronting and a little too sexually explicit. You've been warned!!

So, what is Portnoy's monologue all in aid of? As I said before, I'm still a little uncertain. Roth is obviously passing comment on society at the time, but Portnoy's Complaint is not so much a social commentary as it is one man's exploration of his own condition - an attempt at self-diagnosis, if you like. One criticism I have of the book is its' length. I think Roth could have achieved the same result in under 200 pages as he has in 300, but it's a minor flaw. The books strength for me is Roth's wit. I don't find many books laugh-out-loud funny, but this one had me roaring. (3.5 Stars)

Portnoy's Complaint is listed in the book 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. For your chance to win a copy of 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die please see our Giveaway in our recent post.

Portnoy's Complaint was also recently the subject of discussion on the First Tuesday Book Club on ABC TV. To download what the experts had to say, or see a transcript of the show, just click here.