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  1. #1

    Why is anything out of print anymore?

    Sounds like a weird question, but I'm totally serious.

    As entertainment media companies are continually merging into larger and larger conglomerates, they focus more and more on their bottom line. If something doesn't sell millions of copies, it's a failure. It quickly becomes no longer available. And, in this age of eBay, that means that speculators will grasp up every copy they can find so they can try to sell them for inflated prices.

    Given today's technology and the ever-shrinking costs of disk space and bandwidth, not to mention printing, why are there so many books, CDs, and movies that are only within the reach of collectors willing to shell out a lot of money?

    Books: No one really cares about the edition of a book except for a bibliophile. Period. What's important is the content.

    Most people prefer regular books. That's a given. But if there were something I really wanted that was only available in PDF format, I'd take it. I wouldn't mind paying a buck or two for it, maybe more depending on the length.

    But publishers never really used the e-book format to its full advantage. Few e-books were released that weren't available in printed form, and those that were unique to the electronic format were almost always short stories or novellas. The publishers were far too concerned with copy protection. Never mind that Stephen King had already proven that, if you offered e-books on the honor system, enough people were willing to pay for it to make it profitable.

    Back in college, a friend gave me a battered book by an almost forgotten beat-generation novelist named Richard Brautigan. Unfortunately, it's one of the few books (Trout Fishing in America) that's been made available within my lifetime. I've checked in every used bookstore I've set foot in, looking for additional books, and have come up with about a half dozen over the past twelve years. The others I've only seen online, and at prices that I wouldn't be willing to pay for a Snowspeeder re-release.

    But someone owns the copyright to these other books. It would cost, what, pennies a month to store them on a site? If they were sold as downloads for $1 each, well, they could sell one copy of a book every two or three months and still turn a profit.

    That's just one example. But if people are paying huge sums for books like these, then that means there are people who want to read them. Who gets the markup on these? The seller. Not the author or the publishing company.

    So, what do they have to lose? Nothing. They just need to get their heads out of the sand.

    Music: This one's even worse than books. Not only are there tons of old records that have never been released on CD, but any CD that's not by one of the top-selling acts or an act that is universally regarded as iconic is doomed to a short production run.

    Ever try finding solo albums by members of bands you like? It's pretty freaking tough to do. You special order them when they come out, or you're SOL. I don't know how many times I've seen something, thought, "Hey, that's out on CD! I'll have to pick it up later," and then never seen it again, learning less than a year later that it's hopelessly unavailable.

    Even the icons have incomplete catalogs on CD. Queen has probably a dozen or so B-sides that are impossible to find, and half the back catalogs of all four Highwaymen (Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and even Johnny Cash) were never released on CD or have been out of print for ages. (I've seen a Willie CD from as recently as 2003 sell for more than $200!)

    Again, people obviously want them.

    Unlike books, though, digital transmission of songs seems to be taking off. iTunes and other services probably account for more music sales than CDs nowadays. Only trouble is, aside from a small handful of exclusive tracks, their offerings are exactly what you can buy on CD in the store!

    With the music industry cracking down to an absurd extent on filesharing, the outlets for finding even illegal downloads of these tracks are drying up. And they weren't that good for finding obscure stuff in the first place. (I've been trying, and asked others to try for me, for several years to find the tracks from Buckingham-Nicks' and Y Kant Tori Read's only albums.)

    So, in other words, the music industry prosecutes even kids who swap MP3s, but they foster the environment for filesharing by not making a lot of this stuff available! I at least have a credit card, so I can order online. What's a kid supposed to do if he wants an album other than the 7000 copies of the latest Britney Spears carp that fills pretty much every store that sells CDs? (And, despite what the conglomerates seem to think, the number of minors who like music from before they were born is far from insignificant.)

    Jesus, don't even bother remastering it. Just upload 'em to iTunes in the flat-sounding 1980s stereo, or even in mono, and sell them for $0.99 each. It's not rocket science.

    Movies: More or less the same as music. There are several threads here about movies that have never been released on DVD, or that are unavailable.

    A shining example: The rights to the Transformers and GIJoe cartoons were lost by Rhino a couple of years ago. All the DVDs went out of print. GIJoe wasn't even finished. A subsidiary of Sony BMG Music (yeah, I don't get it either) got the rights to both, as well as other cartoons, and were planning new DVD sets that would blow the old ones out of the water.

    The only one that was released was The Transformers: The Movie. And it did quite well for a double-dip on a 20 year old cartoon. But Sony BMG Music decided to focus on music, and recently shut down the DVD subsidiary. Silly me has to ask: since the rights are held within Sony, why not allow, oh, I don't know, one of the other few dozen Sony-owned movie companies to release them?

    Jeez, even comic books! I can't afford to buy, say, Amazing Spider-Man #121, but why doesn't Marvel have it available as a cheap download through their site? Okay, that may be a bad example, since it's available in paperback somewhere. But what about GIJoe #155, the final issue with an infintessimally small print run, which sells for as much as $100 and has never been reprinted anywhere?

    Ten years. That's how long the technology for easily transmitting music files has been around. Transferring movies is something that's only more recently become feasible, and the technology to transfer straight text has been around a bit longer.

    But we're looking at a decade where the entertainment industry has been too caught up in the "next big thing" to pay attention to the enormous back-catalog they're simply sitting on, doing nothing with.

    If they'd put less effort into b****ing at us on every broadcast of the Grammys and Oscars, and more into looking at how to actually satisfy us by giving us what we want?

    It's just really damned frustrating.

    Last edited by El Chuxter; 03-23-2007 at 05:46 PM.
    Tommy, close your eyes.

  2. #2
    It's all about controlling information to maximize profits, no care to the material or the audience. I think the internet has, in a way, made the big producers of media (books, music, tv, movies) incredibly desperate to ensure they get money from the audience's pocket at all costs, and if they give the audience an inch, they're sure it'll cost them a mile. This leads to a downward spiral though, pricing goes up and product goes under just so the parent corporation can make another buck.
    Darth Vader is becoming the Mickey Mouse of Star Wars.

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    The use of a lightsaber does not make one a Jedi, it is the ability to not use it.

  3. #3
    I read an article recently which said that Warner Bros. was stopping production on the first four Harry Potter films on DVD. Why? No idea. Maybe they're waiting to release them again with the fifth film, but it seems pointless. These are films that people will always buy, and it's just foolish to take them off shelves, even if it's only for a short amount of time.

    Perhaps the biggest offender in films going out of print is Disney, with their infamous "Disney vault". To my knowledge, every Disney film that is released on DVD only has a one or two year span of production, with the exception of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. After this, they are put back into the "vault" and will not be released again for another 10 years. So if you walk into Best Buy looking for a copy of The Lion King, you're SOL. Unless you get lucky and find one unsold copy. They do it to maximize profits, but all they get is people whining and complaining and endless petitions for films to be rereleased. They should just stop the nonsense and keep constant production runs on everything.
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  4. #4
    Wow, awesome rant! I can't say I'm too much into out of print music, but every time I go to as book store to look for good historical linguistics books, the words out of print taunt me. If it weren't for the fact that I still have my FSU Student ID, I would be completely screwed.
    Member 104 of the SWC forums . . . but it's good to be back.

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  5. #5
    Disney supposedly was changing their ways a few years ago, but they still find a way to keep taking things out of print. What ticked me off is when Pinochio, Peter Pan, The Little Mermaid, and Fantasia all went out of print at one time. I rushed to pick them all up. Then, six months later, when all the copies were gone from stores, they announced they were expanding the Platinum Edition series and those four were going to be re-released as expanded Platinum Edition titles.

    The Platinum Editions are only made for (I think) 90 days. I don't know if I'll be able to name them all offhand, but they've included Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Lady and the Tramp, Aladdin, The Lion King, and Cinderella in addition to the four mentioned above. You know, the really timeless ones. :roll:

    And the SOBs still won't release the completed, but unreleased Lilo & Stitch 2-disc DVD that's been ready to go for several years.

    And since this is a SW site, one of the worst offenders among books are Scholastic. The entire Jedi Apprentice/Jedi Quest series is out of print. Never mind that the oldest of the bunch wouldn't even be eight years old at this point, and a few are barely two years old. Never mind that everyone universally maintains this is the best EU series ever written. And never mind that Scholastic knows that they're highly demanded. Scholastic refuses to reissue them because they don't think they'll sell up to expectations.

    Though Jedi Apprentice has come down in price from highs a couple of years ago of up to $250 for some books , Jedi Quest is climbing. Many appear to still be easily available new, even though they're not being produced, but a couple of choice installments are listed on as $30 - $90. And these are used, and often described as in subpar condition.

    Again, Scholastic got probably $2 of the original $5.99 price. Who's getting the $84 markup on these? The scalper. Fans who don't want to shell out that kind of money are losing out, as is Scholastic.
    Tommy, close your eyes.

  6. #6
    Simple reason, certain retailers and distributors won't carry it so they have room for the new stuff no one will buy and read.

    Better question, why do print runs seem to be totally random?
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  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by pbarnard View Post
    Simple reason, certain retailers and distributors won't carry it so they have room for the new stuff no one will buy and read.
    I think we all agree with that. Chux made direct reference to having them offered in .pdf format for download.
    It's a blacked-out blur but I'm pretty sure it ruled.

  8. #8
    Retailers don't necessarily have to keep everything on hand.

    Special orders.
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  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by CaptainSolo1138 View Post
    I think we all agree with that. Chux made direct reference to having them offered in .pdf format for download.
    Which are two separate issues since most retailers/distributors don't do their online stores, so saying that the brick and mortar doesn't therefore the online should isn't valid because no relationship exists to begin with.

    Even with academic journal articles most organizations only keep their articles online for up to ten years while keeping the abstracts on indefinitely. Only a handful of journals (Science and Nature) have every article and letter available to researchers who look through their archives. Most publishers of text books give the option to host the book online that can be accessed through most university sites with valid user ids. My pharmacology texts were available online so I never did buy a book valued well over $150 (text book cost is another subject altogether).

    They just choose not to use it for novel length books because there is no profit in publishing books like that to begin with. If 99.99% are going to sit and never be sold and therefore read, what is the point in losing money on two fronts if you're a publisher?
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  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by pbarnard View Post
    Even with academic journal articles most organizations only keep their articles online for up to ten years while keeping the abstracts on indefinitely. Only a handful of journals (Science and Nature) have every article and letter available to researchers who look through their archives.
    That's not been my experience with academic journals at all. I've found that the two main journals that I read, the Astrophysical Journal (ApJ) and Astronomy and Astrophysics (A&A) only started making their articles available ten years ago. I know that ApJ only hosts the past five years on their web site before archiving off site. I've found that NASA has a good site for archived journals. The oldest I've printed off is an article from 1943. I can find nearly everything I want from the present back to the mid 60's no problem.

    Science and Nature aren't as good. I've got a very well known Nature article from 1963 I want to print off, but nobody has it online. And going to the stacks for a photocopy is more work than it's worth.
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