For some years, the second edition of my book The Machinery of Freedom has appeared to be out of print—shown on Amazon only at high prices from third parties who presumably had stock left over. I just spoke with someone at the publisher (Open Court), who claimed that it had never been out of print, despite Amazon not having it, and referred me to their web page. The book is indeed there, and presumably can be ordered.
Checking with the Wayback machine, I found that it was on their web page during the period when I believed, and various people told me, that it was effectively unavailable—but during much of that time it was listed as "usually ships in 4 to 6 weeks," which raises some question as to exactly what "in print" means. If anyone orders it, let me know whether it arrives in some reasonable length of time.
One reason the question is of interest to me is that I plan to do a third edition. If it has stayed in print, then Open Court still has the copyright and a new edition has to be either with them or with their permission. If it was out of print then, under my contract, the copyright reverts to me. It is not yet clear whether they would be interested in publishing a third edition or, if not, willing to permit me to do so.
I should add that for those who are happy reading books on their screen, the pdf of Machinery is available for free on my web page.
I read in some author's blog (I apologize for not having a better cite) that publishers do shenannigans with the definition of "in print" for exactly this reason. Supposedly they list a book as "in print" even when there are no more copies in the warehouse just to keep contract options open.
Further (again, apparently) this is something that they can be challenged on.
hold on a sec. how can the author not know whether his book was in print or not? if i were an author of a book i would be CONSTANTLY checking how much i am selling, even if my book was academic and was destined to sell only a few copies....
Would you still be doing that thirty years after the book was first published?
I downloaded the PDF version from your site (haven't read it yet, but the beginning is very interesting),and I am trying to read it on an ereader. (Pocketbook 602). Just so you know, the PDF is a bit glich-y on the ereader, especially regarding spacing and the end of lines (not enough to make it unreadable, but enough to be moderately annoying). Just thought I'd let you know. But hey - can't knock a free product :) especially given the substance in this particular book.
Can you say some more about your plans regarding a 3rd edition? I'm trying to decide whether to read the 2nd edition now or wait for the 3rd edition.
By the way, the book shows up as "in stock" on Amazon now.
Note that there's an unofficial e-book version: http://daviddfriedman.blogspot.com/2010/06/machinery-of-freedom-is-now-up-in-e.html
To David F. ok maybe that is true (actually i have not been alive for 30 years so i cannot say...). But still if I were to ever write a book (i hope i will one day, but i keep on finding out that every idea i ever have has already been thought up 20 times before) I would be VERY proud of myself and certainly would know if it is in print or not.
I ordered the 2nd edition in 1999 from Laissez Faire Books, paid $19.45 including postage, and it took just over two months to arrive (USA to Spain).
I see that Open Court currently offers it for $31.50, presumably not including postage; no idea about delivery time.
The free PDF has a slightly unprofessional look but is readable on a large screen (or printed out, of course); it's almost unreadable on a Kindle because the text becomes so small.
I have several copies of the 1st edition, which I bought more cheaply in a London bookshop in the early 1980s. I'd be interested in a 3rd edition.
P.S. I just tried converting the free PDF to Kindle format using the free 'calibre' program. The conversion seems to work quite well, the text becomes readable, but the links don't seem to work; so I can read through the book page by page, but finding a particular chapter becomes laborious.
Some years ago, a friend lost my copy of the 2nd edition. I ordered a new one, and it came as a print on demand book. I know it is print on demand because the cover has an annotation specifically saying that. So far as I know, it has been available for many years on a print on demand basis, and that is why they list it as still in print. Photograph of the annotation on the book on request.
I expect to have a third edition written in less than a year, but if it's commercially published that probably means out in more like two years. And it depends on Open Court either wanting to publish it, being willing to return my copyright, or conceding that it has forfeited the copyright by failing to keep the book in print.
"The book is indeed there, and presumably can be ordered."
No sale! (I've got two copies already). But if the 3rd ed is a substantial re-write, I'll spring for it.
You don't need to convert the PDF, there is an ebook version already prepared (http://daviddfriedman.com/The_Machinery_of_Freedom.prc)
I can also confirm that my copy of the book says it was printed on demand. I bought it around 2003 or 2004.
Joe, thanks for your useful tip! I've successfully downloaded the PRC file, which works well. But it seems to be a secret file: I don't find a link to it anywhere, except in your comment.
It's linked from
just not at the top of the page.
If you search for "machinery", a link to the pdf and the ebook is given.
Thanks, Raphfrk. Silly me, I looked on the Libertarian Writings page rather than exploring the home page fully.
Before reading the book (and based just on a sample chapter online) I had written this very short response http://thevidra.blogspot.com/2010/02/anarcho-capitalism.html. However, I am now reading the book, and look forward to the solutions offered in it, which will hopefully prove my point wrong. I am still curious how private protection providers are any different from central governments with standing armies.
Interesting news about a third edition ... though I may not be able to wait and will buy the 2nd ed via Amazon in the interim. :)
An interesting work on the private enforcement of the property rights: "On the historical and geographic origins of the Sicilian mafia" (http://mpra.ub.uni-muenchen.de/37009/)
Great! Do a 3rd edition. You no doubt remember Stigler talking about all the editions Marshall did of his Principles. Books can always be improved. And if you do a worse job; well, people can always go back to the 2nd edition. (Some people like the 1st edition of my game theory book best, because it is the most unified of the 4, even if it has more mistakes).
The legal issue is interesting. What does it mean for a book to be "in print"? I would argue that it means the publisher has an inventory of copies on hand at all times. Even in the old days, a publisher could sell all its copies, and then resume printing if demand increased again, but the interruption in immediately available supply should count as "out of print".
Since apparently there's no legal problem for your posting the book for free on your website, why not just skip Open Court and self-publish the third edition as an e-book (e.g. on Amazon), thus keeping a larger share of the profits?
I put the pdf of the second edition up on my page with my publisher's permission.
For anyone still reading this ...
My agent pointed out that my contract with Open Court didn't give them the copyright, just the exclusive right to publish "this work." The third edition, with another hundred pages, is a different work. They were not willing to agree to our terms so I self-published it instead, both as a Kindle and as a paperback on Amazon.
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