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The problem is that for the particular game which I am playing, Star Wars Saga Edition, the books are out of print.

I am relatively new to Star Wars RPG. If the books were on shelves in stores I would buy them without hesitation. I can't say I have bought a second-hand book before (ever, even novels) and what books I do buy (new) I keep in really good condition.

  • Has anyone else come across a similar problem (with other systems)?
  • What would you recommend I do? (For example wait for a reprint? Will that happen?)
  • Is it normal, that a few years after print the availability of books dries up?

I am wondering what happens in other systems also, surely this problem is not unique to the Star Wars game books.

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I own all but two of the Saga Edition books. That's 11 books and I think more than half of them were purchased used. They are all in great shape. The two I don't own are the rare ones, they were rare before going OOP so now they run about $75 used to $300 new. As far as reprints go it will never happen. Wizards of the Coast chose not to renew the license and it has since been purchased by Fantasy Flight Games. They are rumored to be working on an RPG but it'll be quite a while before they'll have anything out. PDFs were never legally available for Saga Edition. Awesome game BTW. –  Steve Hiner Apr 29 '12 at 4:39

3 Answers 3

up vote 15 down vote accepted

Most of the books I've purchased have been used, and purchased from eBay. I seem to have the habit of getting very interested in out of print games :)

Wait for a reprint? Will that happen?

Once a system has been out of print for a while, it becomes practically unheard of for a reprint to happen. The odds are good that if the property has any remaining appeal to publishers that a new edition will show up, instead of a reprint of the old one.

This is particularly true of properties that have been licensed from a third party (like Star Wars). Odds are that the license has lapsed, transferred to a new publisher, or is otherwise making things difficult.

Is this the normal, a few years after print, for the availability of books to dry up?

Generally speaking, no. Prices for both the WEG edition of Star Wars and 7th Sea remained pretty stable for the entirety of the time that I collected them (a period of around five years).

The core books will generally always be cheap, with hard to find "chase" books slowly creeping up in value.

The main issue is finding the books: At the moment I'm hunting for the Vendel splat book for 7th Sea, but can't find it for a decent price.

Condition?

Most books will be in good condition. They'll appear worn... There'll be thumb creases in paperback covers, scuff marks, and perhaps the occasional scratch.

I have yet to receive a book that was seriously mangled or stained, however. I have no issues passing the books around the table, although I probably wouldn't put most of them out for display on my coffee table.

Of course, you're dealing with individuals. I've received copies that looked like they came right off a bookstore shelf. I would imagine a few people have received lemons. But by and large books are pretty durable and don't degrade much over a time-period of decades.

Should I buy a second hand core rule books?

Sure, if the price is right. If shipping costs are prohibitive, you may want to look into buying a PDF instead (although I'm not certain that Saga Edition is currently available in that form).

Off topic aside: If you can't get Saga Edition, you can always try adapting D6 Space; a refinement of the engine used in the original Star Wars RPG.

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+1. As for your own dilemma in addition to the OP's: I typically set Amazon price watches for this kind of thing using timberfrog.com. They've worked pretty well so far. And yes, the best offer I can find for Vendel at the time of this writing is $50 on Amazon. –  MrGomez Jan 12 '12 at 17:52

You can probably find unused editions online, or in RPG stores that never sold them in the first place, but why not buy used? At least here in Austin, we have about 12 Half Price Books locations which have RPG sections; you can look and make sure the previous owner didn't use it as a sneeze shield or whatever. If you're looking to use it instead of just have a showpiece, it's OK. Or if you have some kind of anxiety issues with used, buy PDFs.

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Probably relevant, im in Aus and shipping can be $40+ ontop of what I would pay for a book. I have searched about half a dozen local and within 100km retailers / game shops and found none locally new or used. Thanks anyway –  bennygold Jan 10 '12 at 2:22
    
@bennygold make that clear in your question :) –  Pureferret Jan 10 '12 at 11:11
    
+1 for Half Price Books. I buy 50% of my gaming stuff from them. They have a location right near the university downtown in my area so there's always a good supply of gaming materials to pick from. –  BBlake Jan 10 '12 at 12:49

You have some good answers already, so I am going to focus on one section. The life of a book printing. (we are talking traditional, not print on demand.)

I am going to use the words publisher, printshop, distributor and retailer. The same business may be multiple of these.

First the publisher does a print run (by negotiating with a print shop). This likely takes several months (printing books is quiet slow). Even today with colour laser printers, setting up (reconfiguring) a print run takes time (and money). So when you start a print run you want to print all the books you are going to sell at once, because it is not as cost efficient to start it up again later - but on the other hand the contract with the print shop is for some fix amount of time (==copies), they have other things they want to print (for other publisher clients). The publisher will warehouse some of these and ship them to the distributor. So distributor (wholesalers kinda) who stick it in a warehouse. Depending on the print run length the books may ship before printing stops.

Once the publisher's warehouse is empty and the print run is finished, the book is now out of print. Distributor can't get new books. Most books will be out of print even when they are still fairly easy to get from retailers. Most books are out of print all time.

From there retailers order from there preferred (perhaps only nearby) distributor. This process takes a while, transit etc. If it is selling well it might get its print run extended (by the publisher negotiating with the print shop). More likely by the time they realise, the print run will be over. So they may decide to do another print run (Go to top). If the publisher does do a new print run, it will be many months before they hit the store.

Never bank on a reprint. The publishers, and retailers like to get your hopes up as it will keep you coming back (and because they love the product too, and project there desires for a reprint. If one is occurring, it will take so much time it is not worth waiting. If they say we will be doing a reprint in 2 months, then it will be more like 6 months before the book is in your hands.

Now from the other perspective, the retailer. A customer walks into store and says: "I would like X, have you got it?" After checking out back etc and finding that they do not, the retailer checks a number of places.

  1. If retailer is part of a chain, that has other nearby branches, they can check if there sister stores have it in stock, and either redirect the customer or get it posted to this branch.
  2. They contact their distributor-- set if there are any left in the warehouse.
  3. The distributor, will check their other warehouses, (this is where things can happen, like they have a copy sitting in a warehouse at the other side of the country.) 4.) They check if they have any coming in, either though the publisher, or via a buy back (see below).
  4. the distributor will also contact a higher level distributor (probably the publisher) to see if they have any.

If all this fails (not unlikely) then the next step is a Out-of-Print/Rare book dealer -- possibly a service offered by your retailer (This may be the "Special Orders" desk. Dymocks in Australia has one, though I haven't tried it on RPG books) What these people will do is find out if any other retailers have a copy of the book unsold. They will also contact international warehouses (some normal retailers might do that too.). A Out-Of-Print/Rare Book dealer may be quiet expensive. The Special Orders department, will not be notably different from standard retail (but it is a difference in the effort gone to.)

If the book does not sell out at the retailer after a print run, buy-back may occur (This will be part of the sales contract, basically "we promise that if this doesn't sell, the retailer loose to much" so it lowers the risk). The redistributer may take back the unsold books to sell to another retailer. If things go really badly, the publisher may buy unsold boxes of books from the distributor. There are Remaindered Books. Many go to Discount Book sellers -- alot of which are also second hand book stores. So some "second-hand books" may be brand new. Some get given away at conventions, or donated as prizes. I've not seen much buy back or remaindered RPG books (but I am sure it happens). Most unsold books tend to linger in the deeper darker corners of the retailers -- have a dig in some of the corners of your FLGS, I'm sure you'll find some GURPS 2nd Ed or similar.

A few final thoughts on the question as a whole:

  • As I said: Never bank on a reprint. Its just not with the time.
  • Be careful buying second hand on line. Sometimes a book goes though weird bubbles (and/or people trying to scam) and may cost orders of magnitude more than origianlly retailed. nWoD:Geist was abouut $60 new, when it went out of print people were trying to sell it for up to $1000, sure that was the extreme end, but it going for $100-200 was not unusual.
  • Old content may become available as Print On Demand, or as a downloadable pdf.

I don't have any professional experience with this. I would love to get comments from retailers, redistribute etc who know the process better, and I will update the answer.

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One of the reasons for the slowness of print runs is that you often have to get your print job booked in far in advance, especially true for the busy chinese printers (and added to that will be the lengthy shipping wait, as you'll often use the cheapest shipping method which really is the proverbial slow boat from China.) –  Matt Thomason Jun 5 at 6:58
    
The distributors I've dealt with have been called that (distributor) rather than "re-distributor". Other than that, you've got the chain described perfectly. Publisher - distributor - retailer. –  Matt Thomason Jun 5 at 6:59

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