I’ve been on the lookout for the John Scalzi novel Old Man’s War for several weeks now, since I read Scalzi’s blog and he’s been crowing about its appearances at various retail outlets; and it sounds like a fun book, and the starred PW review doesn’t hurt. But it hasn’t appeared at any of the several Borders or Barnes & Nobles’ in my area that I circulate among. Today I finally queried the Borders database: sold out(!), it says. Without ever a copy having passed through their stores, apparently. OK, fine. I came home and ordered it from Amazon.
As it happens, I was in my local bookstore the other day, picking up my copy of Hammered, and didn’t see Old Man’s War there either, although the store has three other of my books on offer (including multiple copies of Book of the Dumb 2). I checked with the folks at the sale desk, and they noted that didn’t even have it available to order yet; their distributor (Ingram, if you know about these things) had a comment in the system that the book would be available in January, but just not yet. Well, of course, this is not great news — if I remember correctly, Ingram is the largest book distributor in the US, so it wouldn’t be a good thing if it didn’t have its copies yet. Anecdotally, it seems the book is more available on the coasts than in the heartland, but I may simply have this perception because I know more people on the coasts.
I’m not exactly worried. It’s early yet, and the first edition print run of Old Man’s War is relatively small (somewhere in the area of 4,000 copies, if I remember correctly), so there was always a possibility of some early scarcity if the book was well-received, which (thank you, God) so far it seems to be. I expect this is a short term issue. But it’s never a good thing when people are looking for your book and can’t find it, and it’s particularly not a good thing when the person in question is an editor of one of the most influential science fiction magazines out there.
If you are having trouble finding OMW on the shelves, remember that nearly every bookstore out there will be happy to special order the book for you, or you can order it from Amazon, BN.com, Powell’s or any number of online outlets (and don’t forget the Science Fiction Book Club).
Ideally, you could support your local bookstore when you buy the book, but if you want it, get it however you can get it.