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January 06, 2005

OMW Availability

Here's a not very cheering comment about the availability of Old Man's War, from the editor of Locus Online:

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.

Posted by john at January 6, 2005 01:25 PM

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rick mcginnis | January 6, 2005 02:36 PM

Haven't been near a bookstore in a couple of weeks, but as soon as I can (that is, if our imminent new baby doesn't keep me at home for several more weeks) I'll see if I can find a copy, John. I'm sure Bakka would have it here, but I don't know about the big chains.

Jon Hansen | January 6, 2005 02:44 PM

I kept haunting the local bookstores around me (admittedly, only Borders/B&N, but that's all I got) and the thing never showed up. So last week I ordered it off B&N.com. Sent me an email this morning it finally shipped. Caloo calay!

Tor | January 6, 2005 03:03 PM

Borders, or at least one Borders, did have OMW - I bought my copy at 57th and Park here in NYC... Unfortunately, they only had one copy, but I'll check to see if they've recieved more when I head back there...

Jim Winter | January 6, 2005 03:27 PM

Couldn't find it in stores. Ordered it from Amazon instead. It now sits between HOW TO BUILD A PLANET IN 6 DAYS OR LESS and SOUTHERN CROSS: A GUIDEBOOK FOR THE COMPASSIONATE CONFEDERATE.

(Actually, it's sandwiched between Hemingway and Robert Parker - EARLY Robert Parker, not the sickeningly sweet newer Spensers.)

John Scalzi | January 6, 2005 03:31 PM

A Hemingway-Scalzi-Parker sandwich -- now there's a concept that brings forth images better left alone.

Calnj | January 6, 2005 03:55 PM

I've been on the look out for OMW too. I have both a Borders and a B&N close to my home and office. Both Borders locations said that the book wasn't out yet and I told them actually it was. B&N, interestingly enough told me that they had a copy of it in Princeton and that they could special order it if I'd like. I thought that was very pro-active of them, and I kind of like the that their ONLY copy is in Princeton.

Since I like to keep my local economy rolling, I'll wait till I absolutely can't LIVE without reading OMW to special order it.

Burns! | January 6, 2005 06:10 PM

Am I the only one who is amused when you say things like, "Thank you, God?"

John Scalzi | January 6, 2005 06:19 PM

I imagine God gets a chuckle out of it, too.

Brian Greenberg | January 6, 2005 06:46 PM

Seems New York City is pretty well stocked. I got mine two days ago on 49th & 5th. I didn't count the copies, but there were probably four or five on the shelf (cover facing out, btw, not just the spine. See - I'm learning all this cool author talk!)

Anyway, I went to several stores in NJ & NY in late December to no avail. Early January, I just went straight for the big store and found it, so I don't know how the little stores are doing...

Andrew Gray | January 6, 2005 07:04 PM

So, out of curiosity, I looked on amazon.co.uk; it has a "customers who bought books by X also bought books by Y" section.

It's a bit confusing to see Terry Pratchett and the Astronomer Royal listed in the same breath.

John Scalzi | January 6, 2005 07:20 PM

That's me, bringing people together.

Tom Nixon | January 6, 2005 07:48 PM

" if I remember correctly, Ingram is the largest book distributor in the US,"

Yes, it is, and, importantly, most bookstores, particularly independents, only order from Ingram. For those who are aren't writers, at one time, bookstores used to order from 76,000 publishers (well, not really, but a whole lot). The trend now is to just write one check to Ingram and get everything from them.

Tom Nixon

Sherwood Smith | January 6, 2005 08:44 PM

I got it yesterday, started reading it this morning while waiting for my work tea to steep.

That sucking sound that ripped half the continent away and snapped it back was me being torn from the book...cannot read until deskpile done, but by damn, what incentive!

Christopher Davis | January 6, 2005 09:20 PM

I saw two copies at the Prudential Center B&N (the one in the mall off the Worldcon hotel/conv ctr) on Sunday.

bv | January 6, 2005 10:07 PM

I'm happy to say that I found a copy of OMW at the Border store in Palo Alto. However, it was the only copy I saw on the shelves - and I bought it.

Started reading the first few pages and was happy - although I had to put it down so that I can finish my current read. :)

Ellen | January 6, 2005 11:01 PM

I was in a Borders today (near D.C.) and saw one copy of OMW; was also in a B&N and saw none there.

John Scalzi | January 6, 2005 11:57 PM

"That sucking sound that ripped half the continent away and snapped it back was me being torn from the book...cannot read until deskpile done, but by damn, what incentive!"

Excellent. I love being the carrot and not the stick.

Bowler | January 7, 2005 01:01 AM

I checked for it at my local Borders (was going to buy it if it was in), and they had nary a copy on the shelves.

However, I suggest that readers start scouring other, possibly less logical places in the bookstores than the "fiction" section.

For instance, you might want to look in the "war" history section, or if there's some sort of "elderly studies" social/psychology section, it might be found there.

I say this because I was looking for Lilek's new book (Interior Desecrations), and when I couldn't find it in the "humor" section, the guy at the bookstore in the mall (major outlet, forget which one) looked it up and directed me to the HOME IMPROVEMENT SECTION.

I wish I were kidding.

Imogen | January 7, 2005 05:32 AM

I finally snapped and ordered it from Amazon today. I'm not usually a sci-fi fan, but I love this site and tend to agree with you about most things Jon, so you are going to be my introduction to the genre. My reading future is in your hands!
Amazon.co.uk, by the way, have this note at the end of the synopsis: "By the author of The Rough Guide to the Universe. 15,000 first printing." Is first printing different from first edition printing or something? Looking forward to reading it...

John Scalzi | January 7, 2005 07:20 AM

Imogen, the note on the first printing on the Amazon UK site is incorrect. I think that 15,000 may have been the announced print run, but then for various reasons the real print run was smaller. Basically, I think Tor was hedging its bets with an untested first-time novelist, which is perfectly reasonable and understandable.

Jack Scheer | January 7, 2005 08:23 AM

There were two copies of OMW at the B&N in Rockville, MD, just before Christmas. I refrained from picking the book up on the chance that I'd get it as a Christmas present.

When none of my heathen, communist friends or family came through for me on that, I went back to B&N and got the book myself. There were still two copies, though I couldn't say if they were the same two copies.

So OMW is now at the top of my read pile. I was planning to finish with Chernow's Alexander Hamilton bio before starting another book, but I doubt I'll be able to wait that long (it's a thick book and I'm not exactly an Evelyn Wood grad). I think I'll leave Hamilton shivering in Valley Forge for now and see what John Perry is up to...

Sue | January 7, 2005 08:44 AM

I had a devil of a time getting my copy from Amazon. I pre-ordered it in late October, along with BOTD2. They finally sent BOTD2 in November. When OMW was released, I waited patiently. Finally, two weeks later, I e-mailed them and asked when they were going to bother shipping a book I'd pre-ordered and assumed would ship when the book was actually available on their website, as it had been for nearly two weeks.

So on December 23, they shipped my copy UPS Next Day. It arrived a week later, thanks to bunches of snow and Christmas. The UPS guy didn't even show up till around 8:30 p.m. and did exectued a flawless drop the book-ring the doorbell-run back to the truck before the customer gets to the door manoeuver that would have impressed a FedEx delivery guy. Guess he didn't want to be asked why it took a week for an overnight delivery to arrive.

Dave | January 7, 2005 09:47 AM

There was one copy at my local Borders (Indianapolis), which I bought in late December. I don't know how they do things, but I would guess that Borders has tiers of stores, and that orders are apportioned accordingly. All "A" stores got 2 or 3 copies, the "B" stores got 1, etc. Or something like that. Then individual stores can order more of whatever floats their goat.

That's annoying about Ingram. I wonder if they're just habitually slow. With luck a big wave of orders will come in once they list it as available, necessitating a huge reprint.

John Scalzi | January 7, 2005 09:55 AM

Heh. Yes, one can hope.

CB | January 7, 2005 09:56 AM

I have been wondering. How long does it take to publish say... another 4000 copies and get them on shelves? Also, does the author always get the same percentage no matter who sells the new book?

Dave Ruddell | January 7, 2005 09:57 AM

Rick (at the top of thread),

Bakka has it. At least they did a few weeks ago.

Eric | January 7, 2005 10:02 AM

The Borders near me here in St. Louis had one copy of OMW last weekend.

John, how different is the book from the online version you used to have up 'round here?

John Scalzi | January 7, 2005 10:05 AM


I don't know how long it would take, but I don't imagine it would take very long. Tor knows how many of the book are out there, and I expect that once the number of books out there drops below a certain number, they will make an order for another printing and the replacements will be available in a relatively seamless fashion.

One thing also to keep in mind is that Tor does have a longer-term strategy for the book, which includes another push when the book hits paperback in about a year (coinciding with the release of The Ghost Brigades). The hardback release is just one aspect. And the good news here is that when the paperback hits the shelves, the back cover will have a nice smattering of positive reviews.

Eric: It's pretty much the same as when I put it up here. I think there were a couple sentences changed overall (and of course, some much-needed copyediting, since that's definitely not my strong suit, at least concerning my own material). There are no major (or even minor) plot changes.

Kait Mackenzie | January 7, 2005 10:32 AM

The Waldenbooks near me in St. Louis didn't have a copy of it. I'll prolly end up ordering it from them if they don't get it in soon as I get a discount with them.

John Needham | January 7, 2005 11:50 AM

I picked my copy of OMW up yesterday afternoon at Brent Books in downtown Chicago. They had to order it in, but evidently ordered more than one, since when I picked mine up, there was another copy on the shelf.

I've got my commuting-reading for next week.

Dawn B. | January 7, 2005 12:06 PM

Still haven't seen one in stores, but when I ordered a copy for Xmas gift & picked it up, I crowed about it. And as it was an independant store, they were actually giving it some consideration.

Trent Goulding | January 7, 2005 12:20 PM

I saw a copy displayed front 'n center of the SF section in the Stacey's here in downtown San Francisco as early as a couple of weeks ago.

Djscman | January 7, 2005 01:43 PM

I work at a suburban Barnes and Noble in the Twin Cities area. I ordered five copies of OMW for our store, and prettily arranged them at the top of an endcap. The science fiction section is right near the bathrooms, so surely there will be a lot of traffic checking out the cover art.

John Scalzi | January 7, 2005 01:44 PM

You rock, sir. Many thanks.

CB | January 7, 2005 01:47 PM

Hopefully, they won't be reshelved after having been in the bathroom. :-)

Naomi | January 7, 2005 01:56 PM

If you have time on your hands (in other words, need a break from writing), you can also check out bordersstores.com--punch in some stores and then the name of your book. It will indicate whether those Borders are carrying the book or not. I don't know how often it's updated, because it doesn't include recent sales, but it can give you some general barometer.

John Scalzi | January 7, 2005 02:03 PM

*Very* interesting, Naomi. I'll have to check that out soon. Sounds like a whole new way to be authorially paranoid -- between that and obsessively checking Amazon rankings, one's writing could definitely come to a screetching halt.

Alice | January 7, 2005 02:30 PM

I didn't see any copies when I was at Barnes and Noble yesterday (I did see some Uncle John readers though), but the Multnomah County Library has ordered nine copies for distribution (perhaps coincidentally after I emailed them a request), so it's sort of like I bought a copy. ^.^

C.E. Murphy | January 7, 2005 03:48 PM

I saw it in our local (Alaskan) Border's a couple of days ago, for what that's worth. I was delighted. :)


John Scalzi | January 7, 2005 03:55 PM

Alaska! Excellent. And yes, Alice, if you caused nine of the books to be purchased, you are indeed my new best friend.

Jae Walker | January 8, 2005 01:47 AM

I had to go to both branches of Schulers (a small regional chain) to snag the last copy at the second one. I'm looking forward to reading it.

PiscusFiche | January 8, 2005 10:11 AM

I've checked my Barnes and Noble quite a few times but it is never in. I may have to special order it. I thought I saw a space where it might have once been, since it was alphabetically and physically the right size and spot.

Tim Bartik | January 10, 2005 02:03 PM

Two copies of OMW were at Barnes and Noble in Kalamazoo/Portage Michigan. My understanding is that this store is one of Barnes and Noble's lower class stores, that is they in general do not stock as wide a variety of titles, as the local competition is not intense enough for them to worry about. I bought one of the copies, and really enjoyed reading it. Thank you.

John Scalzi | January 10, 2005 05:57 PM

Thank you, too, Tim, for reading it!

Devin L. Ganger | January 13, 2005 07:42 PM

Still no sign of it at my local book store, an independent that relies mainly on Ingram. Seems that Ingram is still telling them the book is out of stock.

As much as I like supporting my local store, I want the book more. If I don't get confirmation that they can get it through their alternate supplier (and a good answer for why their procedures don't automatically include trying to get the book via *all* routes), I'll be heading for a bigger store to snag my copy.

Laura | January 17, 2005 12:10 AM

My gift certificate was for Chapters/Indigo. So I go to the Canadian website & pre-ordered Harry Potter's Blood of the Prince. I also order Old Man's War. Well. Yesterday I received the email notice that OMW is sold out! ChapersIndigo.ca is expecting more within two weeks, but if they don't ship me the book, they will refund my money. Sold out is very good, but whaaaannn! I want my copy!

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