A printed work that is no longer currently being printed. Meaning that book stores will not be getting any new copies in stock, and will most likely not have any in stock anyway. Out of print books are typically of more value then books still in print simply because they are more difficult to obtain. Out of print books can be found at many used book stores, and also online. Ebay is a good online source for out of print or rare books.

Nightmare of book-lovers all over the world.

During the last decades, the shelf life of books has constantly been decreasing, titles that do not sell sell are just pulped after a couple of months.
Lost.
Gone.
An ex-book.

Even if this is of no importance to people whose interest in reading died after Run, Spot, Run !, getting to know that a book is out of print can seriously hinder most kinds of research. Some books even have such a limted readership that not even a print on demand scheme would make sense - which means you either are lucky enough to locate a copy somewhere (Thank you for the pointers, jessicapierce !) or even visit a well-stocked library in some obscure country.

But the out-of-print issue also applies to daily, recreational reading. Imagine a book you read thirty years ago and want to read again.
My bet is - it will be out of print.

Want to read a famous SF author's first works ?
Of course, out of print !

There is much confusion about what it means when a book is out of print. As other writeups have stated, because a book is out of print does not necessarily imply that it is not available. If you contact a publisher and ask them whether a book is out of print, you may actually get two different answers depending on which department you contact.

Consider a small volume publication, where the publisher is expecting to sell of the order of 1000 copies. Unless you are someone like J. K. Rowling, i.e. an established author, for a novel, the publisher will not have any larger expectation of sales. The print run may be 1000 copies, and the cost break even point may be as high as 800 copies. The publisher will not consider printing anything more than the initial 1000 copies, unless the book is selling in volume.

Consequently, after the initial print run has been completed, the book is technically out of print. If you ask the publishing control or publishing operations department about the status of the book, this is possibly what they will tell you. This is very confusing and potentially disheartening to authors. If you talk to the warehouse, you get a different story.

A further complication is that the publisher's customers are not you and me, but booksellers. Publishers send their books to the booksellers on a sale or return basis; booksellers are invoiced for the books they have received. As far as the publisher is concerned, if 10 copies of a book are despatched to Barnes and Noble, the publisher considers this a sale of 10 copies. If B&N decide that they cannot sell 3 of the copies, they return them to the publisher and are credited for the 3 copies as a separate transaction. Even when a publication is out of print and the publisher has no more copies, the bookseller may have stock.


     Publisher  ===>   Bookseller   ==>  Retail Customer
                sales              sales

                <===
                returns

If a book is out of print, the publisher may still change their mind and reprint or produce a new edition. Note that any change to the format: hard or soft cover, page size, origination, etc. constitutes a different edition, and the print setup costs are incurred again.

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