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
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.