Where can I find out of print fiber art books?

By Amelia © April 27, 2010

A very nice commenter recently pointed out to me that I should check abebooks.com for an out of print book I am currently in search of. That's a great place to check, definitely on my list.

When I'm looking for an older book, the first place I check is typically Amazon.com. Why? Because that tells me fairly quickly if the book is still in print, and if it might be available at a reasonable price used.

However, Amazon.com's prices on second-hand books are not set by Amazon, or necessarily by market demand. I noticed this myself in getting my own book, Productive Spindling, to be sold by Amazon (they carry inventory in their warehouses -- that was certainly a feeling of arrival, alongside finding US and Canadian distributors for the book; I'm still in search of Australian and European distributors ... but I digress, so the parenthetical remark stops here!). A few months after the book got listed, a vendor is offering the book "used" for over $35 dollars ... wow! This, despite the fact that it's available, in stock, for $18.00 there, on my website, on Unicorn Crafts, and at a wide variety of Local Yarn Stores across the US and Canada.

So, if an out of print books is offered at over retail on Amazon.com, or simply not available there, I don't give up. There are some other places I check:

  • abebooks.com (not abebooks on eBay, a different entity AFAIK)
  • alibris.com
  • overstock.com (someday I'll get lucky!)
  • the publisher's website, like interweave.com -- some publishers also sell directly to the retail market. In fact, call them -- they may have damaged copies you can get at a discount. I got Color In Spinning half off that way, a few years back.
  • unicornbooks.com -- they distribute craft books from a variety of publishers (including Productive Spindling), and also sell retail.
  • half.com -- a surprising number of books show up here, or used to -- I know they were purchased by eBay a while back, and haven't really shopped there much lately.
  • eBay.com -- it may be in an eBay store, or in an auction; check "completed listings" to see if it's been listed recently, that can be encouraging (or let you know just how much it goes for).
  • bn.com -- Barnes & Noble has a fair number of books, I recently found Margaret Stove's Creating Original Hand-knitted Lace" there at a reasonable price, it isn't even available on Amazon.com, and high (over-) priced elsewhere.
  • my new favorite "local" haunt is powells.com -- the store in Portland is h.u.g.e and the website shares the wide-ranging wares. There, I found an out of print copy of Marian Powell's Shadow Weave book (sorry, my fellow workshop participants must have gobbled up the other 3 copies, as they now list it as sold out).
  • There's also kbbspin.org ... and my other favorite used wheel and used loom hangouts. Sometimes books show up there, so it's handy to check, just in case.
  • and then, if my favorite haunts don't turn it up, I will type in the author & title to google.com. Now, shopping via google is a less controlled proposition than going to a known website like amazon.com -- you have no idea if the vendors there are reliable, fly-by-night, or even in the same country. So do your homework, and check up on them. However, this did turn up a very reasonably priced copy ($8.50 as I write this) of Xenakis' 3-heddle instruction book at Montana Looms. And a fresh google of it today shows it as also available at yarn.com for $8.95 ... both websites are businesses I know, so I can do my shopping there safely.
Now, my story doesn't end there. If none of those find the book, I may still call a few local area yarn stores ... this was how I found a retail-price copy of Muller's Handwoven Laces, pricey on Amazon, eBay and other places second-hand. So I got a new, shop copy at regular retail. Yay!

If there has still been no joy on the search, I'll go back to the ones that offer notification ... Alibris, Abebooks, eBay, Powell's Books ... and set up notification, so if they should get a copy, I will get an email message about it. Sometimes, patience wins the day.

That said, some books I would love to have, I will continue to borrow from my local library or the spinning guild's library, as they are being updated and reprinted. So the high-price used copies out there aren't worth it for me -- I am looking forward to the new edition's arrival. This includes Anne Field's Spinning Beyond The Basics and Helen Bress' The Weaving Book.

Which reminds me ... many fiber and weaving guilds maintain local libraries of their own, with books that may never appear in your public library. Some guilds cover quite large areas: NwRSA has a lending library by mail for members in its large area, and Complex Weavers similarly has a members' library-by-mail. And, my local weaving buddies have bookshelves with books and magazines back to the 70s -- so there are many fine resources open to me.

Sometimes, a wonderful book may show up available electronically -- Peter Collingwood's Rug Weaving tome is free-for-the-downloading at handweaving.net. The nice thing (for buyers) about books like that is that it keeps the print copies within the range of buying, when they show up -- second-hand copies of this book are useful, as it is quite thick. But $40-$60 is much more accessible than the over $100 books this size are often found for when out of print.

My current book search, as mentioned earlier, remains unfulfilled. The book? I have a copy on loan from a weaving buddy. It is Erica de Ruiter's Weaving on 3 Shafts. I've done my usual searches, and now need to go back and set up notifications. Some day I will have this book, and will be able to scribble my marginalia directly on it, as I work my way through this book stuffed with interesting ideas.

I'd be interested to hear of your favorite book haunts and search methods, too. Thanks for reading!


That stack of books at the top are books that talk about spindling, from my shelves -- some purchased new, some second-hand, some searched for high-and-low to buy at a reasonable price. They appear in Productive Spindling, in the Spindler's Bibliography -- also available here on Ask The Bellwether. Someday my weaving may have a similar focus and depth on a particular topic, right now it's still pretty wide-ranging though I see a definite interest in twills developing (happy grin).

© April 27, 2010 by Ask The Bellwether, posted at http://askthebellwether.com/blog


Julianne said...

I like to use http://www.addall.com/ which is a search engine for many, many booksellers and gives you a price comparison. They also have a out-of-print search as well. I enjoyed your lecture at the Whidbey Spin-in. Thanks and Best Regards.

Sue said...

www.bookfinder.com is another good search engine to try when you're looking for used books.

Amelia of Ask The Bellwether said...

Thanks so much for the links! I'll add them to my search.

ruth said...

The entire CW library collection can be browsed at:


You must be a member of Complex Weavers to borrow from the library, but anyone can browse the collection on LibraryThing.

Amelia of Ask The Bellwether said...

@Ruth: great pointer! and a timely reminder, I was just thinking I needed to update my list of books.

Great news, all! I've an order in for my Erica de Ruiter books -- yay!

Unknown said...

Hi I heard from someone in UK as I was hinting for a book also by Erica de Ruiter called 'Tejido Huave and Beyond' and I was told that she will be having all three of her books published shortly and will be available. So she said to keep a lookout for it