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Publishing Paranoia

March 16, 1986

I have long been convinced that the publishing industry includes some of the worst-run businesses in the country. I was reminded of this when a friend alerted me to a problem with my book, "Filters Against Folly: How to Survive Despite Economists, Ecologists, and the Merely Eloquent." When my friend had tried to buy several copies, his bookstore told him that the book was out of print. Subsequently, three strangers from different parts of the country phoned me with similar reports. Since it was only six months after the publication date, considering that the book was not a runaway best-seller, I found the reports hard to believe.

I phoned my editor at Viking Press, and he, too, was amazed. After checking, he said it looked like someone had mistakenly entered an extra 2,000 copies in the column "Free distribution" for this book. This could lead the computer to report "Out of Stock" while something like 2,000 copies sat in the warehouse waiting to be "remaindered" whenever the publisher noted that no more copies were being sold.

As of this writing, I still don't know whether the publishers have corrected their records. Naturally, I feel pretty sorry for myself. An author's inability to get any independent reading on the performance of his books makes for paranoia.

GARRETT HARDIN

Santa Barbara

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