Data-mining reveals that 80% of books published 1924-63 never had their copyrights renewed and are now in the public domain

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There’s got to be something worth reading in there.


I’m not so sure - if it was worth reading, it got its’ copyright renewed. If it wasn’t, consigned to the “meh” pile of public domain through sheer neglect.


You’re right in the sense that “works of enduring popularity” are usually going to be in that 20%. But one suspects that the set of works that “nobody thought there was enough money to bother renewing the copyright after 26 years.” is going to have some interesting stuff. Keep in mind that back in the 50s and 60s it generally took more effort to monetize works of marginal appeal than it does today. If it wasn’t worth a new print run of thousands of copies the copyrights were probably not renewed.


Recordskeeping for those publishers before computer databases got “affordable” must have been a nightmare on many levels.


Good luck. This is Project Gutenberg’s Rule 6. There are lots of gotchas for the unwary.


Nice. I have the list of renewals for L. Ron Hubbard’s Scientology stuff. Now to check if they were ever copyrighted in the first place, or if the renewals were fraudulent,


This has gotten travel. A couple of Tom Swift jr books ate out of copyright, though most are protected.

Many H. Beam Piper books are out of copyright.

It’s an odd mix.

Some were just forgotten. But as someone said,until paperbacks became cheap, a lot of SF went out of print. Piper killed himself in the early sixties, probably.leaving loose ends, most of his books didn’t get paperback until the eighties.

The Tom Corbett books never saw paperback, methinks the publisher figureddemand had dusappeared or the books were dated.

Technical books often weren’t updated, so no reason to keep them in print.


That’s how it should be. If nobody cares about a work why is the government locking it away from the public. What public good is this?

What’s more, it should cost some money to keep those copyrights going. Not a huge amount, but enough to make people stop and ask themselves if it is worth clinging onto a copyright that is not making them any money.


That’s a pretty mean thing to say about H Beam Piper.


Piper shot himself somewhere between November 5th and November 11th 1964.

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I never knew the guy!

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I seriously wonder how many of those are perfectly good textbooks on (for instance) mathematics. Graduate programs in physics, for instance, are still using Jackson’s 1962 text on classical electrodynamics because the field hasn’t really changed to speak of. Granted, that’s actually not the best example – The current edition is the third, and recently (1999) revised by the author, who died in 2016.

Similarly, I have and refer to Enrico Fermi’s Thermodynamics – and Fermi died in 1954. His text is very nearly in the public domain even if he did renew it.

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But that has lttle to do with his writing skill. He didn’t leave a note to explain the suicide, but there’s speculation that he wanted to spite his former wife, or was having money issues (monry owed but not arriving on time). Lots of people don’t want to burden others with their problems, and working on the railroad, he seemed distant from SF, other than writing.

I’ve reaf most of his books. Some seem a bit chopoed, I assume bad editing. But he had a good background to them, setting up a few “universes” to set the stories. Some I’ve read multiple times, “comfort books” without the longer history of rereading like I’ve done with many of Heinlein’s.

The titles often seem idd, but I especially like “Junkyard Planet” and " Four Day Planet" and even “A Planet for Texans”. They often show an “empire” that was large, and now in decline. Main chatacters with unusual for SF roles, newspapermen or hunters in submarines.

The Space Viking and Paratime books make up two different “universes”, I’ve only read them once, but maybe better written (or better edited).

And many are at Gutenberg. About thirty years ago I did find many in paperback. I meant to get Carr’s biography.


Sadly! I had to work to find a copy of some out-of-print Phyllis Eisenstein, and it was surprisingly hard to find a good used copy of Citizen of the Galaxy — why is that out of print while, say, Red Planet (fine but no Citizen) is still in print?

At least we still have the works of Jack Vance, thanks to his family, friends, and fans.


As an exercise, try leafing through the piles of books at a thrift shop sometime.


I’d say it had more to do with the continued commercial viability of the book, rather than it being “worth reading,” and given the average commercial lifespan for a book, I’d say a fair number of the works that were renewed probably didn’t have sales to justify it. That doesn’t even get into the “not recognized in their time” authors who gave up trying to make money on their works, author deaths (and subsequent failure to renew), publishers going out of business…


Now that I think of it, you know what I’d also expect to not get renewed? Television programs that were produced on film but did not qualify for the syndication market for one reason or another. There were probably a great many of these from the Fifties and start of the Sixties.


It’s at least available in the next best thing, a Dover paperback. Dover, if you don’t know of it, is a publisher that specializes in reprinting out of print books, mostly in math and science, I was a geeky teen, but back in the 1980s I used to love buying these cheap, if a bit outdated, science books even if I couldn’t understand half of what they were talking about. They are still around today, and even have begun publishing ebook versions.


I’m clearing space on an SD flash card for lard cookbooks right now.
[Buys collections on SD flash from Vonnegut Museum.]

Man, those Retro Hugos…lucky us? [More thanks to Amy H. Sturgis.]