For the last few years, I’ve been collecting individual volumes of the outof print Good Cook series, a 28-book set on cooking technique published by Time Life 20 years ago. The search was slow-going but pleasurable. I loved that victorious moment when I spied a missing title in a used bookstore.
Then I woke up to the power of the Internet. Starting at www.alibris.com, a searchable database of titles from booksellers around the world, I typed in “Time Life Good Cook,” and pow!— so many listings that I could have completed my set within the hour.
If you’ve been hunting for a first American edition of Elizabeth David’s French Country Cooking or one of Jane Grigson’s classics, you’ll likely find it using alibris, or else try www.bibliofind.com, www.antiqbook.com, www.bookfinder.com, or www.abebook.com. Or go to www.addall.com, which searches several of these sites at once.
The specifics of searching and ordering differ on each site, but the result is the same: you can find out who has what and then compare prices (remember to include shipping charges, which vary by bookseller). If you don’t get an immediate hit, most of these sites let you place a “want,” which logs your request and notifies you by e-mail when it appears in the database.
I’m still missing four titles in the Good Cook series, but only because I-like having an excuse to browse used bookstores—I’ve decided I’m not ready to give up the thrill of the hunt.