I've recently purchased a book from Amazon, and I was curious as to when it was printed.

I looked at the copyright page, which looks like this:

The biggest year number shown in this page is 1991, where it says "Reprinted in Penguin Books 1991".

Can I deduce that the book was printed in 1991? I would consider that quite incredible; that would mean that the book was printed, put in a warehouse (or several warehouses) for 22 years, and only then sold to me.

Could that be true?

(Note: I couldn't find a year number anywhere else in the book.)

  • I'm not seeing how this relates to writing, so I'm putting this on hold for now. – Goodbye Stack Exchange Aug 6 '13 at 21:52

The FSC (the tree logo on the left) was established in 1993, and the Mix label was developed in 1994 2004, so that physical copy had to have been printed some time after that.

It has a website (greenpenguin.co.uk), so you could research when the website was launched. Could be 2003.

Beyond that, yes, it's possible that any given physical copy has been kicking around for two decades. It had a run of so many, some were sold, some were returned to the publisher, and the publisher warehoused them. Your ability to purchase it now is called "long tail retailing." (It describes a graph with a high peak at the beginning, tapering out to a long but low "tail" of small steady sales.)

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  • Nice research work! – Ram Rachum Aug 6 '13 at 21:51
  • But I understand that essentially, there isn't a reliable way to know when a book was printed. (Unless you consider carbon dating :) ) – Ram Rachum Aug 6 '13 at 21:52
  • @RamRachum Pretty much. You can get some good guesses, but you'd have to look for evidence for closer deductions. Just the date in the colophon, as you note, is not always sufficient. – Lauren-Clear-Monica-Ipsum Aug 6 '13 at 23:56
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    You may have purchased a print-on-demand reprint of a digital file that records the last conventional print run but does not indicate when that particular physical copy was produced. It might have come off the copier last week or last century. – Fortiter Aug 8 '13 at 0:39
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    From the wikipedia article on FSC: "The FSC Mix label was introduced in 2004." – thursdaysgeek Aug 9 '13 at 4:05

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