Sixteen years ago, when Buying Books for Libraries  was first published, it rapidly became a set text in library schools. It also found its way onto the shelves of many practitioners, and I predict a similar destiny for this fashionably re-titled and newly revised second edition.
A revised edition is timely, as much has changed in this fast-moving field, including online order systems and Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), the rise and rise of consortium purchasing, bewildering turnover among suppliers, the development of new value-added services, site licensing, e-books and the triumph of the Web as a means both of pre-order checking and publication supply.
So many titles of this kind turn out to be thinly disguised compilations of conference papers from different hands, with little coherence of purpose or point of view. While Liz is at pains to acknowledge the advice and assistance of colleagues, this book is clearly and consistently the work of a single author, and of an expert in her field at that. It is logically organised, guiding the reader from topic to topic: pre-order checking; publishers and publishing; beyond the basic book; suppliers; ordering; out-of-the-ordinary ordering; when the orders arrive; budgets and finance; and ending with a chapter on the way ahead.
At every point in this journey, Liz has provided us with clear checklists of good practice. While clearly outlining the "why" as well as the "how" of the acquisitions process, she has grounded any theoretical explanations with illustrations and examples drawn from the real world.
As might be expected in a book like this, the critical apparatus is concise, well-structured, and generally up to date. There is a comprehensive list of Further Reading for each chapter, and with one exception (on musical materials), none of the citations is more than 5 years old. There is also a practical set of References (mainly the URLs of sources of information) although it is interesting to speculate why in this day and age there is no reference to Amazon . The Glossary is clear and up to date, apart from the surprising lack of a definition of ONIX . A brief but helpful and consistent Index concludes this business-like work.
Liz herself describes Managing Acquisitions as "an introduction for newcomers in the field", and the clarity of its structure and style fit it well for this purpose. But its comprehensive approach and its wealth of practical advice make it as much a handbook as an introduction. Reading it is a little like having access to the advice of a reliable and more experienced colleague by your side. £29.95 seems a lot to pay for a slim 150 page paperback. But to paraphrase James McNeil Whistler, it is good value for the knowledge of a lifetime.
- Chapman, Liz. 1989. Buying Books for Libraries. London: Library Association/Bingley
- Amazon UK http://www.amazon.co.uk/
- The ONIX for Books Product Information Message: http://www.editeur.org/onix.html