Many of the great kayaking yarns are no longer in print, but if you are willing to search a bit, you should be able to find a few gems, many of which are well worth tracking down.
For some, owning the original edition of a book is nirvana. While it is fun to browse in your local antique bookstore for these books, finding original editions is a rare occurrence. The Internet provides a quick and easy, although not always cheap, way to find a particular book.
There are a number of online “book aggregators” that offer easy-to-use, customizable, fast and searchable interfaces for finding books for sale from multiple booksellers. Thus you can then decide whether you want that pristine copy with a dust jacket for $100 or whether you’ll settle for that well-worn ex-library edition for $10.
Abebooks (www.abebooks.com) includes a simple search engine that allows you to input the author, the title of the book and/or a keyword. It’s best to jump directly to the “Advanced Search,” which provides greater search flexibility. The Abebooks search engine is streamlined with features permitting flexibility of search results.
For example, use “Trailing Wildcards”—the asterisk symbol (*)—when you’re not sure of the spelling or the exact name of an author or a book, and use the tilde symbol (~) as a “not” to refine your search results.
For example, typing “kayak” in the title screen will return all titles that have the word “kayak” in them (approximately 728 titles) while typing “kayak*” in the title screen will return all titles with a form of the word in the title (approx. 2,206), including kayak, kayaker, kayaking, etc. The search engine can sort the results by price, binding, attributes, author, etc.
Bookfinder (www.bookfinder.com) offers a simple search engine that lets you input the author and/or title of the book. It’s best to jump directly to “Show more options…”, which provides greater search flexibility. One key difference between Bookfinder and Abebooks is that Bookfinder doesn’t support wildcard searches (*); however, I haven’t found that to be a significant drawback.
Alibris (www.alibris.com) is a search engine similar to Abebooks and Book-finder. Click on “Advanced Search” and follow directions much like those for the other sites.
eBay (www.ebay.com) lets you search using broad categories such kayak* book*. You can either use the simple search screen or go to “Refine Search” and narrow the scope of your choice.
eBay requires more work and more time because you need to run your search criteria every few days or set up automatic e-mail notification if an item matching your search criteria is listed.
Buyer beware! Many of the kayaking books listed on eBay are purchased from book closeouts at a deep discount, then the buyers re-list them on eBay at double the price!
Always check www.bookcloseouts.com to see if the same book has been closed out and is therefore available for a better price (use the “Keyword Search” feature with kayak*, paddle* or canoe*).
Several publishing houses have started to publish facsimile versions of out-of-print books:
The Long Riders’ Guild Press (www.classicadventurebooks.com/travel.htm) as started republishing adventure books, including Enchanted Vagabonds and The Rob Roy on the Jordan, which are available for sale at Amazon.com.
The press’ web site provides a detailed description of each book with links to Amazon.com. While the quality of the text in these reprinted editions is clear and easy to read and the books are reasonably priced, I found the quality of the photographic reproductions poor.
D. N. Goodchild (www.dngoodchild.com) is a gem for the kayaking and small-boat community and provides a high-quality and reasonably priced alternative to first edition kayaking adventures. Their web site provides a list of reasonably priced books (usually around $20), which includes A Thousand Miles in the Rob Roy Canoe, The Rob Roy on the Jordan, The Rob Roy on the Baltic, Canoe Errant, Canoe Errant on the Nile, Canoe Errant on the Mississippi, Kingfisher Abroad, An Inland Journey, plus many more canoeing and small boat voyaging books. Of the two copies I purchased, the quality of the illustrations in A Thousand Miles in the Rob Roy Canoe was excellent, and the watercolors in An Inland Journey were exquisite.
Elibron (www.elibron.com) is another good source of facsimile reprints. You can find The Rob Roy on the Jordan there, as well as many of Fridtjof Nansen’s books, including Eskimo Life and Farthest North.
Kayking Books Online
There are full-text electronic versions of many old books available on the Internet, usually those that are well beyond copyright -protection. The Gutenberg Project (www.gutenberg.net/index.htm) offers a free downloadable copy of Stevenson’s An Inland Voyage. Another site (www.rtpnet.org/robroy/books/jm/TM.HTM) features a free downloadable copy of MacGregor’s A Thousand Miles in the Rob Roy Canoe on Rivers and Lakes of Europe. Some of these online books are text only; others are presented with their original illustrations.
Most states now provide online browsing of their entire state library system, which includes local libraries, state university libraries and any libraries that receive state funding.
Many library sites allow library card-holders to reserve books online. If the book is not available from your local branch, you can often request it from other libraries in the same system.
If the book isn’t available through your library system, contact your local librarian about obtaining a copy from another library system.
A few titles are -offered only by a few sources. There are also some great and hard-to-find books available from Folbot and KlepperUSA.
Even if you don’t use a folding kayak from Folbot, Klepper or Feathercraft, one book that should grace your bedside table is Folbot Holidays, which is available for $5.00 (plus shipping and handling) from Folbot (800-533-5099). Finally, don’t forget the benefits of the web. Amazon.com’s U.K. site (www.amazon.co.uk) has Brian Wilson’s Blazing Paddles, while Boat Books in New Zealand (http://boatbooks.co.nz/canoe.html) carries Paul Caffyn’s Cresting the Restless Waves and The Dreamtime Voyage. The U.S. site of Amazon.com (www.amazon.com) also carries used books, which automatically come up now when you search the site.