Shelves of books at a Sydney University library

Ornate shelving for books in a library at Sydney University, Sydney  ca. 1930, nla.obj-163105270

Books become rare only when the demand for them is greater than the supply. The demand for a book is generated by a number of elements which affect a book's desirability and therefore its price.

Some of these elements include:

  • author's reputation
  • illustrator's reputation
  • publisher's reputation
  • quality of the binding
  • scarcity of the edition
  • whether the books literary genre is fashionable.

Rare books are, by their nature, less common than second-hand books. While there is no clear boundary between rare books and second-hand books for the most part, a second-hand book is a used book that is not distinguished by its edition, provenance, binding, or overall condition; its retail price generally is quite modest.

For more information, including general answers to some frequently asked questions about rare books, see the website Your old books. also includes a book collecting guide, which includes information on what makes a book rare.

Book trade