In some ways the unlimited edition is a paradox. There can never be an infinite number of copies of a particular book at any one time. The edition is only theoretically unlimited, through the potential of more & more reprints. But those will only last as long as the market for the book does. The demand, ultimately, will determine the supply.

So every edition, in one way or another, is limited.

The difference between the limited and unlimited edition is: 1) how they are conceived of at the outset, and 2) how they are expected or made to function in the world. In a limited edition, the book/object is made in an edition of x number of copies, and then that’s it—no more, no less. No matter how fast or slow they sell. The status of the limited edition is fixed, generally present and filled at the time of production. The limited edition avoids excess. The limited edition is also based on truth/trust. Its value is dependent on its scarcity. If it’s found that there are more copies on the market than are claimed by the object itself, the price and credit of the maker or publisher will shrivel together. The artificial destruction of the book/object, while it may increase the price, will also destroy the credit of the maker/destroyer. The limited edition is a cold, merciless act accepted in good faith in a cold, merciless world.

In an unlimited edition, the book/object is made in an edition of x number of copies, and will be printed again & again & again & again if there is thought to be a market. But the unlimited edition could also only exist in 5 or 100 copies as well. The status of the (unlimited) edition is contingent, tied to the world & its whims. The unlimited edition is only unlimited while the book is in print. If a book is in print, it is simultaneously stalled in, and caught up in, the process of production. The book in print is the book eternal, waiting forever to be finished.

The unlimited edition is eternally threatened. The edition could actually shrink, if the books remain unsold and are pulped. Most mass-market, unlimited edition books face this fate. When the book goes out of print, its edition can become severely limited, but often its value does not increase. The book out of print is the book untouchable, both scarce and forgotten.

Is it better then, to limit the edition at the start, and avoid the slaughter? Or is the possibility of infinity worth the gamble?

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