The limiting nature of limited editions

by Suw on August 17, 2010

We live in a world of abundance, a fact which scares silly anyone whose business relies on scarcity. Predictably, we now frequently see attempts to recreate scarcity, many of which are absurd (cf. most newspaper efforts) and some of which are smart.

The use of limited editions to create a desirable object available for only a short period is, in my opinion, a smart move. When it comes to content, we are swamped by choice. Something needs to make objects like books, CDs and movies special enough for us to take a punt and buy them. It ceases to be simply about the story or the music or the film, but also about its form. So I’m totally up for limited editions. It is, in effect, what I’m doing with Argleton.

But limiting editions does not mean you have to limit access to the source material. Indeed, limiting access to the content, rather than just the object, is counterproductive as it prevents new fans from experiencing your work and reduces the number of people who eagerly await your next release.

UPDATE: What was going to be my case in point, Ted Chiang’s The Lifecycle of Software, has now instead become proof that if your shop design sucks, people will think things are sold out when they aren’t. The limited edition is sold out, the trade edition isn’t. *headdesk* So, er, slightly truncated blog post due to inability to comprehend Subterranean Press’s UX. Sorry about that.

Carl Morris September 24, 2010 at 6:36 pm

When I used to run a record label it occurred to me that EVERY album on a physical format is limited edition.

I would order CDs from the factory, they’d need to know how many so I’d try to anticipate the demand. Then sometimes do a repress if those sold out. Physical IS limited.

So slapping the “limited edition” tag on it somewhere or on the marketing is a smart move I agree – it’s about publicising the limitedness that’s already there.

Another thing we would do at the label is have a small blank space on each sleeve (or case) – and ask the artists to hand-number the releases which were billed as limited edition. Or stamp them.
0001 / 1000
0002 / 1000
1000 / 1000
(The 1000 bit was typically part of the design.) It makes each one unique and you can have fun allocating different numbers to fans.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: