According to WorldCat, very few public libraries have bought Modernist Cuisine, despite the heavy media attention (the NYT, The New Yorker, NPR, Time, even Popular Science) and a starred review from Booklist.
But why would they? It retails for $625, library budgets are strained, and the book features cooking tools and techniques only available to professionals.
One library did buy it and recently explained that decision to the local press. The San Francisco Public Library ordered two copies; one for reference, one to circulate from the main library, and are considering a third for the branches. Why? Public demand, Mark Hall, the library’s cookbook buyer, tells the San Francisco Weekly. He also points out that the price tag is not for a single book, but six volumes that will be circulated individually. Does he fear theft? Not really, says Mark, “Cookbook readers seem to be a pretty responsible group.”
One benefit; the library got good press for the decision. And, at a time when people are obsessed with digital books, they are giving the public access to a physical book that shows off the ultimate in modern printing technology (Booklist says, “Stunning, dramatic color photographs transform every page into a visual banquet”). Even though some of the cooking techniques may be beyond the home cook, as Time magazine says, “no serious student of food doubts that it will stand alongside Escoffier as one of the defining cookbooks in history.”
Modernist Cuisine has sold out its initial print run and is now going back to press. Because of the the intricate printing process, it will be a while before it is back in stock at wholesalers.