Matt, this was not unusual in those days.  Many of us have a few shelves full of the "Handbooks" that DEC used to give out at trade shows for free starting in the 1960s [my PDP-6 was damaged in a flood, but I still have my white PDP-10 "phone book".   The microprocessor companies followed suit in the mid/late 1970s, too.   My wife hates it, but I have a few shelves of these from DEC, IBM, TI, Moto, and Intel.

Interestingly, they often were updated and/or split, and the newer edition might have been "prettier" from a marketing standpoint, but older editions sometimes (often) had better details.  For instance, the 1976 PDP-11 version of the peripheral's handbook is the best doc for the interfaces for a classic PDP-11.  The 1978s edition is missing a number of the classic peripherals and I almost have never used to look something up.    Of course, the earlier edition does not have documentation for the later peripherals from the 80s and early 90s. But, if you are trying to run a SIMH 11/70 instance of Unix Research 7, it's almost a must-have (a number of us that haunt the simh and pidp mailing lists recommend people get a copy and read before asking some of their questions).  The point is that we all had copies back in the day, and when we got stuff -- needed to figure something out -- read the source and look at the DEC handbook [and my is sitting next to me, and as I was hacking on my PiDPD-11 earlier today and I needed to look something up]. 

IIRC, Gorden & Steely Dan's infamous architecture course at CMU required you to buy one of two of them for a nominal fee at the bookstore.   The back of my 11/70 Processor Handbook has an old CMU bookstore sticker on it, but I can not read the price almost 50 years later (I'm sure it was under $5 even in 1975 money).

Fortunately, Al Kossow has scans of many of them (including the aforementioned edition of the Peripherals' Handbook)  as scanned PDF files. Still, it is not quite as nice [much to my wife's belief that they are clutter].

On Thu, May 11, 2023 at 1:26 PM segaloco via TUHS <> wrote:
Howdy folks, I was perusing old copies of ;login: and came across a note about the BSTJ UNIX issue in the August 1978 newsletter:

What I find particularly amusing is that all UNIX licensees at the time of that publication allegedly were provided a copy free of charge.  The text goes on to indicate additional copies can be purchased for a measly $1.50.

Fast forward to today and I typically don't see this copy pop up on auction for less than $100.  Still, amazing how something was being just tossed out to anyone who wanted one and now here 45 years later, it's a mad scramble to find the same.  Then there's this listing:

$3000 dollars...quite shocking, although perhaps they're banking on the uniqueness of that little sleeve, I've never seen one of those with a BSTJ issue before.  Was that some sort of packaging the issues were delivered in?  It has the Bell Logo in the little window on either side, so I want to believe it's original and not something someone threw together after the fact.

In any case, I suspect part of the low pricing is due to Bell anti-trust stuff, as they really moved on nickle and diming on documentation once they were legally able to.  In any case, I'm always shocked to see how much I paid for something in my archival efforts and then I find a price sheet only to find out someone bought a book back in the day for the cost of a burger and fries.  While I'm pursuing documents for research purposes...I may be inadvertently building myself quite the value store without even meaning to...

- Matt G.