When I want to buy some type of consumer product — a computer, a camera, a car, a TV — I engage in a mad frenzy of Internet research, following links hither and yon, reading reviews and forums and background information, and just generally trying to soak in the accumulated knowledge of the world. I love this process, but it’s time-consuming and requires some skill; fortunately for piano buyers, Larry Fine’s The Piano Book binds that accumulation of knowledge between two covers.
This is technically Anne’s book, as she’s the pianist and future piano-buyer in the household, but I started reading it out of curiosity, and I’m very impressed with it. It starts with a detailed overview of how pianos work, with an emphasis on what bits are really important and sensitive to quality variations (and what you should be looking for, and how you can tell if you’re seeing it). It goes on to talk about the state of the piano marketplace, with ratings (compiled by talking to piano technicians) and overviews for the different brands that are out there (this information, along with list prices for each model made, is updated in a yearly supplement), goes into the history of pianos and what a used piano buyer should look for, and finishes up with talk about what needs to be done to keep a piano in good shape once purchased.
This is what Consumer Reports wants (but lacks the domain-specific expertise) to be; The Piano Book is comprehensive, authoritative, and informative. It’s a must-buy for any prospective piano buyer.