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The Avid Reader November 2008
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THIS MONTH
In This Issue:

» Basics of Collecting

» Key Factors in Collectible Books

» Shelf Talk: Books as an Investment

» Octobers's Most Expensive Books Sold

» Interact with AbeBooks

Stocks, bonds, mutual funds, bulls, bears, the NASDAQ - even when you're up financially, money can get you down. Where to put it? High risk, high return? Fixed? Variable? These days, all that's sure is that nothing is sure. But even when the chips (and stocks) are down, there are some investments that are sure to appreciate in value. Spend wisely by investing in books!

Books can be - if not exactly recession-proof - a stable investment, provided you follow a few basic guidelines and tips when choosing your valuable volumes. An assortment of carefully chosen, collectible pieces of literature can become a nest-egg.


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BASICS OF BOOK COLLECTING
  • First editions - they're the mainstay of book collecting, so always check the title page.
  • Signed copies - the author's signature boosts value
  • Hardcover - softcovers rarely become collectible
  • Good Condition - always affects value, everyone wants a mint condition book
  • Knowledge & passion - collect what you like and know (at worst you'll own books you adore)
A signed hardcover first edition in unread perfect condition is as good as it gets.
Bookshelves of the Rich and Famous Learn More
KEY FACTORS

Small print runs - unless a publisher thinks they have the next Harry Potter, first edition print runs from unknown writers are small. Printing mistakes can also curtail first print runs.

Wish We'd Known:

Eragon by Christopher Paolini

Eragon
Christopher Paolini

A great example of a small print run that paid off is Christopher Paolini's Eragon. Paolini was a teenager when his parents' company, Paolini International LLC, self-published the book, which was to be the first in a fantasy trilogy known as the Inheritance Cycle. A year later, the novel was discovered in a bookstore and brought to the attention of Alfred A. Knopf, who published it in 2003. It skyrocketed up the New York Times bestseller list. True first editions, first printings of Eragon easily fetch four figures. AbeBooks sold a copy for $2,500.00, but current asking prices are higher.

Find:

Still a Chance:

Cockroach by Rawi Hage

Cockroach
Rawi Hage

Cockroach is the second novel by Lebanese-Canadian author Rawi Hage. His first book, DeNiro's Game was shortlisted for the 2006 Scotiabank Giller Prize and Governor General Literary Awards, and went on to win the coveted IMPAC Dublin Literary Award for 2008. Cockroach came out this year and already made the finals for both the Giller and the GGLA. Signed first editions are a good bet - if you can put your hands on one.

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Rave reviews - a glowing recommendation from the New York Times can put a book on the map.

Wish We'd Known:

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle
David Wroblewski

Earlier this year, David Wroblewski's The Story of Edgar Sawtelle received a lot of attention, but collectible copies were still on the steal-of-a-deal side of cost before the clincher happened: Oprah Winfrey picked Sawtelle for her book club, and sales - along with the value of collectible copies - went through the roof.

Find:

Still a Chance:

A Mercy by Toni Morrison

A Mercy
Toni Morrison

In a recent review, The New York Times called Toni Morrison's most recent book, A Mercy, one of her "most haunting works yet", and said Morrison has "rediscovered an urgent, poetic voice" in its pages. The novel has also been mentioned by Oprah Winfrey in the must-read section of her web site, and the media mogul is always a big supporter of Morrison.

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Awards - literary prizes boost prices overnight. Check out shortlists and pick the winner.

Wish We'd Known:

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga

The White Tiger
Aravind Adiga

Aravind Adiga is a novelist of dual Australian-Indian citizenship. The White Tiger, his first novel, took the prestigious Man Booker Prize for fiction this year, and had enjoyed glowing accolades and reviews beforehand for its strong character portrayal, fearless social commentary and insightful narrative. Collectible copies are in very high demand.

Find:

Still a Chance:

Shadow Country by Peter Matthiessen

Shadow Country
Peter Matthiessen

With the National Book Award going to Shadow Country by Peter Matthiessen the major book prizes have essentially been awarded for 2008. But a great rule of thumb is to watch for shortlists for prizes like the Giller Prize, the Man Booker Prize, the National Book Award and many more. When the shortlists are announced, read the books (or at least the reviews), and take a chance on the book that could win.

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Movies - Hollywood can inflate prices but usually the book has already become collectible

Good bets:

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

Twilight
Stephenie Meyer

Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series is a no-brainer for collectibility. With the film of the first book (also called Twilight) already out in North America and due out in the UK in December, signed first editions go for four figures. But as more and more people jump on the Twilight bandwagon, prices are sure to rise, in a curve reminiscent of Harry Potter.

Find:
The Road by Cormac McCarthy

The Road
Cormac McCarthy

The Road by Cormac McCarthy. This author's fiction is highly prized and already fairly collectible on its own, but if the box office hit of No Country For Old Men has taught us anything, it's that the worth and collectibility of a book is absolutely affected by a successful film adaptation. The movie version of The Road, McCarthy's bleak, stark and affecting novel of 2006, is due out next year and features big names like Viggo Mortenson, Charlize Theron, and Robert Duvall. While prices are already nothing to sneeze at for the most collectible copies, they are virtually guaranteed to rise.

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Controversy - banned books, court cases, or Oprah's wrath create publicity and boost value.

A Million Little Pieces by James Frey

A Million Little Pieces
James Frey

Oprah's recommendation of James Frey's A Million Little Pieces hiked the novel's - er, memoir's - sales. However, her censure of Frey (after it came to light that much of the book, supposedly a non-fiction account of the author's battle with drugs, was untrue) on her show helped fuel a media frenzy and increased its value even more. Signed copies are particularly scarce.

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Author R.I.P. - prices always increase after an author passes away. If the death is unexpected (such as David Foster Wallace or Hunter S Thompson), values rise very rapidly.

Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton

Jurassic Park
Michael Crichton

While it can feel ghoulish to talk in terms of collectibility in reference to death, if the person who dies is an artist of any kind, the reality is they will no longer be creating more of their craft. In the case of an author, their books, particularly signed copies, increase dramatically in value.

Take Michael Crichton for example - signed copies of his books are still both available and affordable, but availability will go down, and prices will go up, in the coming months, as collectors find great deals.

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And of course, Father Time - be patient, take good care of your investments, and they will increase in value over time.
Large Print Books Learn More
Shelf Talk: Books as an Investment
by Richard Davies - PR Manager; Resident Brit.

There is a very nice bookseller on AbeBooks - who remains nameless - who kindly explained to me how he was offering first editions of The Da Vinci Code for more than $3,000.

"Dan Brown was doing a tour to promote the book and no-one really knew who he was at the time," he said. "He was signing books at the downtown Barnes and Noble and I was the only person there. I bought every copy in the store and asked him to sign them. I started selling them for $40 per copy at first and then steadily raised my prices as he became more famous and demand increased."

"But how did you know he would be famous and the book would be a worldwide bestseller?" I asked.

"I didn't," he replied. "I just had a hunch the book would be big."

A hunch! Now that's bookselling. Buy cheap, sell high. When Barack Obama became President-elect, I was sure copies of his signed books were already overpriced and no-one would pay the prices. Five days after he won the US election, AbeBooks.com had sold 20 signed copies of his books priced more than $500, including one for a whopping $5,500. For the buyers, the signed books represented a moment in history not to be missed - no matter the price.

Way back in 2004, the really smart booksellers had searched for and bought up the scarce copies of his out-of-print 1995 memoir Dreams From My Father after he had delivered the keynote speech at that year's Democratic Convention. Suddenly political commentators started saying this guy could be the first black president of the United States and those booksellers had to move fast. Dreams From My Father had been published when Obama was a nobody, had a small print run and went out-of-print very quickly. By early in 2005, those first editions had four-figure price tags and prices continued to rise as Obama made his way to the White House.

Knowledge, and perhaps foresight, is everything when it comes to investing in books.

Tell us about your best investment in a book. A find at a thrift store, a signed edition that's soared in value, an out-of-print gem that's become a sought-after treasure. - or the one that got away. We'd love to hear your stories.

Books with Free Shipping! Learn More
ON THE SITE
Blindness on the Big Screen

BlindnessIf you've never read Blindness, now is the time. The novel - which is said to have triggered author Jose Saramago's 1998 Nobel Prize win - has been made into a major film.

Read entire article

Legend of Literature: F. Scott Fitzgerald

F. Scott FitzgeraldFirst up in AbeBooks new series of features on literary legends is F. Scott Fitzgerald, whose presence in the book world is still strong 68 years after his death.

Learn more about Fitzgerald

50th anniversary of The Americans

The AmericansCelebrate 50 years of Robert Frank’s ground-breaking photography book, The Americans. A remarkable insight into a nation in flux, this book offers countless iconic images revealing America’s cultural divisions across class and race.

Learn more about The Americans
Signed Bestsellers in October
  1. A Most Wanted Man
    John Le Carre
  2. Brisingr
    Christopher Paolini
  3. Home
    Marilynne Robinson
  4. My Word Is My Bond
    Roger Moore
  5. The Given Day
    Dennis Lehane
See the whole list on the Homepage

Most Expensive Books Sold in October
  1. George Bernard Shaw's typewriter
    $7,979
  2. Oeuvres Philosophiques Latines & Francaises de feu
    Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz - $6,496
  3. The Old Man and the Sea
    Ernest Hemingway - $6,000
  4. The Novels and Tales of Henry James
    Henry James - $5,999
  5. A Corpus of Rembrandt paintings
    Translated by D.Co - $5,404
See the whole list
Collecting Photobooks Learn More
INTERACT WITH ABEBOOKS
Win a Copy of The Daring Book for Girls

Win The Daring Book for GirlsThe Daring Book for Girls is the manual for everything that girls need to know -- and that doesn't mean sewing buttonholes! From helpful hints on how-to, to important facts and history, The Daring Book for Girls is perfect for the girl in your life, of any age. Enter to win a copy. Hurry, contest closes December 24th.

Click here to enter
Signed Books in the Holiday Bookshop

Holiday BookshopThis holiday season, AbeBooks is focusing on of signed books as unique gifts. We have the perfect present for every book lover in your life, and a signature can make an already wonderful present that much more special. We have signed books for every budget, for every reader.

See Our Holiday Bookshop
Notes from Avid Readers

Thank you to all our readers who wrote in with their suggestions and reactions on our last Avid Reader. As always, we enjoy hearing from you, and appreciate your taking the time to share.
"In the past, you have helped me find books that I needed to read. For that, I thank you. One that comes to mind, is The Last Thing We Talk About by Joseph Bayly. My youngest son, Garreth Ewan Thomas, died tragically a little over two years ago, in a violent car accident. I am trying to face each day knowing this is one more day I have that he does not. How can I give this day meaning?

"Have you missed a book? Perhaps. I am writing....just writing my thoughts at the moment. When the time is right, when I can, a book will emerge and then I will let you know. The book you have missed is one that is not yet written.

"As a Mom dealing with the anguish of losing her baby, a 21-year-old, 3rd year engineering student ready to take on the world and go off with Engineers Without Borders, I have gravitated to books written by parents who has suffered such loss. There is a place for another such book. When I am able, it will be a manuscript. Then I will let you know the book that you have missed. Thank you for this list of books on young lives gone.

"As we carry on, as we must, we look back to young lives lived nobly. We remember. We go on in that strength."

— Connie from BC, Canada

"Among those literary lights who departed early was John Kennedy Toole, author of the hilarious Confederacy of Dunces. Another, albeit of decidedly less promise, was William S, Burroughs Jr, who pales in comparison with Burroughs snr, and whose primary claim to fame was that he was the progeny of a man who shot his mother in the head whilst enacting the William Tell legend somewhere in the Benzedrine-laced Mexican twilight. Suffice it to say Jr's two drug books (Speed and Kentucky Ham) attempted to capitalize on the old man's legendary drug habituation, and no doubt provided Junior with the necessaries to keep many of his own drug connections in the chips. Too much is never enough for such folk, and most exit as early as did Burroughs Jr (the old man, unusually enough, made it into his 80s)."

— Al from New Jersey, USA

"The Place He Made by Edie Clark is an unforgettable true story about the love which grew between the author and a humble carpenter, Paul Bolton, who was known as an odd sort of recluse in the town where they both lived. As Paul and Edie's love begins to blossom, this brings out Paul's beautiful qualities, which others start to notice.

"The two marry but their happiness is soon crushed when they discover Paul has cancer. The Place He Made is the most tender story about unwavering love and devotion. You would think that a book on this subject would be depressing but I found it to be a deeply moving and inspiring account of love and courage. You will want to read this book more than once."

— Marjorie from Connecticut, USA
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