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Fun and Games

November 28th, 2007  |  by  |  published in What's Up Online


Bored at work? Between the Covers Rare Books has created two literary diversions (please use only during your federally mandated 15-minute breaks and your unpaid lunch hour). They have sound tracks, so if your boss is likely to walk by and think that exercising your literary chops is not essential to your highly paid position, turn off your speakers first. Basically, I suck at both games. I managed to go 0 for 8 trying to match the first lines of famous books with their covers, and the computer, which is dumb as a post, clobbered me on Letter-ature, a Wheel of Fortune–style game (And that after I guessed "The Shining" from only the clue: "horror fiction." The game does not reward greediness. If the spinner lands on lose your turn, you're toast). What, I wonder, is dumber than a post. If I were a bit smarter, I'd probably know the answer to that question.

A while back, BibliophileBullPen posted a link to an online vocabulary game called Free Rice. At last, a use for all the hours I spent learning words like proem ("an introduction to a literary work or a speech")!

Free Rice says it donates 10 grains of rice to feed the hungry for every word you get right. (The Internet says there are 29,000 grains in a pound, for what it's worth.) A blogger has calculated that the rice donation costs about $1,000 per day and that the ad revenue generated should be many times that (if you read that blog post, be sure to check out the comments because the initial math is straight out of the Internet bubble). Still, if you're into words, it's pretty fun, even if it might be a bit of a scam.

Pimp Your Book Cart Winner Announced

November 15th, 2007  |  by  |  published in Libraries and Exhibits


The Unshelved blog's annual Pimp Your Book Cart winner has been announced and top honors goes to Timberland High School for it's library book trolley reimagined as a UPS truck, complete with working lights. The slogan "What Can Brown Do For You" refers to the school librarian, Mr. Brown. More entries can be seen here. Anyone want to start a pool for how long it will take UPS to contact the high school about trademark infringement?


Also, from the Shelf Awareness newsletter, author Michael Perry's acceptance speech for an award he received from the Midwest Booksellers Association. He couldn't make the ceremony, so he made a video in which he muses about books and hypnotizes chickens. If you read this blog often enough, you know that is my exact demographic.

Which president sold $25,000 worth of books to Congress and helped start the Library of Congress?

November 14th, 2007  |  by  |  published in Libraries and Exhibits

Does anyone know why fifty people have come to my blog after Googling some variation on this question? I suspect it's a bunch of lazy students. If that's the case, I suggest thinking just a tiny bit before typing your question into Google. Let's see. Who could possibly have the answer. Hmm. This is very tough. I wonder if some place like the history page on the Library of Congress website would have the answer. Or you could look up Library of Congress on wikipedia, which copies most of the LC history page verbatim. The thing is, the reason it's hard to find the answer is that the question is wrong. Congress bought a 6,487-book library from an ex-president for $23,950. You can read all about it in the September/October 2007 issue of Fine Books & Collections magazine, but you have to actually get a copy. A lot of good stuff isn't free on the net. 

Books for Botox – A New Holiday Tradition

November 12th, 2007  |  by  |  published in Libraries and Exhibits

I am not making this up. A plastic surgery clinic is offering botox in exchange for books. This ad ran in today's (November 12) San Francisco Chronicle.

The Maas Clinic even has a great domain name,, and a snappy slogan, "Looks for Books"! With all the books I have, I could have a second career as a model after visiting Dr. Maas, except I think I'd rather have the books than the looks (I wonder, though, what my wife would say about that).

This is the second year the Maas Clinic – with offices in Truckee (near Lake Tahoe) and San Francisco – has done this promotion. Last year, they reported that "With all the skin care, cosmetics and Botox treatments that were doled out [as a result of Books for Botox], everyone looks like they’re STILL on holiday!" Now that's what I call the Christmas spirit.

However, if you really want to help kids and libraries, donate money. That way they can buy the exact books they need. They don't really want your stack of ratty Harry Potters.

Michael Sharpe, Bookseller

November 7th, 2007  |  by  |  published in Bookselling

Here’s an article on Michael Sharpe, the collector who hired away several of Heritage Book Shop’s employees when that Los Angeles landmark closed recently. To quote, in part:

In just 20 years, Sharpe has amassed works of science, philosophy, medicine, exploration, religion, literature and mathematics, all classified as being in superb condition and worth about $25 million.

Together, they record the growth of Western civilization through everything from a Dead Sea Scroll fragment to “Gone With the Wind.”

But now Sharpe is ready to go from book collector to bookseller.

Michael Sharpe Rare & Antiquarian Books has just opened in a historic Craftsman house at 569 S. Marengo Ave., with a catalogued inventory worth around $8 million, about 20 percent of it from the personal collection kept at his Pasadena home.

“It was a little bit of a wrench,” Sharpe said of shipping some of his private library off to the store.

“I decided to keep history and science over literature,” he said. “I love them all, but it can take six to eight years to build up an inventory.

The Times They Are A Changin’

November 2nd, 2007  |  by  |  published in Uncategorized

I've read a lot of manuscripts in the last few years and I've started to notice certain words, phrases, and stylistic types that are quite fashionable right now. One that seems to turn up in virtually every unsolicited submission is "famously," as in "Lane famously shunned war yarns."

Surely you know which Lane we're talking about here, since he was famous for his stand on war books. No? Well the author was referring to Allan Lane. Many readers of this blog my recognize the name, but for those who don't Lane founded Penguin Books. Now Penguin Books, I'd say, is famous. But is Lane? He's influential, yes. Pioneering, yes. Prominent, yes. But truly famous? Not quite. So "famously" is inaccurately used in this context. In fact, it means nearly the opposite – it indicates a very specialized kind of knowledge that insiders know. If he were, in fact, famous, you wouldn't need to say it. No one ever writes, "George Washington, famously the first president of the United States…."

The people who write for Fine Books are influenced by writing elsewhere, and "famously" is a very popular word in contemporary journalism. It happens that Philip Corbett, the New York Times' language editor, – the guy who oversees the way loaded words and serial commas are used in the newspaper – is answering reader questions online this week. I thought I'd mention my pet peeve about "famously"–which appeared five times in the paper the day I asked the question–and he answered that it's on the list for reduced use. You'll have to scroll down a ways to get to it my question and answer, or simply search for "famously" when you get there.

I find discussions about words and their use and meaning to be very interesting. Now that I have to see so many words into print, I find I've become less dogmatic about it. It's tremendously difficult to get everything right all the time, and sometimes there's being right and being dead right. Some writers sound great until you start enforcing all the rules, and by the time you're done, all the life has gone out of the prose. So we do our best, knowing there's always another issue. And, even though I am now famously on record as opposing the word famously, it happens that I let "famously" slip into our November/December issue.

AbeBooks Management Changes

October 31st, 2007  |  by  |  published in What's Up Online

From the Shelf Awareness newsletter:

Boris Wertz, COO of, has left the company but will continue as a member of the board and an advisor on key projects. He is creating a venture capital business with Burda Digital Ventures, the German media company that is the majority shareholder in, that will be located in Vancouver, B.C. Wertz joined in 2002, when the company bought JustBooks, an online marketplace he had co-founded in Germany.

In related changes at

    * Laura-Lea Berna, most recently director of customer support and operations, has been promoted to v-p of operations.
    * Shaun Jamieson has been promoted to director of sales and account management and president of, one of's subsidiaries. He joined the company in 2004 and was manager of sales and account management and director of business development for Fillz.
    * Thomas Nicol, director of marketing since April, takes on additional responsibilities, including a spot on the board of, another subsidiary company.

Wells, Wells, Wells

October 31st, 2007  |  by  |  published in Uncategorized

Via Paul Collins' Weekend Stubble blog, a link (which doesn't work, Paul….) to an online project collecting cover images of HG Wells' War of the Worlds. Here's a (currently) working link to the gallery. At left, an Irish edition.

Harry Potter Perplexities

October 30th, 2007  |  by  |  published in Book Collecting

No, this isn't a post about Hogwart's headmaster Albus Dumbledore being gay, it's an update on our story about variant copies of the last Harry Potter novel, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. As reported by our very own Kimberly Howell, multiple printers were used for the novel, and each one is identified in the colophon of the book. These are true variants, which would be recognized by any bibliographer. As far as we know, prior to our article on them in the November/December 2007 issue of Fine Books & Collections, no one had noted them before. We identified four variants and asked readers if there were others. We just got our first new example. [Update 10/31/07: We have a 6th printer. Based on information we gathered for the story, we believed there were six variants. If that's correct, we have them all now. Thanks to everyone who checked their copies.]

Here is the current list of variant readings of the colophon:

Variant A: RR Donnelley in Crawfordsville, Indiana
Variant B: RR Donnelley in Harrisonburg, Virginia
Variant C: Quebecor World Martinsburg in Martinsburg, West Virginia
Variant D: Quebecor World Fairfield in Fairfield, Pennsylvania
Variant E: Quebecor World Taunton in Taunton, Massachusetts
Variant F: Quebecor World Versailles in Versailles, Kentucky [added 10/31/07]

If you have a copy of the first printing of the first American edition that isn't on our list, please let us know and we'll add it. A scan of the colophon page would be appreciated, too.

I suspect that there are variants in the colophons of the first editions of other Harry Potter novels, which wait to be identified. One printer told me that 10 manufacturers worked on a previous Harry Potter, though he wasn't at liberty to say which book!

If you are interested in HP, our November/December issue (on newsstands now) also has a story about the collectors who bought the Harry Potters inscribed to J. K. Rowlings' father for close to $100,000.

Given the record prices paid recently for first editions of the first book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, those association copies are looking like better and better deals all the time. In case you missed it, on October 25, Christie's South Kensington (London) branch sold a first edition of The Philosopher's Stone (published in a hardcover edition reported to be around 300 to 500 copies) for £19,700 ($40,000). The next day, Heritage Auction Galleries in Dallas sold an ex-library copy of the same book for $33,460.

Bookstore Barbers II

October 26th, 2007  |  by  |  published in Bookselling

Brian Cassidy, who after a number of years selling online bought the Cannery Row Old Book Co. (located inside the Cannery Row Antique Mall) and renamed the shop Brian Cassidy, Bookseller, points out that Ruben Martinez, founder of Libreria Martinez in SoCal, used to be a barber and keeps his old chair in the store as a reminder. A couple of years ago, he won a MacArthur Genius grant.