First Superman comic is expected to fetch millions on eBay

The copy of Action Comics #1 is said to be in the best condition of any copy currently in existence.

Source: The Christian Science Monitor - By Weston Williams,  Contributor 

07 24 14superman full 600 First Superman comic is expected to fetch millions on eBay

Superman # 1

How much would you spend on a comic book? What if that comic book were one of the rarest comic books in existence, and in fantastic condition? Soon, enthusiasts and collectors will have the opportunity to bid on one such comic book, and the price is expected to shatter records for a comic book purchase. The comic book in question is Action Comics #1, first published in June of 1938. The issue is known particularly for the first appearance of Superman.

Recommended: Famous opening lines: Take our literature quiz

Superman, created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, had his first outing in the issue. His image, raising a car above his head, makes the cover of Action Comics #1 instantly recognizable. The hero would go on from that first outing to set the standard for the superhero archetype in pop culture, and eventually become a household name across the nation and the world.

Any copy of Action Comics #1 is of interest to collectors, regardless of its condition. However, the book in question is not a tattered, faded comic. In fact, it is reported to be in amazing condition. According to Cnet, the copy soon to be auctioned on eBay was rated by the Certified Guaranty Company, a well-known comic book quality rating company, as having a condition of 9.0 out of 10, the highest quality rating a copy of Action Comics #1 has ever received. The colors are said to be vibrant, and it even has white pages where most existing copies have long since yellowed. Only about 50 unrestored copies are believed to exist, according to Cnet. Of those, this one is considered the best. "The quality and preservation of this Action #1 is astounding," Paul Litch, CGC Primary Grader, said in a statement, according to Cnet. "The book looks and feels like it just came off the newsstand. It is supple, the colors are deep and rich and the quality of the white pages is amazing for a comic that is 76 years old." The high quality and the rarity of the comic book means that this copy of Action Comics #1 could sell for as much as three million dollars, according to the Economic Times. That's quite a bit more than the comic's original selling price of 10 cents in 1938. According to Today, the last Action Comics #1 was sold for over two million in 2011. And this copy is in far better condition, having spent most of its existence in a dry, dark chest with very little air for much of its existence.According to a video advertising the auction on eBay, such conditions are ideal for preserving comic books. The copy was later moved to a bank vault and later sold to Darren Adams, the current owner. Adams says that he chose to make the comic available on eBay so that the issue would theoretically be available to anyone, not just to a small circle of collectors, which is the case with many of the most valuable comic books. "I felt this book deserves to have as much publicity as possible because of what it is," said Adams in the eBay video. "It is the cream of the crop, and it doesn't get any better than this." While the book is technically available for purchase by anyone with a few million dollars to spend on it, Adams did also express his hope that a museum might purchase the issue so that the public could enjoy seeing the debut of an American icon in such a pristine format. A portion of the proceeds of the sale will go to the Christopher and Diana Reeve Foundation. Christopher Reeve was best known for playing Superman in the 1970s and 80s. News of the upcoming sale comes at a particularly auspicious time for comics, with blockbuster after blockbuster based on various superheroes raking in millions at the box office over the past several years. The next movie featuring the Man of Steel will be "Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice," set to come out on May 6, 2016. (Superman's apparent nemesis for this film, Batman, is also making headlines. As the Monitor previously reported, the Caped Crusader is celebrating his 75th year of dealing out justice to criminals with events and celebrations happening throughout this week.) As for Superman's Action Comics #1, bidders still have a few weeks to pull together a few million dollars. The eBay auction will open on August 14 and will last until August 24.

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What makes a book a classic

Do Vonnegut and David Foster Wallace qualify, and if not, why not?


Kurt Vonnegut, David Foster Wallace (Credit: AP/flickr/Steve Rhodes)
What makes a book a classic? That’s one of the most acrimonious, endless and irresolvable discussions in the literary world. Like debates over which books are “great” (and why), it’s also a mostly pointless question, fodder for overcaffeinated undergraduate bull sessions, feral comments threads and other milieus suffering under the delusion that we can arrive at an ironclad consensus on what constitutes literary merit. But there are a few places where deciding whether a book is a classic or not has real consequences. One is, obviously, classrooms, but the other is bookstores, as Elizabeth Bluemle of the Flying Pig Bookstore in Vermont let on recently in the blog Shelf Talker. One of the store’s staff members recently asked her if he should shelve Seamus Heaney’s translation of “Beowulf” with poetry or classics. After some discussion, they went with classics, but as Bluemle explains, “Neither is wrong; like many bookstore decisions, it’s booksellers’ choice, which mainly boils down to thinking about where customers are most likely to go looking for a title.” The incident prompted Bluemle to observe that books by some authors seem to be “migrating” (presumably reshelved by junior staffers or customers) from the fiction to the classics section, particularly books by P.G. Wodehouse and Kurt Vonnegut. She’s not sure either one belongs there (“yet,” in the case of Vonnegut), but she also finds herself wondering why “The Count of Monte Cristo” is shelved in classics while Daphne du Maurier’s “Rebecca” remains in fiction. The comparison is subtle but shrewd, as both are well-written novels with potboiler and gothic elements and both were viewed primarily as entertainments when first published. The cliché people most often cite when defining a classic is “the test of time.” “The Count of Monte Cristo” (1844) is a lot older than “Rebecca” (1938), but my completely unempirical gut feeling is that they’re of about the same literary quality. Why should the years between their publication dates be the defining factor? (I love them both, by the way.) Yet judging literary quality is hopelessly subjective. I think Wodehouse is a better stylist than Vonnegut, but Vonnegut is clearly the more serious writer, a novelist whose work has changed people’s lives, not just whiled away a handful of their hours in a state of perfect bliss. On the other hand, perfect bliss is pretty hard to come by in this world …

Impact and import, historic and artistic, is another quality often demanded of a book before it can be awarded classic status. “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” a mediocre novel, sometimes makes it under the classics wire because it had such a profound effect on the conscience of the American public and is thought to have helped precipitate the Civil War. But what about Ayn Rand, whose novels sometimes turn up in the classics category when I’m browsing new releases on the Audible website? “The Fountainhead,” however bad a novel, has undoubtedly changed many lives and would appear to have affected the course of the nation’s economic history. And what about “On the Road” which to the same reader might seem like an incontestable classic at age 17 and sadly or sentimentally jejune at 45? It’s here, around the borders of classics territory, that the distinctions get tricky. It would be hard to find anyone who’d deny that “War and Peace” and “Madame Bovary” are classics. But what about “1984″ or “Invisible Man”? It seems to help if the author is dead, and even novels that receive the highest praise from the highest authorities — say, Toni Morrison’s “Beloved” or Don Delillo’s “Underworld” — will still probably remain shelved in the fiction section during their authors’ lifetimes. A fascinating Goodreads discussion on this topic shows participants tossing out all the most common defining characteristics of a classic book. It has stood the test of time. It is filled with eternal verities. It captures the essence and flavor of its own age and had a significant effect on that age. It has something important to say. It achieves some form of aesthetic near-perfection. It is “challenging” or innovative in some respect. Scholars and other experts endorse it and study it. It has been included in prestigious series, like the Modern Library, Penguin Classics or the Library of America, and appears on lists of great books. And last but not least, some people define a classic by highly personal criteria. “‘Life of Pi,’ ‘Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,’ ‘What Is the What’ and ‘Disgrace’ are all classics because I was profoundly moved by them,” wrote one reader. Perhaps the most eloquent consideration of this question is Italo Calvino’s essay, “Why Read the Classics?,” in which he defines a classic as “a book that has never finished saying what it has to say,” among a list of other qualities. But as wondrous as that sounds, it could also describe some books we read today — “Infinite Jest,” for example — books that most of our contemporaries would deem too recent for classic status. I also love Calvino’s effort to capture the imaginative quality of a great literary work — “a book that takes the form of an equivalent to the universe, on a level with the ancient talismans” — but suspect that the following is more accurate: “The classics are the books that come down to us bearing upon them the traces of readings previous to ours, and bringing in their wake the traces they themselves have left on the culture or cultures they have passed through.” Later in the essay Calvino goes on to discuss “Your classic author,” the one with whom you as a reader feel the most particular affinity, even when you disagree with him or her. While I agree that most readers have such an author (or several), it doesn’t necessarily follow that the rest of the world regards that author’s books as classics. Probably the most striking example of this is J.R.R. Tolkien, who means enough to his many, many devoted fans to rank as a classic in their minds, but whose work is never placed in classics shelves of bookstores. This is why we will go on arguing about what constitutes a classic book for as long as we read books at all: While the label is bestowed by the culture at large and we tend to judge it by an unquantifiable impression we have of how much prestige has accumulated around a particular book, that prestige is still built from the idiosyncratic experiences of individual readers. The fact that many readers hate “The Scarlet Letter” can’t disqualify it as a classic, but only because many more readers have loved it, or at least found it profound. Yet that doesn't mean the opinions of the rejecting readers don’t count or that they can’t at some point overbalance the novel’s admirers and cause it to drift into obscurity. No wonder those Vonnegut novels keep migrating. Whatever a classic book may be, it doesn't ever seem to stand still.

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Literary treasures abound in rare book store

Erin and Bob Van Norman opened their rare book store Van Norman Rare Books on Main Street earlier this month Literary treasures abound in rare book store

Nestled between the Shirt Shack and the Covenant Creations Salon on Main Street, Rapid City's newest bookstore doesn't look particularly remarkable from a distance.

But one step through the door of Van Norman Rare Books reveals a treasure trove of history, literary tales and a collection of rare books accumulated over a lifetime.

That green-colored book in the glass display case by the front door? That's a first-print, first-edition copy of "The Theory of the Leisure Class, An Economic Study of Institutions," by Thorstein Veblen. Published in 1899, it's valued at about $3,000.

The book next to it? "The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas," written and signed by Gertrude Stein.

Walk a little further into the store and look in the small cabinet in the right corner of the shop. There, you'll see books published generations ago, such as "A South Dakota Guide," a travel guide published in 1930 by the Works Progress Administration that runs for about $200; and "A History of the Rod," by Rev. William Cooper, which details techniques for spanking delinquents with a rod.

Those are just a few of the gems to be found at the store owned by Bob Van Norman and his wife Erin Van Norman. They opened the store in early July at 519 Main St. with roughly 15,000 rare books and collectibles that Bob Van Norman collected over a more than 50-year period.

Bob Van Norman, 68, said he started collecting books when he was still in high school, and it became a lifelong passion.

"When I was 17, I told someone that I was interested in reading and going to law school and that sort of thing," he said. "That person took me to her home, got a ladder out, went up into her attic and gave me old, leather-covered law books. I had no idea if they were worth anything, but it started there. I loved the smell, I loved the touch."

That love affair with all things bound continues today. Van Norman showed off one of his latest acquisitions called, "La Perspective Pratique De L'architecture," a guide to French architecture in the 18th century written by Louis Bretez that was published in 1751. Van Norman said it hasn't been priced yet because while the interior of the book is in excellent shape, the exterior is not.

Spend five minutes talking to Van Norman and it becomes obvious that he is a voracious reader.

One of his favorite books is "The Life Work of 'Farmer' Burns," published in 1911, which tells the story of wrestler Martin, "Farmer" Burns. According to the book, Burns traveled to various towns to demonstrate his physical talents and his feats of strength, Van Norman said. Apparently the strength of Burns' neck was so legendary that townspeople would pay to watch him be hanged and survive the drop thanks to his sheer strength.

When he talks about "Outwitting History," an autobiography of Aaron Lansky, one can hear the admiration in Van Norman's voice. As a college student, Lansky and some friends basically drove around and collected books written in Yiddish. Lansky eventually collected more than a million books written in Yiddish and became the founder of the Yiddish Book Center. Though they have never met, Van Norman admires Lansky since he also places a high value on history.

The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas from 1933 at Van Norman Rare Books Literary treasures abound in rare book store


The store hasn't been open for too long, but many of its sales have been to a mixture of teachers, librarians, tourists and lawyers, he said.

Although Van Norman's book collection makes up the lion's share of the merchandise, he also has various portraits, paintings, and other collectibles he acquired during his extensive travels, such as a handmade desk set made in Bulgaria that he bought when he lived in Uzbekistan. There's also a fossilized dinosaur egg from China.

Van Norman, who said he has visited 57 countries, also greatly enjoys telling stories of how he came upon certain pieces of his collection. He couldn't stop smiling as he recounted a tale of how he acquired a movie card of "The Lone Ranger," signed by the original lone ranger, Clayton Moore.

"I was in Buenos Aires two years ago in Argentina when I went into this junk shop," he said. "The guy spoke no English, just a Spanish variant, so I started humming the 'William Tell Overture,' he joined in, clapped me on the back and gave me a good deal."

He said the store will probably have an online option for people to purchase books, but he greatly prefers selling books to people in person. It's more enjoyable when a person can see and touch a book and maybe chat about the piece before any sale is made.

"I've bought a few things online to fill out the collection, but it's not as much fun," he said.

Plenty of books can be called rare, because they're hard to find, but those aren't works Van Norman is interested in. Van Norman said he is interested in books that are rare — and valuable.

"A rare book is one that has value beyond the pages and cover," he said.

The fame of the author, the public's appreciation of the work, quality of the content, its age and condition — those all contribute to a book's value, he said. Ideally it is a first-print, first-edition copy of the work to qualify. Other factors can contribute to a book's value and rarity, such as if it's signed by the author, or was later censored.

The prices of the items in the shop range from $15 to $5,000. The shop has first-print, first-edition copies of extremely recent works for people who might want collect them as an investment. If enough time passes and the author becomes famous enough, the original print run of a classic book can reach well into the tens of thousands of dollars.

For example, the original copy of the James Bond book, "Moonraker," by Ian Fleming is worth $15,000. An original copy of Harper Lee's classic, "To Kill a Mockingbird," is worth $15,000 to $20,000, he said.

Van Norman's primary occupation is as a criminal defense attorney, so his wife, Erin Van Norman, often runs the day-to-day affairs at the store.

"We want to sell people who will have an appreciation for the written word," Erin Van Norman said. "just like we do."

The shop is open on Tuesday from 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.. Wednesday from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursdays from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., Fridays from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from Noon to 6 p.m. It is closed on Sundays and Mondays.

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Rare, Signed James Joyce Dubliners Comes to Auction

Source: Independent IE

joyce Rare, Signed James Joyce Dubliners Comes to Auction

James Joyce

A rare signed first edition copy of Joyce's Dubliners is set up fetch up to €60,000 when it comes up for auction at Sotheby's in London next month.

The book was signed by Joyce while he was staying in Torquay, Devon, on August 4, 1929, and it was presented by him to Jacob Schwartz, proprietor of the Ulysses Bookshop in London.

On the inside cover, Joyce wrote: "To Jacob Schwarz (sic) James Joyce."

A spokesperson for Sotheby's told the Sunday Independent: "Despite Joyce's slight misspelling, the recipient (of the book) is almost certainly the proprietor of the Ulysses Bookshop in London, Jacob Schwartz. There are several references to Schwartz in Joyce's letters where Joyce omits the letter 't'."

First edition copies of Dubliners signed by Joyce are particularly rare and only two other signed copies of the book have been sold at auctions in the last 40 years.

The copy is coming up for sale at Sotheby's in London on July 15.

Joyce signed Schwartz's copy of Dubliners during the writer's two month holiday at the Imperial Hotel, Torquay, with lover and Connemara baker's daughter, Nora Barnacle.

Joyce sig Rare, Signed James Joyce Dubliners Comes to Auction

Signed Dubliners by Joyce

Sotheby's said: "They were accompanied by Stuart and Moune Gilbert and were joined there by friends from time to time, many of whom cheered Joyce by the praise which they lavished on him."

In his award-winning biography of Joyce, the late Richard Ellmann recalls Joyce's stay in Torquay: "In his usual deliberate, though seemingly desultory way, Joyce read a series of strange newspapers and magazines. During the afternoons he lay on the beach, as he loved to do, fingering the pebbles for texture and weight. Occasionally he had a rush of energy and during one of these vaulted over a wall, but fell (because his sight was poor) on the other side, hurting his arm. In the evenings he went with (Stuart) Gilbert to local pubs, sipping a little cider (which he did not like) but mainly listening to several conversations at once and, to Gilbert's wonder, following them all."

The imminent sale of the signed copy of Dubliners neatly coincides with the centenary this month of the book's publication in June 1914.

When a signed copy of Dubliners last came up for sale at an auction it fetched STG£105,000 at Sotheby's in London on December 12, 2012.

The only other signed copy to come up for sale at an auction in the last 40 years sold for $230,000 at Christie's in New York on October 11,2002.

Schwartz privately published Joyce's 'James Clarence Mangan' under the Ulysses Bookshop imprint in 1930.

He was also the purchaser of the 'complete and final' proofs of Ulysses.

- See more at:

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Declaration Of Independence Written By Jefferson

Source: Gothamist

Declaration of Independence Declaration Of Independence Written By Jefferson
(courtesy of Jonathan Blanc / The New York Public Library)

Many years ago, July 4th meant more than returning fireworks to the East River. To commemorate the humble origins of our country, the New York Public Library will display a rare copy of the Declaration of Independence written in longhand by Thomas Jefferson.

Jefferson wrote the Declaration in Philadelphia between June 11 and June 28, 1776, at the age of 33. His editors were John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Robert Livingston, and Roger Sherman, and they decided to cut a large section of his original version that condemns the Crown's support of slavery (Franklin also replaced Jefferson's "sacred & undeniable" with "self-evident" because Franklin apparently had a keen eye for purple prose).

With the slavery-addicted states appeased, the Declaration was completed on July 1, and ratified by the Continental Congress on July 4th.

Upset by the redactions, Jefferson dashed off copies of his original version to his friends, with the axed language underlined. The NYPL's copy, written in iron gall ink, is believed to be one sent to Jefferson's former law professor, George Wythe. Jefferson also discussed the edits in his autobiography:

The pusillanimous idea that we had friends in England worth keeping terms with still haunted the minds of many. For this reason, those passages which conveyed censures on the people of England were struck out, lest they should give them offense. The clause, too, reprobating the enslaving the inhabitants of Africa was struck out in complaisance to South Carolina and Georgia, who had never attempted to restrain the importation of slaves, and who, on the contrary, still wished to continue it. Our Northern brethren also, I believe, felt a little tender under these censures, for though their people had very few slaves themselves, yet they had been pretty considerable carriers of them to others.<B>
The NYPL's copy, displayed at the Celeste Bartos Forum at the Libary's main location, will also be present at the naturalization ceremony for 150 immigrants taking place on July 2.<B>
You can look at this ancient text and ponder the ironies of a slave-holding member of the aristocracy expounding on the ideals of freedom and liberty in language that is now used by a cabal of Supreme Court justices to essentially disenfranchise the public, at the following times:

Friday, June 27: 10 a.m. to 5:45 p.m.
Saturday, June 28: 10 a.m. to 5:45 p.m.
Sunday, June 29: 1 p.m. to 4:45 p.m.
Monday, June 30: 10 a.m. to 7:45 p.m.
Tuesday, July 1: 10 a.m. to 7:45 p.m.
Wednesday, July 2: 2 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Thursday, July 3: 10 a.m. to 5:45 p.m.

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Online Shopping From My Shops

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Yup, This Book Really Is Bound in Human Skin

New tests prove what librarians have long believed: this book's cover is made of human skin.

Bound in Human Skin Yup, This Book Really Is Bound in Human Skin

Source: The Atlantic
Alexis C. Madrigal

:As regular readers may know, I announced that three books from the Harvard Library were bound in human skin. I then posted a retraction when that was found not to be the case on 2 of the books. Well, as it turns out, the third book is the real thing. I, personally, find this topic a bit disgusting and amazingly interesting fascinating. Here is the article from the Atlantic in its entirety. It would be worth a look at the Atlantic site to read the comments. You will find a link near the beginning of this post as well as at its end.

Surely, you've seen our recent work on anthropodermic bibliopegy, the early modern practice of binding books in human skin?

No? Well, a quick refresher: some books, since the 16th century but before our own time, were bound in human skin. Why? "The confessions of criminals were occasionally bound in the skin of the convicted," Harvard librarian Heather Cole explained, "or an individual might request to be memorialized for family or lovers in the form of a book."

Qué romantico!

Anyway, we know it happened because people refer to it happening in the literature of the time, and also because some books bore inscriptions that literally said that they were bound in skin.

But such tomes are suspect. You can't just trust anyone who says they've bound a book in human skin. For example, one had this inscription, but turned out to be stupid sheepskin:

The bynding of this booke is all that remains of my dear friende Jonas Wright, who was flayed alive by the Wavuma on the Fourth Day of August, 1632. King Mbesa did give me the book, it being one of poore Jonas chiefe possessions, together with ample of his skin to bynd it.
And so, I am happy to report, the Houghton Library's copy of Arsène Houssaye’s Des destinées de l’ame "is without a doubt bound in human skin," Cole, who is the assistant curator of modern nooks and manuscripts at the library, reports in a new blog post. (Des destinées de l’ame, by the way, translates to The destiny of the soul.)

And how do we know for sure this time, as opposed to taking the word of some creative bookbinder? The book, which had already attracted the attention of a Harvard dermatologist, was tested by the Harvard Mass Spectrometry and Proteomics Resource Laboratory. Basically, you create a profile of proteins in the putative human skin, then you run the same test for reference samples of human skin, sheepskin, goatskin, leather (i.e. cow skin). Whatever it matches up with the best: that's what your binding is made of.

So... "The [test result] from Des destinées de l’ame matched the human reference, and clearly eliminated other common parchment sources, such as sheep, cattle and goat," said Bill Lane, the director of the Harvard laboratory.

Perhaps the book is cold, or just read some RL Stine? (JAMA Dermatology)
But there was still a catch! "Although the [test] was consistent with human, other closely related primates, such as the great apes and gibbons, could not be eliminated because of the lack of necessary references.”

So, then, they ran the putative skin binding through a second test, this time Liquid Chromatography-Tandem Mass Spectrometry (LCMSMS). And that brought Lane to the conclusion that it is "very unlikely that the source could be other than human."

We now know, then, that this book is the real deal, and the only one of three Harvard books thought to be bound in human skin that has had its reputation survive scientific testing. Which makes its inscription, always creepy, even more so:

“This book is bound in human skin parchment on which no ornament has been stamped to preserve its elegance. By looking carefully you easily distinguish the pores of the skin. A book about the human soul deserved to have a human covering: I had kept this piece of human skin taken from the back of a woman.
He goes on, but I think that gives you the idea."

Source: The Atlantic
Alexis C. Madrigal

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Patricia Ahern of Quill and Brush Passes Away

pat and allen Patricia Ahern of Quill and Brush Passes Away

I am sorry to have to tell you of the death of Patricia Ahearn, beloved wife of Allen Ahearn of Quill and Brush Books. I have always admired the Ahearns for their considerable knowledge of books and the "book world" but also because of their kindness. When I was just beginning my site, her4e, I came across an article written by the ahearns that I wanted to share with my raders. I contacted them at Quill and Brush and asked if I may republish it here for my readers. They both, very kindly, said yes. It still resides on page 24 of this site (as of today). Id you'd like to read that early article, you may find it HERE

The Quill & Brush was established in 1976 as an outgrowth of a part-time business run by Allen and Patricia Ahearn who started collecting and cataloging books in the early 1960s. The Ahearns have over 45 years of experience in the field. The Quill & Brush was operated by Allen and Pat and their daughter, Beth Fisher.

The Quill & Brush specializes in first editions of literature, mystery/detective fiction and poetry, as well as collectible books in all fields. The firm focuses mainly on books published from the middle of the 19th century to the present. Their stock of over 15,000 books is housed in a beautiful library in the Ahearns' home, nestled in the woods at the base of scenic Sugarloaf Mountain in Maryland. The Quill & Brush issues catalogs, offers books on the internet and at book fairs, and invites customers to visit the library Monday through Saturday by appointment.

Allen and Pat Ahearn are the authors of Collected Books: The Guide to Values (4th, revised and enlarged edition published in 2011), Book Collecting 2000 (Putnam: 2000) and over 200 individual Author Price Guides, all of which require they keep current on the market prices for collectible books and make them uniquely qualified to offer professional appraisal services and to establish fair prices when purchasing books or libraries.

The Quill & Brush is unique in its proud adherence to their long-standing, stated policy of accepting the return from a collector of any book at any time (in the same condition in which it was sold to them) for full store credit of the original purchase price. Their goal is to offer the finest copies of books available at a fair market price.

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As Publishers Fight Amazon, Books Vanish

Source: Bits, NY Times

As of Friday morning, the paperback edition of Brad Stone’s “The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon” — a book Amazon disliked so much it denounced it — was listed as “unavailable.”

Amazon’s power over the publishing and bookselling industries is unrivaled in the modern era. Now it has started wielding its might in a more brazen way than ever before.

Seeking ever-higher payments from publishers to bolster its anemic bottom line, Amazon is holding books and authors hostage on two continents by delaying shipments and raising prices. The literary community is fearful and outraged — and practically begging for government intervention.

“How is this not extortion? You know, the thing that is illegal when the Mafia does it,” asked Dennis Loy Johnson of Melville House, echoing remarks being made across social media.

Amazon is, as usual, staying mum. “We talk when we have something to say,” Jeffrey P. Bezos, the founder and chief executive, said at the company’s annual meeting this week.

The battle is being waged largely over physical books. In the United States, Amazon has been discouraging customers from buying titles from Hachette, the fourth-largest publisher by market share. Late Thursday, it escalated the dispute by making it impossible to order Hachette titles being issued this summer and fall. It is using some of the same tactics against the Bonnier Media Group in Germany.

But the real prize is control of e-books, the future of publishing.

Publishers tried to rein in Amazon once, and got slapped with a federal antitrust suit for their efforts. Amazon was not directly a party to the case but has reaped the rewards in increased market power. Now it wants to increase its share of the digital proceeds. The publishers, weighing a slide into irrelevance if not nonexistence, are trying to hold the line.

Late Friday afternoon, Hachette made by far its strongest comment on the conflict.

“We are determined to protect the value of our authors’ books and our own work in editing, distributing and marketing them,” said Sophie Cottrell, a Hachette senior vice president. “We hope this difficult situation will not last a long time, but we are sparing no effort and exploring all options.”

The Authors Guild accused the retailer of acting illegally.

“Amazon clearly has substantial market power and is abusing that market power to maintain and increase its dominance, which likely violates Section 2 of the Sherman Antitrust Act,” said Jan Constantine, the Guild’s general counsel.

Independent booksellers, meanwhile, announced they could supply Hachette books immediately. The second-largest physical chain, Books-a-Million, advertised 30 percent discounts on select coming Hachette titles. Among the publisher’s imprints are Grand Central Publishing, Orbit and Little, Brown.

Amazon is also flexing its muscles in Germany, delaying deliveries of books from Bonnier.

“It appears that Amazon is doing exactly that on the German market which it has been doing on the U.S. market: using its dominant position in the market to blackmail the publishers,” said Alexander Skipis, president of the German Publishers and Booksellers Association.

The association said its antitrust experts were examining whether Amazon’s tactics violated the law.

“Of course it is very comfortable for customers to be able to order over the Internet, 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” Mr. Skipis said. “But with such an online structure as pursued by Amazon, a book market is being destroyed that has been nurtured over decades and centuries.”

Christian Schumacher-Gebler, chief executive for Bonnier in Germany, said the group’s leading publishing houses noticed delays in deliveries of some of its books several weeks ago and confronted the retailer.

“Amazon confirmed to us that these delays are directly related to the ongoing negotiations over conditions in the electronic book market,” Mr. Schumacher-Gebler said.

The retailer began refusing orders late Thursday for coming Hachette books, including J. K. Rowling’s new novel, published under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith.

In some cases, even the web pages promoting the books have disappeared. Anne Rivers Siddons’s new novel, “The Girls of August,” coming in July, no longer has a page for the physical book or even the Kindle edition. Only the audio edition is still being sold (for more than $30).

The Girls of August As Publishers Fight Amazon, Books Vanish

The confrontations with the publishers are the biggest display of Amazon’s dominance since it briefly stripped another publisher, Macmillan, of its “buy” buttons in 2010. It seems likely to encourage debate about the concentration of power by the retailer. No firm in American history has exerted the control over the American book market — physical, digital and secondhand — that Amazon does.

James Patterson, one of the country’s best-selling writers, described the confrontation between Amazon and Hachette as “a war.”

“Bookstores, libraries, authors, and books themselves are caught in the crossfire of an economic war,” he wrote on Facebook. “If this is the new American way, then maybe it has to be changed — by law, if necessary — immediately, if not sooner.”

Mr. Patterson’s novels due to be released this summer and fall are now impossible to buy from Amazon in either print or digital form.

Hachette, which is owned by the French conglomerate Lagardère, was one of the publishers in the antitrust case, which involved e-book prices. But even before that, relations between the retailer and the publisher have been tense. Hachette made the case to Washington regulators in 2009 that Amazon was having a detrimental effect on publishing, but got nowhere.

For several months, Amazon has been quietly discouraging the sales of Hachette’s physical books by several techniques — cutting the customer’s discount so the book approached list price, taking weeks to ship the book, suggesting that prospective customers buy other books instead and increasing the discount for the Kindle version.

Amazon has millions of members in its Prime club, who get fast shipping. This was, as Internet wits quickly called it, the “UnPrime” approach.

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The Map Thief: Rare-Map Dealer Who Made Millions Stealing Priceless Maps

Publication Date is to be May 29, 2014. If yaw'll are interested, I could put up a forum and we could all read it together.

Map Thief The Map Thief: Rare Map Dealer Who Made Millions Stealing Priceless Maps

The Map Thief The Map Thief: Rare Map Dealer Who Made Millions Stealing Priceless Maps

The story of an infamous crime, a revered map dealer with an unsavory secret, and the ruthless subculture that consumed him

Once considered a respectable antiquarian map dealer, E. Forbes Smiley spent years doubling as a map thief —until he was finally arrested slipping maps out of books in the Yale University library. The Map Thief delves into the untold history of this fascinating high-stakes criminal and the inside story of the industry that consumed him.

Acclaimed reporter Michael Blanding has interviewed all the key players in this stranger-than-fiction story, and shares the fascinating histories of maps that charted the New World, and how they went from being practical instruments to quirky heirlooms to highly coveted objects. Though pieces of the map theft story have been written before, Blanding is the first reporter to explore the story in full—and had the rare privilege of having access to Smiley himself after he’d gone silent in the wake of his crimes. Moreover, although Smiley swears he has admitted to all of the maps he stole, libraries claim he stole hundreds more—and offer intriguing clues to prove it. Now, through a series of exclusive interviews with Smiley and other key individuals, Blanding teases out an astonishing tale of destruction and redemption.

The Map Thief interweaves Smiley’s escapades with the stories of the explorers and mapmakers he knew better than anyone. Tracking a series of thefts as brazen as the art heists in Provenance and a subculture as obsessive as the oenophiles in The Billionaire’s Vinegar, Blanding has pieced together an unforgettable story of high-stakes crime.

Please let me know in your comments below if you would like to have a forum on this site...

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