The Booky Man: Holiday Ends and Odds

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Consider this Booky Man column a stocking stuffer. We’ve got a couple of bookish subjects to cover that don’t neatly fit into a single category. Here goes.

Books for hire

Are you a Netflix fan? You know Netflix—you go online, choose your favorite movie (Ingmar Bergman, say) and have it shipped to your home. You fall asleep in front of it multiple times, then ship it back after attempted viewings. No DVDs to clutter up the house more than a few days.

Now there’s a Netflix for books. For as little as $10 (the damage for two medium lattes at one of those coffee cabanas), BookSwim members (aka Bookswimmers) can rent copies of their must-reads, including newly released hardback novels and nonfiction best-sellers. Members can choose one book a month—or select a plan for multiple books—then have good old UPS drop them at the front door. Readers return their books (free) afterward, and presto! No chunky, dusty, heavy, previously used time-machines-between-covers to clutter up the house.

You might also enjoy visiting a nearby book store.

Gold in them thar shelves

Writers! Readers! Think there’s no money in books?

Best sit down.

Profiles in History, the nation’s leading dealer in guaranteed-authentic original historical autographs, letters, documents, vintage signed photographs and manuscripts, etc, scheduled a million-dollar (projected) auction on December 16.

Objects for bid—a prized collection of unique children’s literature—came from the collection of one Pat McInally, a former National Football League punter and wide receiver (Cincinnati Bengals, 1976-1985). McInally attended Harvard, played in a Pro Bowl and a Super Bowl, then made a bundle after conceiving the Starting Lineup series of action figures, a top seller for Kenner.

McInally’s 20-year collection of children’s books (with anticipated auction price ranges) included:

Alice Liddell’s personal copy of Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There ($100,000-$150,000). Liddell was the “real” Alice of Charles Dodgson’s (aka Lewis Carroll) Alice in Wonderland books.

Beatrix Potter’s own copy of The Tale of Peter Rabbit, with a personal inscription ($80,000-$120,000).

A first edition, first text copy of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz ($40,000-$60,000).

A first edition of Goldfinger, inscribed by author Ian Fleming to William Plomer, the chap to whom Fleming dedicated the book ($60,000-$80,000).

Limited edition copies of Winnie the Pooh, The House at Pooh Corner and Now We Are Six, all inscribed by author A.A. Milne and illustrator Ernest H. Shepard ($20,000-$50,000 each).

A first edition of The Time Machine: An Invention, inscribed by author H.G. Wells, ($20,000-$30,000).

The moral? Go out right away and hop into a time machine or walk to the other side of a mirror. Do your best there to find out which books will be worth gazillions in the future. Get authors to sign those books. Have a nice auction. Retire.

Side note: Books may be nice and all, but they don’t hold a candle to some impossibly expensive Hollywood items auctioned by Profiles in History.

That company brought down the gavel on the Cowardly Lion’s costume from “The Wizard of Oz” a few years back for a cool $805,000. Luke Skywalker’s light saber went to some lucky bidder for $240,000. The command chair from the U.S.S. Enterprise sold for $304,750.

Beam me up, Scotty. It’s crazy down here.

Charles McNair is Paste‘s books editor. His novel Land o’ Goshen was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.