Monday, July 26, 2010

A Market for High-End Books

Via The Wall Street Journal

For $75,000, you can buy a piece of Indian cricket star Sachin Tendulkar.

Luxury publisher Kraken Opus mixed in a pint of Mr. Tendulkar's blood with paper pulp to create the signature page for a book celebrating the renowned batsman's career. The 10 limited-edition copies, which comes out in February, cost $75,000 each and have already sold out.

Kraken is one of a handful of high-end publishing houses that are pushing the boundaries of extravagance and novelty in the luxury book market. Such books are being treated as investments and sometimes commanding prices usually reserved for original art works.

Earlier this year, Taschen Books sold pieces of the moon with 12 copies of its massive photography book on the lunar landing (one of the lunar-rock editions sold for $112,500). Taschen previously published a $7,500, 800-page book on Muhammad Ali, "GOAT" (for "greatest of all time"), that comes with four signed photographs of the boxer and a sculpture by Jeff Koons.

"No one says, 'I want to download the e-edition of this book,' " says book analyst Michael Norris of research firm Simba Information. "If it's a physical object that's beautifully done, people see the value."

Kraken plans to charge $40,000 for a forthcoming book about the Ferrari automobile—a sum that could purchase an actual car, albeit a more prosaic one. The book features rare images of Enzo Ferrari's villa and action inside Formula One racing pits, plus the signatures of all living Ferrari champion drivers.

Still, the resale market for high-end collectible books remains somewhat murky and difficult to track. Major auction houses such as Christie's and Sotheby's don't sell such works at their book auctions, which include rare manuscripts and first editions. Bonhams does auction new limited-edition books—with mixed results, it says. Taschen's books often turn up on eBay for several times the purchase price, but newer luxury publishers say it's too early to gauge a secondary market for their books.

Founder Benedikt Taschen, a former comic-book-store owner from Cologne, Germany, says he takes inspiration from 18th- and 19th-century European book makers whose large-format illustrated manuscripts were viewed as rare works of art rather than mass-produced profit-makers.

Read the entire article here.

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