18 October 2010

Stieg Larsson revisited...

Last week Stieg Larsson was the best selling fiction writer at Amazon UK occupying positions 1,2, and 3. He has just been toppled by Howard Jacobson's Booker Prize winner The Finkler Question. This is a clear demonstration of the power of the Booker - normally it is hard to give away Howard's books. The Larsson books also topped the important Travelodge 2010 charts as the most frequently left behind books in their hotels. However are collector's prices for the books still holding up?. With, a similar world bestseller The Da Vinci Code the price collapsed because the first edition was over 100,000 - when sellers substantially outnumber buyers prices fall, somes precipitously. The first printing in hardback of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was said to be 10,000; given the book's popularity this is a small enough run to justify prices at the £400+ level.

A near fine copy made £276 in auction at Key's Norfolk last month and copies on Ebay have surpassed $700. These prices are for the London 2008 first edition, the U.S. edition being surprisingly common. On ABE an Oxfam shop wants £550 for a copy ('…offered at less than usual asking price because the dust jacket has one nick on back edge, otherwise as new and apparently unread…') and the cheapest fine copy is £650. At a punchy £795 a fine copy is touted as '…one for the Pension Fund!…' although his puff '…third and final book is due to be released later this year and movies are set to follow…' lets you know it has been sitting there for a year. Mention of pension funds is, of course, a real noli tangere for the astute book buyer.

The most expensive Stieg on the market is The  Girl with the Dragon Tattoo  signed by the immortal Reg Keeland, the translator. The book has also been there many months, possibly explained by the phantasmagoric price of £8999.  A larcenous price (you might say)  but it is not totally impossible that someone might fall for it. It could go this Christmas fuelled by the round of painfully high bonuses investment bankers are giving themselves. If some of the grateful recipients had seen their CEO ploughing through the Millennium Trilogy in the back of his Bentley they might have a whip round for the Reg Keesland copy at  £8999 + postage.  If the ungrateful tycoon passed it on to his chauffeur who discreetly put it  on Ebay it would probably make  about £1200, a useful sum but a £7779 loss.

The trouble is that a translator's signature just doesn't cut it --unless he was someone in his own right. Sadly Stieg had died before the books appeared so ever optimistic sellers figure this is the next best thing for those who simply must have a signed copy.  OUTLOOK?  Good. They are excellent books, the finest of Scando crime fiction and there is a huge global audience. There have been excellent subtitled Swedish films and Daniel Craig is pegged to play the leftist journalist / sleuth Blomkvist in blockbuster versions. The money is really all in the first book, the second can be had for around £100 --although it appears as a buy it now at Ebay at $750. This eager Ebay seller notes that the first Hollywood film will appear on December 21, 2011 and that Tattoo is the first book to pass the million mark in Kindle downloads….If the movies are lousy (Blomkvist is not Bond) and people get fed up with the book's ubiquity prices may flatten or even fall.
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