Alice, Ebay and old books

Good morning bookies! It’s Tuesday, stand by for news and comment.

Note to my loyal readers: sorry about no blog yesterday, I hadn’t realized the level of addiction for some of you. I’ll try to do better in the future.

*** Ebay continues to crumble and the word is spreading. Sure, you see local news stories about selling stuff on Ebay in this down economy, just as I saw one yesterday. But, weirdly, it was almost like the news-bot knew it was an obligatory story, that they didn’t believe it and didn’t expect us to, either.

In the bigger world there continue to be more and more media picking up on the hard facts of Ebay’s continuing collapse, as evidenced by the linked story. If you want the stats, here they are. Wow, even I hadn’t realized how bad this was becoming.

John Donahoe’s vision of perfection is a site with zero traffic

*** Antiquarian books are fascinating. The effort necessary to print a book in the centuries before the modern era was so great that it’s a wonder so many were, in fact, printed. When you visit one of the great libraries of the world, such as Trinity College in Dublin or Melk Abbey in Austria, the experience is so overwhelming that you cannot really comprehend what you are seeing. Thousands upon thousands of carefully crafted books from centuries long past, each with its own unique history, with notes in the marginalia and the endpapers from users long gone, so many detective stories waiting to be investigated. It’s too much for one brief visit, as on a tour.

So when your friendly neighborhood bookseller runs across a story like the one linked below he is naturally drawn to it. One such book is a different matter, one story to be discovered and admired is something the mind can decipher. And I’m so thankful there are still places in the world that value this knowledge and are willing to protect it for the future.

The Breviarium Ratisponense was printed in Strasbourg, Germany, in 1482. 10 years before Columbus was exploring. This book existed before anyone in Europe knew that American existed. Amazing.

Canadians acquire a very old and rare religious tome

*** Today’s World War II book review (it does seem like there’s a new book daily, doesn’t it?) concerns Kristillnacht, the Night of Broken Crystal in November, 1938, when the Nazis really turned up the meter on their ‘Persecute-the-Jews’ machine. Destroying buildings, burning books, killing and incarcerating people, this highly-orchestrated ‘spur-of-the-moment’ supposed national outrage at the murder of a low-ranking diplomat in Paris by a Jewish teenager turned out to be a fiasco for the Nazis, at least in the PR department. Aside from the enormous material losses to a country that was for from rich to begin with, the nationwide pogrom made it clear to even the most sympathetic Nazi apologists that these guys were out of control.

The Shards of Kristillnacht by Mitchell Bard is a re-examination of that seminal moment in time when the Western World finally began to wake to the dangers of the Nazis.

Kristallnacht under the microscope

*** Playwright William Gibson has died aged 94, reports AP. He is best known for The Miracle Worker, which in turn is best known for the film adaptation that projected Patty Duke into stardom.

*** Now that his parents are both gone, Christopher Buckley is taking his chance to cash in before their memories fade. He wrote Losing Mom and Pop and, frankly, warns that the book isn’t going to be all that pretty. Indeed, the early word makes it sounds like a bashing of his parents, which will no doubt sell a lot of books to people like Gore Vidal, who can’t get enough of bashing William F. Buckley and humanity in general.

Christopher worked at his father’s magazine, National Review, wrote essentially conservative books and articles and generally sounded like his father’s son, until his father passed away. Then, overnight, he made it known that none of that was really him, that is was all a facade. He had never really believed any of that stuff, he was just making dad happy. Sure gives him credibility in my book.

Christopher Buckley trades his parents memory for cold, hard cash

Note: re-reading this it sounds pretty harsh, so maybe I’m being unfair. If so, well, mea culpa.

*** Amazon has completed their acquisition of ABEbooks. For this one I don’t need a link: as an ABE seller of more than 10 years I view the companies assertion that ‘nothing will change’ as both a skeptic, and one who hopes it isn’t true. Because the truth is that ABE is a mess and has been for a long time. Sellers have no idea what is coming next, the fees are outrageously high and there is absolutely no consistency, no vision. Will Amazon change this? I don’t see why they would, unless it’s to increase fees even more. Will any good come of this? Probably not. But in the end it is doubtful that it matters, ABE just isn’t the force that it once was.

*** J.K. Rowling’s latest book, The Tales of Beetle the Bard, hits stores Thursday and I could not be more glad. It’s not that I’m a Harry Potter-ite: I haven’t read the books and don’t intend to do so, although I enjoy the movies. But anything that keeps people reading, especially young people, is fine by me, especially when it is also educational. Take the title of her latest, for example. The word ‘bard’ is probably unknown to most younger people, and while the lyric quality sounds nice in the title, there is no doubt that readers will want to know exactly what a ‘bard’ is. Good stuff, I hope she sells a billion copies, even better that the proceeds to to charity.

*** Lastly, in the books-I-would-love-to-own category, The Folio Society, in conjunction with The British Library, is issuing two new versions of the original Alice’s Adventures Underground by Lewis Carroll. Either would be nice, but the leather Folio Society version is delightful.

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