It’s often said that a writer’s job is to bleed on the page, but so-called luxury publisher Kraken Opus seems to have taken that mantra a bit too seriously. As reported in The Wall Street Journal last week, a pint of blood from Indian cricket star Sachin Tendulkar was mixed with paper pulp to produce the signature page for a book about his cricket prowess. The book was limited to an edition of only ten copies, which are offered at the staggering price of $75,000 a pop. Apparently all ten copies are spoken for, so it’s too late for the rest of us.
The article details a number of other luxury collector’s editions that have recently been released:
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.”
Is this the traditional publishers answer to the coming e-tsunami? They could offer books bound directly by the author. Or those that feature a few handwritten pages, each slightly unique. Or for writers who also have at least a snippet of artistic talent, the doodle could replace a signature on the title page. All of it, of course, would be available as an extremely limited–and pricey–collector’s edition.
Publishers like Subterranean Press have long been producing higher quality, collector’s editions for well-known science fiction and fantasy authors. But their prices cap out at around $500 and often don’t get much above $50. Are they being too modest? Could they charge a small fortune by producing truly customized editions? Of course, limited-edition, pricey titles will only work for well-established authors. Most of the luxury books mentioned in the article feature celebrities, not writers at all. The rest of us are challenged to even give our words away, gratis.
I’ve often thought that as competition for ebooks heats up, paper books are going to compete by getting nicer. This type of personal touch is a possibility, and could well create a small safe haven for publishers, not the meat-and-potatoes type of safe haven, but maybe a little icing on the cake. I just hope that the blood in wood pulp thing doesn’t catch on as a full-fledged trend.