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An 'Antiques Roadshow' for books?

August 21, 2009 |  3:37 pm


Take the scene above -- from a North Carolina episode of the PBS television program "Antiques Roadshow" -- and replace all those jade objects with books. Just books.

That's an idea being bandied about by the British Booksellers and Publishers Assns. It's tangentially connected to a larger, not-entirely-popular initiative in the works tentatively called Bookaholism, which will  attempt to create a recognizable Bookaholic brand for all British booksellers. How good (or lousy) an idea this may be is beyond me. Mostly because I am just too excited about the idea of an all-books "Antiques Roadshow." Which is, admittedly, just an idea.

It's not that "Antiques Roadshow" doesn't already do books. There was a signed 1891 copy of Oscar Wilde's "The Picture of Dorian Gray" (worth $8,000 to $12,000) in Reno, Nev. The first edition of  "Anne of Green Gables" found in Providence, R.I., worth $12,000 to $18,000. "Roll, Jordan, Roll" from Memphis was full of high-end photogravures worth $15,000 to $20,000.

As much as I love the show's furniture, glassware and memorabilia, I admit I'd be thrilled to watch an all-books version. Call me a bookaholic if you must.

But these values illuminate something: What makes a book a book is still more than its content. "Anne of Green Gables" would be as beloved in an e-book version -- but would it fetch more than $10,000? Apparently we value holding a book in our hands that Oscar Wilde once held in his. Will an e-book ever of bring us that kind of resonance?

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: "Antiques Roadshow." Credit: Jeff Dunn / Associated Press