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Jane Austen's unfinished manuscript goes up for auction

Janeausten_file Jane Austen's novels are so beloved that her fans debate which is best. "Emma" or "Pride and Prejudice"? "Sense and Sensibility" or "Persuasion," or the underappreciated "Mansfield Park" or "Northanger Abbey"? 

Seldom does anyone stand up for "The Watsons."

"The Watsons" is not just overlooked: It's unpublished. It was begun, then abandoned, by Austen in 1804, after she'd drafted "Sense and Sensibility" but seven years before its publication.

Austen got about one-fourth of the way through the manuscript of "The Watsons" before abandoning the manuscript.

The bulk of those pages, written in Austen's hand and with her edits and changes, will be auctioned in a single lot Thursday by Sotheby's in New York.

"It's very much a working draft," Gabriel Heaton, a Sotheby's staffer, told the Wall Street Journal. "You can see how her mind was moving -- how she's refining and sharpening her text as she revises."

The first 12 pages of "The Watsons" are at New York's Morgan Library and Museum. The rest of the unfinished manuscript will be auctioned Thursday. It is the last Austen manuscript to be held by a private collection.

The manuscript is expected to sell for $330,000 to $490,000.

If you haven't got that much pound silver, don't fret. "The Watsons" pages, which were on deposit at Queen Mary, University of London, have been digitized. They're online -- remarkably, with the rest of her fiction manuscripts -- in a complete unified digital collection, Jane Austen Manuscripts, available to scholars and to fans.


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Literary letters for auction at Sotheby's

Do you want a XXX Jane Austen?

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Image: A depiction of Jane Austen. Credit: File

Amazon drops California associates to avoid state sales tax


This post has been corrected. See note at bottom for details.

Amazon.com dropped about 10,000 California-based associate sales partners late Wednesday so that it would not be forced to collect California state sales tax on purchases made through them. The tax is new and was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday as part of a plan to close a gap in the 2011-12 budget.

As passed, the law requires large out-of-state retailers to collect sales taxes on purchases that California customers make on the Internet. Those taxes were lowered by 1 percentage point to ease the implementation.

What Amazon expects to gain from cutting off its sales partners is "not entirely clear," the San Francisco Chronicle writes.

Amazon's associates, better known as affiliates or marketing affiliates, use Amazon to help sell their products and either pay a percentage of each sale to Amazon or collect a small commission from Amazon on each sale, depending on the arrangement....

Apart from losing the income generated by the affiliates, the company would still have to pay sales taxes on goods purchased by Californians directly from its site, assuming the law stands up to likely legal challenges.

Connecticut, Illinois, New York, North Carolina, Arkansas and Rhode Island have all passed similar laws requiring Internet retailers to collect sales tax -- sometimes called an "Amazon tax" -- and Amazon responded by dropping its associate partners in those states, CNN Money reported.

Only in New York state, which also passed a similar measure, has Amazon not dropped its associates; there, it has challenged the law in court.

"It's odd that a company would voluntarily dilute its business in the most populous state in the country simply because it's being asked to collect what is lawfully owed," Mark Hedlund, a spokesman for California Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, told CNN Money.

According to two experts contacted by the Wall Street Journal, the California law is a likely candidate for a court challenge. California lawmakers maintain that it is designed to help level the playing field for brick-and-mortar retailers in the state.

[For the record, 6:16 a.m., June 30: An earlier version of this post incorrectly said Amazon had dropped its California sales partners late Thursday and that Gov. Brown had signed the legislation Thursday.]


Amazon now sells more Kindle ebooks than print books

Amazon to sell ad-supported Kindle for $114

July 2010: Don't go to the library Sunday. Or Monday.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Scott Eells / Bloomberg News

Hugh Hefner for cheap? Taschen's big sale is coming this weekend


Art book publisher Taschen is having a mammoth sale this weekend, marking its books off 50% to 75% at 10 international stores, including two in Los Angeles.

Taschen's books focus on art, culture and larger-than-life personalities. Often they exist in editions designed to fit various budgets. The Muhammad Ali book "GOAT" is available in a 652-page, 13-inch hardcover that retails for $150; a 792-page, 19-inch hardcover in a clamshell case, signed by its designer, the artist Jeffrey Koonz, can be purchased for $4,500 or in a $15,000 edition that comes with four silver gelatin prints signed by both photographer Howard l. Bingham and Muhammad Ali himself.

Not every book comes in multiple editions. "Hugh Hefner's Playboy," released just in time for Christmas in 2009, is available only in a six-volume signed set with lots of extras, including a piece of his silk pajamas, for $1,300. On Tuesday, Hefner announced that fiancee Crystal Harris, whom he'd planned to marry Saturday, would not be Mrs. Hefner No. 3. "The wedding is off. Crystal has had a change of heart," Hefner tweeted.

Local Taschen vendors can't say for certain whether copies of "Hugh Hefner's Playboy" will be for sale. Their shipment of sale-ready collectible books -- those that were display copies or have been slightly damaged -- won't arrive until later this week.

In addition to the collectible books, Taschen has many trade editions and stock that typically retail for as little as $10. That's before being marked down -- on Friday, Saturday and Sunday they can be found for even cheaper in the Taschen stores in Hollywood and Beverly Hills.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Hugh Hefner celebrating the release of his six-book anthology, "Hugh Hefner's Playboy," at the Taschen store in Beverly Hills in 2009 with Karissa Shannon, left, Kristina Shannon and Crystal Harris, who is no longer his fiance. Credit: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times

Signed copy of 'To Kill a Mockingbird' sells for $25,000

ToKillaMockingbird1sted A copy of the Harper Lee classic "To Kill a Mockingbird" sold on the website AbeBooks for $25,000 last week. It was a first edition, signed by the author herself.

When "To Kill a Mockingbird" was published in 1960, Lee was living in New York City, like many other authors. But she later moved back to Alabama and withdrew from mainstream publishing. For many years, Lee has declined interviews and lived a quiet life away from the spotlight. When she was awarded the National Medal of Arts earlier this year, she did not attend.

Lee's reclusiveness certainly contributed to the $25,000 price tag on this signed first edition of "To Kill a Mockingbird." According to AbeBooks, it's the most expensive copy of the novel it has ever sold and tops the price list of books sold through the site this year. AbeBooks aggregates offerings from hundreds of sellers of used books.

Harper Lee has, from time to time, appeared at events celebrating books and reading. In 2005, she came to Los Angeles to accept the Los Angeles Public Library Literary Award.

But recently she has been closely guarding her privacy. An upcoming book -- "The Mockingbird Next Door: Life With Harper Lee," by Marja Mills, a former Chicago Tribune reporter -- was said to be written "with direct access to Harper and Alice Lee [her sister] and their friends and family." In a written statement, Lee said she had not cooperated with the book: "Contrary to recent news reports, I have not willingly participated in any book written or to be written by Marja Mills. Neither have I authorized such a book. Any claims otherwise are false."

Harper Lee turned 85 last month. "To Kill a Mockingbird" is 51.


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Harper Lee denies cooperating with upcoming book

Reclusive Harper Lee speaks to British reporter - about ducks

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: "To Kill a Mockingbird," sold by AbeBooks.com. Credit: AbeBooks

Massive mystery book sale to benefit Pasadena Public Library


It took two 10-foot U-Haul trucks packed to the ceiling to carry Tom McGuinn's collection of mystery novels away. McGuinn's inventory, amassed over more than 40 years, has been given by his widow to the nonprofit Friends of the Pasadena Public Library. On Saturday the organization will be selling those books in a massive mystery book sale to benefit the library's programs.

In all, there are about 9,000 mysteries, stretching from the last few years back to the 1970s. The books are, for the most part, bestsellers -- books by Sue Grafton, Michael Connelly, Daniel Silva, Jonathan Kellerman and many, many more.

Of those books, more than 3,600 have been signed by their author. That's an enormous number McGuinn gathered from various sources, according to the Friends of the Pasada Public Library's Helen Overstreet. He went to book signings, attended the annual Book Expo publishing conference and bought them signed from bookstores when he traveled.

"Everything is in absolutely pristine condition," Overstreet added. There are hardcovers and paperbacks, and almost all -- even those signed books -- will be sold for 50 cents to $5.

A few of the book books are signed and numbered limited editions (could they have come from Otto Penzler's Mysterious Bookshop in New York?). Although she suspects they may be worth much more, Overstreet says they will be priced at around $20.

The mystery book sale will be held at Roosevelt Elementary School in Pasadena. There will be a $20 fee for early birds at 9 a.m.; admission is free after 9:45. The Friends of the Pasadena Public Library ask buyers to bring their own bags and boxes; they've got their hands full just getting everything alphabetized. The sale is cash only.

-- Carolyn Kellogg


Ninth edition of 'Baby Bargains': New essential reading for Mom and Dad

Baby Bargains BookEditor's note: Deborah Netburn is the mother of a 3-year-old and a 3-month-old. Recently returned from maternity leave, she is a new contributor to Jacket Copy.

Forget Dr. Spock or "What to Expect When You're Expecting" or even "Happiest Baby on the Block." When it comes to essential reading for brand-new or expecting parents, nothing beats "Baby Bargains," the Consumer Reports-like guide to baby products written by Denise and Alan Fields. And if you are about to have a baby now, you are in luck. The ninth edition of the book hits stores on April 21.

Not into bargains? Do not be deterred. Despite the subtitle,"Secrets to Saving 20% to 50% on Baby Furniture, Gear, Clothes, Maternity Wear and Much, Much More!" the usefulness of this book has less to do with how to clip coupons or shop for deals online and way more to do with helping overwhelmed and exhausted parents-to-be navigate the endless choices presented to them at every turn.

Go to the car-seat aisle of Babies R Us and you're faced with roughly 30 choices. Need a stroller? You could easily spend a month researching the pros and cons of the various brands and models. I once spent 25 minutes in the bottle aisle at Target trying to decide which of the BPA-free, gas-eliminating, easy-to-clean, no-leaking bottles to buy. Almost in tears, I left empty-handed.

And that's where "Baby Bargains" comes in. About the size of a "Let's Go!" guidebook, it's your guidebook to baby shopping. When my first son was born, I spent hours poring over it and rarely strayed from its sound advice. Because the Fields are obsessive -- testing all the products, conducting parent surveys, studying the safety ratings -- I didn't have to be. If the Fisher Price Rainforest bouncy seat was their preferred bouncy seat, I bought it. If they thought the plastic Eurobath was the best buy, I bought it. They helped me pick the car seat, the stroller, the diapers, the bottles, the crib sheets and the diaper bag. Since then, I've given the book to expecting friends from all different economic brackets, and everyone loves it -- whether they are going to spend $200 on a crib or $2,000.

The Fields, who also write "Bridal Bargains," put out the first edition of "Baby Bargains" in 1994. In the most recent edition, they've included more information on baby carriers (a growing segment of the baby market). They also expanded their coverage of eco baby products. "We're trying to seperate the hype from what's really going on," Alan said.

I just had my second baby three months ago, and though my well-thumbed copy of "Baby Bargains" is sitting on the bookshelf most reachable from my bed, I'm debating getting the more recent copy.

I wonder what the Fields would think of that.


The hidden history of baby books

-- Deborah Netburn


Going fast: Anne Rice's Ebay auction

Annerice_madonnachild Anne Rice, author of "Interview with the Vampire" and its sequels and, most recently, the 2010 novel "Of Love and Evil," is auctioning personal items on Ebay in a kind of online yard sale.

The auction, which went online Tuesday night, includes items from Rice's wardrobe -- think black skirts -- as well as jewelry, a few books, some furniture and some religious icons.

Most of the listed items have a minimum bid but also have Ebay's "buy it now" feature; by Wednesday morning, most of the jewelry and some lovely French-influenced chairs, which had been listed for around $300, were already gone.

Rice announced the sale on her active Facebook page, writing "As I prepare to move to a small writer's retreat, we continue to empty storage of many items, including furniture I once cherished in my New Orleans houses....We are selling everything that is not nailed to the floor."

Some of the items that remain are those that are more expensive: a $3,000 beige couch, a set of two vintage gold French reproduction chairs for $1,000, an inlaid French secretary which is an antique reproduction of one owned by Marie Antoinette for $2,000. The Madonna and Child icon, above, is said to come from a European church and is listed for $10,000.

Repeatedly mentioning her move to a small writer's retreat, Rice has also listed something else for sale: her six-bedroom, 9,100-square foot home, with pool, in the Thunderbird Heights area of Rancho Mirage. That's not on Ebay -- it's with a Realtor -- and it's not the first time it's been on the market. Originally listed for $3.3 million in last May, the price has now dropped to $2.95 million. While her personal items have been going fast, the home is taking a little longer to sell.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Madonna and child icon. Credit: EBay

Indie booksellers split on Borders bankrupcty

News that Borders would be closing 200 stores as it moved into Chapter 11 bankruptcy spread quickly on Wednesday. Southern California has 11 new stores slated for closure, including ones in Century City, Glendale and Pasadena.

Vroman's, an independent bookstore located less than a mile away from Borders in Pasadena, was swift to respond. An e-mail to customers was sent out Wednesday afternoon, enticing them to trade in their loyalty to Borders for Vroman's.

In light of the announcement that over 200 Borders locations are closing nationwide, including the Glendale Borders and the Pasadena location, Vroman’s is offering a special deal to Borders Rewards Club Members. The first 200 Borders customers who turn in their Borders Member Awards card receive a $20 Vroman’s Gift Card. By turning in their card to any Vroman’s cashier, the customer will give be given the opportunity to sign up for our e-newsletter & the Vroman’s Gives Back program. In return, customers will receive a $20 gift card. This offer is good at all Vroman’s locations.

But across town at Skylight Books in Los Feliz, the discussion was very different. On the bookstore's blog, in a post that also appeared on Facebook, staffer Emily Pullen wrote:

We are indie to the bone, for sure, but many of our employees started off working in the chains. Several phenom booksellers from other indies (Bookavore! jennIRL! I'm looking at you!) have shared their very heartfelt and personal connections to Borders....

Gayle Shanks, former president of the American Booksellers Association, suggested that perhaps the biggest loss will be the diversity of marketplace  that is crucial not only for the vitality of the book business, but for our struggling economy as well. Ask an independent bookseller who their biggest competitor is, and rarely will you hear them say another independent bookstore. Fifteen years ago, he or she would have probably answered Borders or Barnes & Noble. But recently, things seem to have shifted again, and many booksellers will say that our struggles as physical independent bookstores are not so terribly different from the struggles of physical chain bookstores, and we're all really competing against massive online retailers who have more warehouses and widgets than bookshelves or bodies....

Of course I hope that some of the stranded customers will gravitate towards Skylight Books for their book needs. But there ain't no joy in a bookstore closing. Ever.

On Saturday, all closing Borders bookstores begin holding clearance sales, with almost all the stock marked down 20%-40%.


Borders files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy

What's going on with Borders?

Westwood's Borders takes a bow

Borders moves toward financing, but doesn't rule out bankruptcy

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: A closed Borders bookstore in Chicago this month. Credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images

The not-ghastly tale of Edward Gorey's fur coat

Why is this woman smiling? Because against all odds, she won one of Edward Gorey's fur coats at a December auction.

Edward Gorey, of course, is the author and artist who created "The Gashlycrumb Tinies," "The Unstrung Harp," "The Doubtful Guest" and dozens of other gleefully macabre works for adults and children. Gorey's line drawing illustrations -- described variously as Victorian, Edwardian and Gothic -- often included images of quiet calamity and bats and people wearing fur coats.

Gorey collected fur coats, 21 of them; he even designed some. He was said to have worn them to performances of the New York City Ballet, with distinctly unmatching tennis shoes. In December, an auction of Gorey-ana was held in New York to benefit several nonprofits. The fur coats were up for sale.

Author A.N. Devers, founder of the site Writers Houses, was there. She writes about her experience as a hopeful buyer on the blog of the Paris Review.

The sale was held at Bloomsbury Auctions on West 48th Street in New York. Despite some advance press, it was a sparsely attended affair; most of the seats were empty. Of the dozen or so people scattered among the seats, most showed the true and devoted look of a Gorey fans [sic]. The coats hung on a rack in the back of the room, and people took turns trying them on. One raven-haired woman posed for a picture, wrapping the fur around her. As we took our seats, an older gentleman sat down behind us, wearing a three-piece suit with a watch chain — the kind of ensemble Gorey could have sketched in his sleep.

Although I count myself among Gorey’s most devoted admirers, I couldn’t afford to bid over the highest estimate, which ranged from $800 to $1,200. A friend who accompanied me gave me stern instructions: “We have to decide which coat you want. You have to imagine yourself winning it.” She looked around the room, studying the other bidders, searching for competition and deep pockets. “Someone is going to want all of them,” she warned.

And someone did; many of the coats went for much more than the estimates, with one selling for $4,800. But Devers, surprisingly managed to make a winning bid, and she explains how.

Luckily for her, PETA wasn't waiting outside.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: A.N. Devers in her Edward Gorey fur coat. Credit: Lauren Cerand


Kindle kicks Harry Potter out of top-selling spot on Amazon

The newest Kindle is the biggest-selling product on Amazon's network of sites worldwide, the online retailer announced Monday. The e-reader moved past "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," the seventh and final book in the series by J. K. Rowling, to become Amazon's bestselling item ever.

That news was not as straightforward as it seems. Amazon, unlike other electronics manufacturers, does not release sales numbers for its device. In response to Jacket Copy's request for actual numbers of how many Kindles were sold, an Amazon representative replied that the company does not release those numbers "for competitive reasons."

The company did confirm that the Kindle isn't just bestselling worldwide, but in the U.S. too. There have been millions sold.

But it sparks another dance of guess-the-sales-numbers, which happens every time Amazon makes a sales announcement that lacks sales figures. Are they bigger than a breadbox? Are they smaller than the Icelandic economy?

Maybe Scholastic, which published the Harry Potter books, can make a guestimate.

In the days before Christmas, some analysts guessed that sales might exceed estimates, based on "two people who are aware of the company's sales projections." The figure they threw out was 8 million for the year. But exactly how many Kindles have been sold is a mystery.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Amazon's latest iteration of the Kindle. Credit: Amazon.com/Reuters 


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