Useless books find new appreciation on the Web

Vendors on eBay hawk galleys and review copies, with mixed success.

Published July 19, 1999 4:00PM (EDT)

Bound galleys, the cheap early versions of books sent out to reviewers, are often victims of neglect. They get thrown away or used as ad hoc coffee coasters or cast off to second-hand bookstores to be sold for a few bucks at best. But with the advent of eBay, the online auction house, bound galleys and their slightly classier cousins, ARCs (or advance readers' copies -- which are just galleys with cover art), may be finding a more dignified second life.

Not that customers always line up for what ambitious vendors have to offer. When "nhlibris" tried to peddle galleys of Tom Clancy's 1993 novel "Without Remorse" for $25 and Elizabeth McCracken's 1996 novel "A Giant's House: A Romance" for $35, not even a single bidder showed up. Brave "bindingdeal" tried to unload a bound galley of Charles Frazier's "Cold Mountain" for $100 -- and didn't get a bite.

But an ARC of Flannery O'Connor's "The Habit of Being," for which "bookbid" set a floor price of $19.99, was snapped up a week later by "mandawg" for $61.25. offered an initial $14.99 for galleys of Hunter S. Thompson's "The Proud Highway," which "maximumralph" finally scored for $21.50.

ARCs of Stephen King's "Hearts in Atlantis," due out in September, have sold for up to $90. Galleys of "The Satanic Verses" are a steal at $100, when you can find them. (And of course eBay sells hardcovers, too; "richmark" is currently peddling a first edition of Gore Vidal's "Burr" -- as of this writing it's at $21.50 -- with a personal inscription from the author: "To Cousin Henry, with love from Gore.")

Fred Bass, the owner of New York's famous second-hand bookstore, the Strand, told Salon Books that off-line prices may be cheaper. "Some of the better ARC titles you can pick up for $10, $15, $20. But we have a galley proof of 'The Moor's Last Sigh' for $50." Bass added that rare proofs of Faulkner novels, when they're in good condition, can sell for thousands of dollars. But what about eBay's prices? "The prices are a little outrageous," Bass said. "But that's what the Internet is all about."

By Craig Offman

Craig Offman is the New York correspondent for Salon Books.

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