'Jurassic Park' strikes again

August 20, 1993|By Tim Warren | Tim Warren,Book Editor

Of course you bought one of the 9 million copies of "Jurassic Park" in print, and certainly you've seen the movie. But if you've still got brontosauruses on the brain, take note:

The illustrated gift edition of "Jurassic Park" is out. All yours, for $35.

Today, publisher Alfred A. Knopf is releasing 15,000 copies of a special-edition hard-cover printing of Michael Crichton's best-selling novel, which was originally published in hardback in November 1990.

The new version is packaged with a transparent vinyl jacket, colored endpapers and Mr. Crichton's autograph (more on that later). There also are 12 color paintings of dinosaurs.

The gift-edition volume also contains a new preface by Mr. Crichton, who observes that he stopped work on "Jurassic Park" the early 1980s partly because "America was in the grip of a dinosaur fad . . . I decided to wait until the fad waned to resume work on my fantasy story." But a decade later, "Jurassic Park" has helped fuel another dino dementia, and Knopf stands poised to cash in.

"Basically, we found that there was demand for the hard-cover edition of 'Jurassic Park,' " says Paul Bogaards, Knopf's director of promotions. "We've sold over 70,000 copies this year alone. And there's a tremendous demand for Michael Crichton's books."

Mr. Crichton's books in paperback alone number about 21 million, says his paperback publisher, Ballantine, and he's got four paperbacks on the Aug. 15 best-seller list of the New York Times Book Review: "Rising Sun" at No. 1, "Jurassic Park" at No. 5, "Congo" at No. 6 and "Sphere" at No. 7.

"A Case of Need," written by Mr. Crichton 25 years ago under the name Jeffery Hudson and recently reissued by Dutton, is No. 12 on the hardback fiction list. If that isn't enough, his next novel will be out in January: Called "Disclosure," it centers on sexual harassment in the work place.

About 8.7 million paperback copies of "Jurassic Park" are in print, along with approximately 300,000 hard-cover copies, Mr. Bogaards says. But Knopf is betting on the appeal of the gift edition because "the feeling is that there are a lot of people who will be interested not only in Michael's book but the images behind the book."

He adds that "Rising Sun," Mr. Crichton's 1992 best seller, also has benefited from a recent movie based on the book. It's sold 30,000 in hard cover this year, bringing the total to about 385,000. The paperback version has sold 5.3 million copies.

It's long been axiomatic in the publishing industry that movies improve paperback sales, and publishers often promote the paperback with the film (called "tie-ins.") But how much movies affect hardback sales is another matter.

"There usually is an uplift in hard-cover sales, but primarily if there is a new hard-cover by the author out," says Neil Nyren, editor-in-chief at G. P. Putnam, whose top-selling author, Tom Clancy, has had two movies made from his books ("The Hunt for Red October," "Patriot Games").

"We will be watching, though, when [Amy Tan's] "The Joy Luck Club" comes out as a movie this fall," says Mr. Nyren. "We wouldn't necessarily do an extra [hard-cover] printing; what we would do is watch it very carefully and then decide."

Over at Greetings & Readings in Towson, book buyer Dee Peeler was unsure how the new edition of "Jurassic Park" would sell.

"Will people pay $35 when they can get the cheaper hardback or the paperback?" she mused. "It's hard to say now, but going into the fall, people will be thinking about gifts, so it might be different then."

Sales and marketing questions aside, perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the gift edition of "Jurassic Park" might be whether Mr. Crichton really did sign all 15,000 copies. Certainly it would be a memorable sight, with the 6-foot-9-inch author hunkered down, pen in hand, among a pile of books taller than himself.

But Mr. Bogaards at Knopf wouldn't give a direct answer: "All I can say is that there are 15,000 autographed copies of the gift edition of 'Jurassic Park.' "

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