More than one shelf needed for this Amazon book bargain

Penguin Classics offering all 1,082 of its published titles as a complete set

Material World

July 10, 2005|By Patrick T. Reardon | Patrick T. Reardon,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

The first question my wife would ask - well, the first after "Are you crazy?!" - would be about bookcases.

The for-sale collection of Penguin Classics, which includes all the books ever published in the 59-year-old series, is amazing on many levels - 1,082 books available through Amazon.com for just $7,989.99 (free shipping).

We're talking 19 titles by Charles Dickens, 47 titles by William Shakespeare, five by Cicero, six by Edith Wharton, 16 by Thomas Hardy, one by St. Teresa of Avila, one by Ulysses S. Grant and seven by the Bronte sisters, to say nothing of four versions of The Iliad and three of The Aeneid.

It's a crash course in Western Civilization, and all at a savings of more than $5,000, compared with the price I'd pay if I bought each of those titles separately. What a deal!

Not that I'm the target audience for this literally weighty (700-pound) collection, which went on sale earlier this month exclusively, for the time being, on the Amazon Web site.

"It's aimed at people who have disposable income," Penguin spokeswoman Maureen Donnelley told me. I think she meant "a lot of disposable income." She added, "We're also after institutions."

And, already, there have been buyers, although Donnelley wouldn't say how many.

On Sunday night, the collection was ranked about 636,000 on Amazon, but, by late Monday morning, it had jumped up to 36,855.

Nonetheless, for all the savings and all the culture - if you read a book a week from the collection, it would take you 20 years and 42 weeks to make your way through it - there remains that pesky question of bookcases.

By my rough figuring, you'd need about seven large cases to hold the collection and, of course, the wall space and floor space for them as well, something that's in short supply in my home.

So - don't worry, dear - I'm not buying.

Still, as Donnelley noted, "It would look impressive."

The Chicago Tribune is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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