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The Sebald Book Market

The statistical wonk in me always likes to look at things by the numbers, so I thought it might be interesting to informally examine the market for Sebald’s books over time. I visited Abebooks.com today (February 18, 2007) and jotted down a few figures. Abebooks.com claims to have 979 books for sale with W.G. Sebald as the author. The most expensive title is the extremely scarce edition of Unerzählt: 33 Texte und 33 Radierungen limited to 33 copies each containing 33 etchings by Jan Peter Tripp. This currently lists for US$3,750. There are 20 items with an asking price of $1,000 or higher and there are 146 priced at US$100 or higher. Abebooks.com lists 25 books for sale that were signed by Sebald.

Just for comparison, I looked at two other authors (chosen only because I happen to have some of their books nearby at the moment). Abebooks.com offers 3458 books by J.M. Coetzee, 13 of which are priced at $1,000 or higher, and 8683 books by Gunter Grass, 15 of which are priced at $1,000 or higher. At least in comparison with these two authors, the fact that 2% of books by Sebald are priced at $1,000 or higher seems rather startling.Perhaps it isn’t comparable to view Sebald in the context of two authors who are still alive and writing.

Of course, the real question is whether any of these books are changing hands – especially those priced over $1,000.I’ll try to check the numbers on Abebooks.com again in a few months and see if anything noticeable is happening.

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