Friday, January 6, 2006

Bookstore Theft

Stolen Book

I'm not sure that anyone would bother stealing a copy of my Southeast Asia Handbook, when imprints of the South Beach Diet and the Bible are so available, but never counter the urges of some poor backpacker on his first trip to the region.

If the New York Times were to compile a "Most Stolen Books" list, up near the top would be the Beat Generation classics "Howl," by Alan Ginsberg, and "On the Road," by Jack Kerouac. Also up there, not surprisingly, would be "Steal This Book," the popular '70's hippie guide on how to live for free, by Abbie Hoffman.

And topping the list, in some cities at least, would be none other than the Holy Bible itself.

"It's true, it's absolutely true," says Kevin Finn, the manager at Book People, an independent bookstore in Austin, Texas. "The most shoplifted book is the Bible."

Why? "Perhaps people feel the Bible should be free," he says. "The average King James Bible with a zipper is about 35 bucks."

Nationwide, bookstores net about $16 billion in sales every year, according to the American Booksellers Association; and the several prominent stories polled around the country for this article estimated that they lose anywhere from 1 to 5 percent to theft, some hundreds of millions a year, and much of it during the frenzied activity generated by the Christmas season.

As more and more independent bookstores close because of rising costs and stiff competition, successfully limiting "shrinkage," or unaccounted-for losses, can often mean the difference in ending up in the red or the black.

Stolen Books Link

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