November 12, 2010 / 3:45 AM / 10 years ago

Prize-winning Canadian novel already a rare book

TORONTO (Reuters) - Book lovers seeking a copy of the winner of Canada’s premier literary award are out of luck, unless they’re ready to settle for an electronic version.

“The Sentimentalists,” a surprise winner of the C$50,000 Scotiabank Giller Prize this week, is trickling only slowly into bookstores as its tiny publisher cranks out copies.

The book, by first-time novelist Johanna Skibsrud, is sold out across Canada.

Nova Scotia-based specialty publisher Gaspereau Press can produce only 1,000 copies a week of their finely bound books, using an old-fashioned press.

“Ultimately the publisher owns the rights to that book and gets to make that decision, so as you can imagine we’ve been on the phone with the publisher as much as they’ll listen to us,” said Joel Silver, president of Indigo Books & Music, Canada’s largest bookseller.

“We respect who they are and what they do. We think the quality of their books is incredible... We’re just trying to represent our customers too at this time.”

Indigo has sold all four of its hardcover copies of the prize-winning book, which is based on the story of Skibsrud’s father, a Vietnam War veteran. It has thousands more on order.

Canadian media said Gaspereau Press has received offers from a few large publishers, including Random House, to print more, but it has so far refused, sticking to its mantra of quality over quantity.

Giller winners often sell tens of thousands of copies, a huge multiple of original sales. “The Sentimentalists” had a first run of 800 books and was reported to have sold around half of that before the novel was placed on the longlist of nominations for the Giller nomination.

But Silver said Indigo has sold hundreds of copies of its electronic version, up from just a handful before the prize was announced. The e-book cost C$14.95 compared with the hardcover list price of C$27.95.

Used copies were listed for over C$100 on Indigo’s website, but those were also sold out.

Reporting by Claire Sibonney; editing by Janet Guttsman and Rob Wilson

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