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$3,000, 75-pound Ali tome is a 'GOAT' of a book

| Saturday, Dec. 13, 2003

This is not a coffee-table book. Put this tome on your table, and its legs are likely to snap like toothpicks.

This tribute to former boxing champion Muhammad Ali will be one of the biggest books ever published. When it comes to the vastness of its size, weight, and most of all, price, this baby is going to be -- much like its subject was -- hard to beat.

Due out next month, the book is called "GOAT," an acronym for "Greatest of All Time." A more fitting title, given the volume's sheer enormity, might be "Bloat."

The tale of the tape: This 792-page book is 20 inches long and 20 inches tall. It weighs 75 pounds. In a culture where reading has long ceased to be a high priority, is a book that outweighs all but the huskiest fourth-grader really necessary?

Most copies of "GOAT" retail for $3,075, although thrifty participants in Barnes & Noble Reader's Advantage Program can get a copy for only $2,921. The $154 savings is the equivalent of about 10 Stephen King paperback thrillers, most weighing in at less than a pound.

A deluxe version of the Ali book also is available. I know what you're thinking: Isn't a $3,000 book, covered in silk and Louis Vuitton leather, pretty deluxe already?

Not compared to the $7,500 edition that comes complete with a plastic sculpture of a porpoise leaping over the book. No, you can't ask why the book comes with a porpoise sculpture. I have no idea.

Porpoise or no porpoise doesn't matter to Jay Dantry, the owner of Jay's Bookstall in Oakland. He won't stock either edition.

"We probably (could) afford to only carry one copy and everyone would leaf through it," he said. "By the time someone wanted to buy it, it probably wouldn't be in any shape to buy."

One of the more expensive books Dantry has carried in recent years is "Some Like It Hot," a tribute to the classic 1959 comedy starring Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon and Marilyn Monroe. First published in 2001, the book retails for the relatively paltry price of $200.

Judging from recent nationwide sales, it appears that none like it hot anymore. As of yesterday, the book was the 202,631st best seller in the Barnes & Noble chain. Can the publishers of the no-frills Ali book, retailing at nearly $2,900 more, realistically hope to surpass it?

Not if they are dependent on me to purchase a copy. I think I'll pass until the paperback version becomes available. I might be able to buy it for less than $1,000.

As an added bonus, I might actually be able to lift the thing.

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