Book case: novel crime method uncovered

A literary scam has been uncovered by eagle-eyed librarians in Stockholm and Uppsala. According to Wednesday's Dagens Nyheter a man used the Internet to sell rare books - which he had stolen from at least three different libraries.

He managed to get buyers from as far away as Hungary – allegedly offering up to 160,000 crowns for rare copies. The man is said to have been selling these books on the Internet for some time and had created a booklist for buyers using the library databases as an initial source. The books could be worth up to one million crowns.

Staff at the libraries noticed the that the gaps on their shelves corresponded to the listings on the site, and called the police. The “criminal strategy” used by the 34 year old has been described by the police as “refined”.

He visited the Carolina Rediviva Library and the Karin Boye Library in Uppsala, as well as the Royal Library in Stockholm to gather information about the books whilst working on his website and completing his database. It is believed that he, or someone else, returned after some time to the library to steal the books.

If the man is found guilty, the courts are expected to throw the book at him, closing a sorry chapter in his criminal career.

Meanwhile, the sales tax on books was slashed recently in Sweden, and along with lower prices the nation got a brand new “Book Price Commission” to study the effects. Svenska Dagbladet reported the good news and the bad this week.

It seems that those who were already reading are reading more, but the lower prices aren’t drawing new readers into the fold. Book prices have dropped considerably – sales tax on most books and newspapers fell from 25 percent to 6 percent – but those who weren’t buying before the cut in 2002 haven’t yet started.

Ingegerd Sahlström, speaking for the Commission, explained that “people still think books are expensive, that they don’t have enough time, or they’d rather watch television”.

Alison Gerber/Jenny Lepley