Saturday, January 14, 2017

American Excelsior - The History of Excelsior, Super X and Henderson Motorcycles book review

A trend has been developing of late for high end 'super books' aimed at marque enthusiasts. As a way to go in publishing your material it makes good sense - there's a limited number of enthusiasts out there for a particular niche marque of motorcycle who will buy each book on the subject. Add to this a number of folks, like myself, who are interested in the history of motorcycling in general who like to buy a selection of new quality publications on the subject of choice. This means that if you publish a book on, say, Cleveland motorcycles you have a market out there of two to three thousand folks. Most of these people will buy a book on the subject if it is well written regardless of if it is a soft cover selling for £15 or a lavish tome costing perhaps ten times that. What we are coming to is that the subject matter of vintage motorcycles ain't going to make you rich as an author and you ain't gonna shift high volumes. It's not a mass market. You might as well put your efforts in to a book of high quality and be satisfied with a small print run but make your costs back on it being a limited edition rather than do a print run of 5000, sell 2000 at low price in the first six months and then struggle for the next couple of years to shift the rest.

American Excelsior - The History of Excelsior, Super X and Henderson Motorcycles fits into the category of 'super book' perfectly. This is one lavish tome. It's big, very big. The format is big and it runs to 422 pages. The price is also big - 149 Euros but, you know what, it is justified. The book is a joy to behold and a joy to own. When it arrives it is evident that this is a book that is worth 149 Euros even if you have had to pay for it on a brexitised Pounds Sterling exchange rate.

Content of American Excelsior tHoESXaHM is very image heavy. There are a large number of reproduced brochures, period adverts and some very excellent period images. That's not to say that it skimps on the story of the machines in question, it's just that there are a lot of pages and, though the text is spread out, overall it does add up to a substantial content.

A few years ago now I used to go regularly to London on business, a small treat for myself was to call in to Foyles bookshop and browse through the motorcycle titles. They always had a few unusual ones that were not available elsewhere. One time they had a copy of 'Hendersons, Those Elegant Machines' by Richard Schultz. It seemed a bit pricey at the time at over £40 so I mulled it over and then didn't buy a copy. The book was a limited edition and I rued my decision not to buy ever since. I am not alone as recently several 'have a go' sellers have tried to test the market and offer the book for $1000 or more. If you look on Amazon US right now someone is trying for a very unbelievable $10,099! The point I am coming too is that if you want one of these limited books, best not hesitate, buy them when they are available as they do have a nasty habit of becoming very sought after at a later date. That's why I coughed up for American Excelsior and I don't regret it one bit. A fabulous book.

The ordering system for the American Excelsior is somewhat archane - you have to fill in a form, await an invoice and then make a bank transfer to a personal account in Germany. That or pay by paypal with a 5% surcharge. But fear not, it is all legit and the book will arrive and as above if you have any love of old motorcycles you will be delighted with it.

Finally, just to note for the book speculators that when certain volumes do get very sought after they have a habit of being re-published. Hendersons, Those Elegant Machines is available again. It's a lot cheaper than the test the market vendors are asking but it's still a high end book. Buy it now if interested! 

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