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Mini Cooper bookmobile turns a new page in Nantucket

Posted by Bill Griffith  April 14, 2011 11:35 AM

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(All photos: AutoTrader.com). Click photo for larger version.

Wendy Hudson, owner of Nantucket Bookworks, drives away in the autographed "Penguin orange" Mini Cooper she's using to promote her store.

Take the ferry to Nantucket and it is only two-and-a-half blocks — as the penguin waddles — from the terminal up Broad street to Nantucket Bookworks.

It's an independent bookshop that has been there for 39 years — kind of an island version of the movie "You've Got Mail." Besides being a great place for your summer reading needs and books on Nantucket, it's home to a signature vehicle, a one-of-a-kind Mini Cooper autographed by famous authors.

A year ago, to celebrate its 75th year in publishing, Penguin Books created an "Anniversary-Mobile" — a 2010 Penguin-orange Mini-Cooper with black Penguin logos on the door and hood. The car toured the country, piling up 16,000 miles and promoting literacy, The Nature Conservancy, and Penguin authors along the way.

At various book parties, 18 authors signed the dashboard, including Pulitzer Prize winners William Kennedy and Geraldine Brooks and New York Times bestsellers Michael Pollan, Sue Monk Kidd, Jan Karon, and Rosanne Cash.

The Mini's travels generated a story in the book industry publication Shelf Awareness. Wendy Hudson, owner of Bookworks, saw the article and was intrigued by the Mini's provenance. After the tour, Penguin planned to sell the car with the proceeds benefiting the New York Public Library, and Hudson found the ad on AutoTrader.com back in December and, after much hesitation, bought it in March.

"We knew she really wanted the Mini," said Bookworks staffer Suzanne Keller, "but she was like, 'Should I or shouldn't I?' We were all excited when she did."

"One hasn't lived until they are driving down I-110 in the Penguin-mobile," Laura Dave, author of "The Divorce Party," told Shelf Awareness. "The best was that we were in terrible traffic, and people in the cars around us all looked miserable. Then they would turn and see the orange Mini Cooper and smile."

At each of the stops on its tour, a set of the 75 most iconic titles from Penguin Books was donated to either a local library or literacy group. Another set came with the car. Hudson plans to sell them with the proceeds going to benefit the Nantucket Athenaeum.

Penguin Books was launched on July 30, 1935 with the then-revolutionary idea of making quality paperback books available at railway stations, newsstands, and bookstores. Within 10 months, a million books had been printed; within a year, three million were sold.

"We're thrilled to be continuing what Penguin launched — promoting authors and books in such a dynamite way," says Hudson. "It will be great fun to keep adding autographs as the years roll on."

Island author and National Book Award winner Nathaniel Philbrick signed the Mini in New York and again in Nantucket with a "New York City to Nantucket" inscription.

Mini-Cooper-Penguin-Nantucket-Bookmobile-authors.jpg

Click photo for larger version.

Eighteen authors have signed the Mini's dashboard, including Pulitzer Prize winners William Kennedy and Geraldine Brooks.

"The Mini came with some silver Sharpies," says Hudson, "and we intend to put them to good use. One of my goals is to figure out how we can put more signatures on the Mini's black roof in the future."

Hudson loves driving the car and the attention it gets for its one-of-a-kind color scheme, not to mention suggestions for future autographs. "One worker on The Steamship Authority (island ferry) said we needed to get Dennis Lehane's autograph. I'm sure we can arrange that."

Hudson hasn't finalized the Mini's future look, but she plans are to re-brand it as the Bookworks-A-GoGo-Mobile with a subtitle of "Books by land, sea & cloud" to promote the Google eBooks that independent booksellers market on their websites.

"My vision is to have a lot of book images in a border around the body," she says. "I know it will turn a lot of heads and remind people that little bookstores are places that have a lot of fun and a lot of character."

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