All the talk this year (well, it seems like all my talk this year) has been about e-books and the iPad, and while there are those who are fearful that the holiday availability of the iPad could be scarce, as it turns out there is one runaway item this holiday season that may be hard to get a hold of: an actual printed book. And it doesn't even feature vampires—or an author who is even alive. It is The Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 1. Says Publishers Weekly:

Thomson-Shore [a medium-sized, wholly employee-owned, book manufacturer headquartered in Dexter, Mich.] is more accustomed to short and medium print runs averaging 4,000 copies for university, trade, and religious publishers, has been working at maximum capacity this past month to meet an unexpected demand by consumers for the 736-page tome, which was released November 15. Thomson-Shore's entire staff of 220 has been working overtime on that and other projects, with approximately 70 employees dedicated to working exclusively on Mark Twain. The company has even rented additional space to store the huge amounts of paper required. "It's not a staffing issue, it's a capacity issue," Borton said, disclosing that Thomson-Shore recently rehired employees laid off in 2009, as well as temporary workers, to fill all three shifts.

Good grief, it's 736 pages—and only volume 1 of a trilogy? How self-absorbed do you have to be to write that much autobiography? (Turns out the whole thing is 500,000 words, includes a large number of rants—big surprise—and was dictated by Twain to a stenographer.) How big a hit has it been? It's not exactly Harry Potter, but not bad for a university press: the publisher had initially planned for an initial print run of 7,500 copies, but
Since its first print run of 50,000 copies, Mark Twain has gone back to press seven times, for a total of 350,000 copies. Thomson-Shore is printing the last, 100,000-copy print run in batches of 30,000, as its presses can typically handle only 50,000 copies of a book per run. Due to the book's size and the high quality of its production values, POD is not an option to supply some titles in a hurry. "We don't want to push them through so fast that the books fall apart in booksellers' hands," Borton said. [emphasis added]

Besides renting additional space to store the huge quantities of paper, Thomson-Shore has rented large trailers to deliver 10,000 copies in each load to the University of California Press's distribution centers in California and New Jersey. "With these trailers, they can deliver about 2,000 more than on standard trailers," explained Laura Cerruti, the University of California Press's director of digital content development.

On the other hand, there is a Kindle edition. But on the third hand, while Barnes & is temporarily sold out of the print edition, there is a Nook version. However, there is no version yet available for the iPad's iBook.

After all, you wouldn't want to have to say to someone on Christmas morning, "Never the Twain shall [you] meet."