Seventy-five years after Robert Ripley published his first Believe It or Not! book of "oddities" with Simon & Schuster, Orlando, Fla.—based Ripley Entertainment has begun publishing its own books. The company, which operates 10 museums, licenses the Believe It or Not! television show to Sony and maintains extensive archives of the weird, will continue to license some Believe It or Not titles. "We have a successful program with Scholastic, and that will continue," Norm Deska, executive v-p, intellectual property, told PW.But, he added, "what we wanted to do was have the bigger, high profile book."

And Ripley's first effort, called simply Ripley's Believe It or Not!, which was packaged by Miles Kelly Publishing and is being distributed by Mint Publishers, looks to be just that. The 9"×11" hardcover, with 500 color photographs and illustrations, is almost sold out of its first printing of 525,000 copies worldwide. The book will be featured on Good Morning, America on its publication date (Oct. 5), and Wal-Mart will have four-foot corrugated book displays in every U.S. store in October.

Even before the final sales are tallied, Ripley is so convinced of the book's potential success that it is preparing a second book for fall 2005, Planet Eccentric. "It's not meant to be an annual, but there is a season," said Deska of the decision to publish the two books just one year apart. In addition, Ripley is looking to spin off each of the eight sections of Ripley's Believe It or Not! into stand-alone books. At this year's Frankfurt Book Fair, Mint Publishers head Morty Mint will try to sell co-editions to the spinoffs and translations of the first book, as well as co-editions of Planet Eccentric.

A smaller-scale Ripley publishing project, to commemorate the company's anniversary, is also due out in October, a facsimile edition of the original 1929 Believe It or Not, with tales of such places as a land where rain has fallen for a million years.