First you 'borrow' (ok steal) the library card of your loved one / sidekick / awkward relative (henceforth know as 'the recipient') - or you could use your own. Then you go to the biggest library near you and use the card to borrow (this time I don't mean steal) as many of the most gorgeous, newest 'coffee table' books as the ticket allows (eg in Wirral you can get 16 books out on a card!)
You know the kind I mean - the ones the size of coffee tables, full of mouthwatering photographs or ephemeral nonsense. Books about art, travel, confectionery, puppies, gardens, Star Wars, steam trains, latex... whatever your recipient's 'special' interests may be. Books that lift the heart for a moment but cost £40 in the shops and no matter how beautiful they are, you couldn't justify buying them, and if you did they would barely be looked at after the initial flurry of excitement.
So on Christmas Day your recipient gets a big pile of wonderful books* to browse through over the holidays - to entertain guests, provoke conversations or merely to provide alternative surfaces to put your nuts on! Then when your recipient tires of them you just pop them back to the library. Job done!
You haven't broke the bank, the author gets a cut through the Public Lending Right, your library is supported and your recipient is touched by the gesture and the effort you put into choosing the best books!
After all - it's the thought that counts, isn't it? What do you think?
* This probably only works with books. It would be unreasonable to buy someone, say a box of choccies just to look at and then take back to the shop in January. I'm not that cheap!