Saturday, November 17, 2007

Picador books plan to stop printing new titles in hardback. Well, they might do limited prestige runs for serious bibliophiles, but for you, me and the plebs in W.H. Smiths, it's paperback time. My feelings are numerous and mixed about this.

I do like hardbacks. Providing you're not in a situation where the size and/or weight is an issue then the hardback is your friend. It's sturdy and more difficult to damage which, speaking as someone who winces whenever anyone bends a book's spine or turns the corner over to mark their place, matters. The binding is often better on a book which also matters. When J.D. Robb suddenly rose to prominence a few years back we had a rise in demand at our libraries. The paperbacks of her work (which my Mum read and said were full of spelling mistakes) which were presumably rushed out to meet the sudden demand were incredibly poorly made, and a lot of our stock was unusable after three or four issues. Admittedly, the books were probably taken out by spine-benders and corner-turners but they were cheap and shoddy and, in a market which is apparently moribund (despite getting rid of the Net Book Agreement a decade ago), are publishers not looking for ways to cut costs? A paperback book is designed to last long enough to be read by one person and then put on their bookshop until Judgement Day, where presumably you get in to Heaven based on a Q&A on A Suitable Boy.

The size of the book is also a factor. Something chunky like the aforementioned Vikram Seth or Michael Palin's chunky Seventies Diaries work better with a sturdier cover, in paperback they look like someone trying to fit into clothes a size too small, leaving the reader at risk of a bibliographic wardrobe malfunction.

Paperbacks are nice and cheaper though. And the book market is an oddity, being the only market where something is released, then after a period released again in cheaper packaging, with no extras. At least when albums or DVDs are re-released they give you bonus tracks or deleted scenes goodies (perhaps that's an alternative the books market might like to investigate?) And there are a hell of a lot of authors out there who don't deserve the extra cash that people spend on the hardback. That this is considered standard rather than optional seems crazy. I'd quite like the option of reading a book from the library, perhaps in paperback, and if I like it, ordering a hardback from the publishers that has extra annotations and material, the In Rainbows Boxset approach to novel production you might say.

Still, a positive thing is that Picador isn't pulling a music industry and blaming the falling sales on piracy and are doing something that doesn't involve claiming it's the public's fault. That's a definite plus point.

Labels: , , ,


<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?