It Doesn't Have To Be Right…

… it just has to sound plausible

Buy this Book?

1 Comment

It’s not very often I post responses to something I’ve read on other blogs – in fact, this might well be the first time. But sometimes, it’s the only thing to do.

First, here’s an excellent piece from the Kenyon Review on book reviews, which makes some interesting points about customer reviews on Amazon. The author is careful not to say, however, that those who struggle to understand novels by Joseph Conrad or Toni Morrison should probably look to themselves and not blame the writer. If they don’t like a book, and can articulate why – then, fine. But to not like it because they don’t understand it? That’s not useful information.

And from the sublime to the ridiculous: Dave Hill (novelist) celebrates the imminent demise of the hardback on the Guardian blog. According to him, “Literary fiction even has its very own format to signal that it’s a cut above the vulgar crowd – the hardback edition, which conventionally precedes the paperback by a year.” So the loss of the hardback format is good because “the ‘literary’ demarcation stinks” and, further, “plenty of so-called literary fiction is overrrated”.

This is complete rubbish. First, the hardback is not limited to literary fiction. In fact, books of all genres are published in hardback. Even Harry Potter. And second, plenty of fiction from other genres is overrated. Such as Harry Potter

There is also a certain amount of prestige attached to being published in that format, rather than as a “paperback original”. But that’s hardly surprising – they’re more expensive to produce, and correspondingly priced higher. So publishers will only do that for those authors they expect to sell well. Or perhaps the publishers want to signal to the market that an author is something special. Irrespective of genre.

I have several hundred science fiction hardbacks on my bookshelves, and quite a few of other genres. I like hardbacks. They’re more… substantial objects than paperbacks. They last longer, too. Unhappily, British publishers these days tend to use glued bindings, and not stitched – which most US publishers still use – so modern hardbacks are not as hard-wearing as older ones. And because they’re longer-lasting, hardbacks are more collectible. I recently read John Jarmain’s Priddy Barrows, first published in 1944. Sixty-three years ago. I could find only two copies on the Web. I wonder how many I would have found if it had been published only in paperback? Some of the hardback books I own are now worth substantially more than they were on publication – and they’re weren’t published more than half a century ago…

One thought on “Buy this Book?

  1. I prefer hardbacks as well, but do tend to buy more in paperback, partly because they are cheaper and partly because they take up less space. Hardbacks are generally so unnecessarily big. Why do they have to average 9″x6″? Surely the smaller sizes produced by the likes of PS Publishing, or Hodder’s Jasper Fforde novels, would be more economical to produce?

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