Posts Tagged ‘Trade Paperbacks’

Book Links 8-6-2012

August 6, 2012

a little late, but that’s better than never.  Been a long day, wrestling with a television and an uncooperative wall mount. With the help of some strategically deformed hockey cards, it is close to level. Anyway, on to the links!

First is this brief interview of Chip Kidd on NPR. He designs book covers for Knopf. You’ve seen his work. And he seems to have become a fiercely captivating defender of books as actual, physical objects. The one thing that stuck out, and it’s at the end of the article (an audio version is available at the top) is that hardcover books are really “luxury” items. I don’t disagree, but this is also where I see a problem with the trade paperbacks (TPB) that have become so popular, nearly entirely displacing the smaller, cheaper mass market paperback (MMPB). What it really boils down to, for me, is that TPBs are just too damn expensive for paperback books and have helped drive people away from actual physical books and into the arms of ereaders everywhere. Then again, it may have been a price move the publishing houses needed to make and could only justify it with the snazzier format. I don’t know. I just miss my cheap MMPBs. And, for anyone interested, here is Chip Kidd’s TedTalk.

PW has a short piece about how ebooks are also killing the backlists of publishers. When you walked into Borders and saw not just Grisham’s newest novel but the five million and seventy-four thousand others he had written, those were backlists. With far fewer book stores, sales for the backlists have been pushed into the cyberworld. And sales have went down. Shocking. It’s hard to sell a book when you can’t see it, especially amidst the mountain of product that is Amazon.

and here’s the only known video of Mark Twain.
Oh, and another piece at PW about the Department of Justice asking the court to ratify their plea agreement with three publishers in the government’s quest to hand the publishing industry over to Amazon. I’ve posted my distaste for Amazon more than once here, you can find it if you’re interested.  Cheaper doesn’t always (in fact, almost never) equals better.  While I miss cheap paperbacks, I understand it’s not my god given right to them. And that, eventually, you get what you pay for. So, if being able to pay $10 instead of $15 for a new book by your favorite author is worth this much to you, remember, eventually we all sow what we reap.  Sowing the end of a publishing industry that we know may not reap the glorious rewards some companies are promising.

The Evolution of the Paperback

December 17, 2008

Paperback books are beautiful things these days. Their covers are stiff and thick, their coverart has clearly had some real effort put into it to make it look modern and relevant, and the general quality is very good. Unfortunatley, they’re also called Trade Paperbacks and cost $14-18 a pop.

I think my generation has been the one that has straddled the the transition for Literature from the basic paperback to the trade paperback. I think I remember seeing the change begin in earnest about ten years ago, as these large, obviously well-made books began creeping onto bookshelves amongst their smaller, flimsier brethren. Where this happened first was The Classics, thier status amongst the other books apparently lifting them to higher quality stock.

I also remember noticing the clear price difference between the conventional paperback and the Trade Paperback.  Where I could grab a copy of Breakfast of Champions for $5 in the standard paperback, the Trade Paperback wanted to pry $15 out of my wallet. but I guess that’s the price you pay for Classics.

And now it’s the price you pay for Literature. I got a couple of Borders gift cards through my credit card company last week and, coupon in hand, ventured into Borders to get a “free” book. Well, as free as having used my credit card for hundreds of dollars of purcases so that I could use my Reward Points for a couple of $25 gift cards, at any rate.

I picked up The Last Town on Earth, a debut novel by Thomas Mullen. This in no way is to reflect the quality of the novel. I haven’t read it yet but I bought it so I clearly think it’s something that at least stands a chance at being pretty good.  But it also cost $14. With my coupon, it took the cost plus tax down to just under twelve.  And we wonder why it’s hard to get young people interested in books. I’m betting price has a reasonable hand in it as they make movies look affordable.

And we’re starting to see the Trade Paperback drift into the genre sections as well. Phil Dick and Ray Bradbury were among the first of the genre writers I remember seeing with these big, sturdy editions of their classic work. And now I’m seeing William Gibson’s Spook Country retailing for $15 (though, kudos to Amazon for having it and many other books on significant markdowns). 

For all of the talk about the RIAA pillaging music fans with ridiculous prices on CDs and deserving to be similarly plundered by filesharing programs, I can’t help but think that the publishing companies have followed a similar path. The covers might be a little nicer and the books a little bigger but I’m not sold on these developments requiring a $10 price hike over the more conventional paperback. And I also wouldn’t hesitate to just buy a conventional paperback if given the choice.

But we’re not given that choice and I have to wonder if the prices are not hurting the growth of the book industry. While once someone becomes a reader they are probably hooked for life, and will continue to buy (and gripe) regardless of the price,  I have to think it turns away potential readers. I also wonder if it doesn’t limit the possibilities for success of new writers. If someone is on a bit of a budget and they have a choice between the new novel from a writer they’ve read and enjoyed or a new novel from a new guy, I’m betting the old and familiar usually wins that tug of war.

And maybe I just miss the days of being able to buy a good book for $6.