Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Hard cover status, and other mistakes

I didn’t know that hardback books are no more expensive to produce than paperbacks, but as I have now found out, it is common knowledge in the trade. That makes me bridle for two reasons.

One: hard covers therefore signal a ‘big’ author preferred by the publisher; an ideal; ‘a good book’. So anything first published in paper covers will be considered a lesser species. This unjust dichotomy is hardly given redress by the re-appearance of the hardcover author in paperback a year later.

Two: reader satisfaction. I’m not talking about book fads like Harry Potter, or the latest example of The Book Everyone Must Read. I’m talking about the pleasure and longevity of the book as object. There is no earthly reason for most fiction — and 99% of poetry — not to have first publication in hard covers. Apart from shelf space. And, of course, how could I forget that the hard / soft status symbol makes many shoppers’ choice for them? Fill the tables in your local bookshop with hard covers, and then people would actually have to spend time and thought in reading and choosing. Which most don’t.

That little rantling over, poetry today is not dead, or dying, or ill, or on its last legs. It bears repeating. Now, go and buy some. Be daring! Make your next book purchase poetry, not prose. :o)

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