Saturday, 17 November 2007

Pip-pipped at the post

Publishing news. Picador has decided to scrap the traditional first-hardback-then-paperback process for literary fiction and to bring out almost all its novels in paperback editions from the outset, producing only a limited run of luxury hardbacks for collectors. The first novel to appear in this format will be Sputnik Caledonia by Andrew Crumey. You can read more about why this move has been made on the Picador blog.

As a reader, I'm convinced that this decision makes sense. Most of my reading these days is done on trains or planes or buses, or in bed, and hardbacks are simply inconvenient. They won't slide into pockets or side-by-side in bags, they weigh too much. Some of them don't even fit comfortably on shelves (at least not on those of the bookcases I've had made to hold my extensive collection of paperback novels). Nobody really wants them.
Their only advantage is that you can use the jacket flap to mark your place. Even that awful commercial compromise, the 'special airport edition', is unwieldy and unlovable.

So why am I slightly anxious about the move? Because my own, my very own Little Monsters will be the last (or last-but-one) novel ever to be published by Picador in the traditional way,
first in hardback, and then in paperback. This might make it highly collectable in years to come, regardless of its immense literary merit (although I doubt this), but I'm worried that it might also make it feel a little bit like yesterday's loaf from the word go. It also means I'll have to wait months and months for the paperback, which, as Crumey says, is the edition the author's friends - and everyone else - actually want to buy. Hmm.

There is only one way to make me feel better about this. Scroll up and down the sidebar until you see a little box with the cover of Little Monsters inside it and the magic words Buy from Amazon. Click. You will be rewarded in heaven.

4 comments:

John Self said...

I have mixed feelings about the move, mainly because it means that novels will no longer have two bits of the cherry in gaining the browser's attention. Many many times have I been in a bookstore and seen a new paperback, and thought, "Oh! I meant to read that when it was out in hardback last year but never got around to it," and then bought it. Now books will have to shout louder first time, and risk being forgotten much more quickly.

Charles Lambert said...

It's slightly reassuring to think I'll get a second bite, John.

It's also true that the books you didn't get round to buying as hardbacks may be more immediately attractive, and affordable, as paperbacks. In which case you won't put buying them off. Who knows?

John Self said...

Hm, true. Sorry, didn't see your response until today.

Meant to add that I read both Little Monsters and Sputnik Caledonia (well, am halfway through the latter) in Picador proof editions, so it's been an egalitarian experience for me if for no-one else. Horrible bloody things they are too, with flimsy covers thinner than the pages, and spines which bend gradually then snap suddenly. By end of reading they're fit only for the recycling bin, however fine the contents, which at least means from the author's point of view that I'll buy a finished copy as well and swell your coffers a touch. Aren't I good.

Charles Lambert said...

You're wonderful!