Friday, December 04, 2009

Hardback Fiction

Imagine this, if you will.

The new Arctic Monkeys album is released after months of excitement. The music press has been banging on about how brilliant it is and how it would be ridiculous not to get it now that it's finally released.
People queue for hours to get hold of a copy because they want to be the first person to listen to it.
The shop opens and there it is!! The new Arctic Monkeys album...
But hang on a minute, it's not in a usual CD case... no, it's in this slightly thicker plastic case and the box is a bit bigger too. And hang on a minute, it's double the price of a normal CD.
You pick up your copy and you take it up to the person working in the shop.
'Excuse me, but i'm a bit confused', you say, 'I want to buy this, but it's really expensive. Where are the normal CDs?'
'This is all there is' says the person in the shop.
'Is the quality of the album any better?' you ask.
'Not at all. The recording is exactly the same as you'd expect on a normal CD, but the record company decided that they'd put it in a slightly bigger protective box, and sell it to you for twice the amount.'
'but that's crazy' you say. 'why would I want to pay double for something that is pretty much exactly like a normal CD, but it's packaging is sturdier. I don't care about the packaging, I just want to listen to the album'
'Well' says the person in the shop 'the record company will be bringing out a normal packaged CD in about 9-12 months time. All the big record companies are going to start doing this from now on'
'but this is really unfair' you say. 'it just means that normal people who love music can't afford to buy stuff when it gets released. No one will put up with it. It's just a great big con.'
'well' says the person in the record shop 'it seems to work for books'


Martin said...

Actually, it does work of books *glances at groaning bookshelf*

Edel Brosnan said...

Yes, I don't get the love of the hardback either - they're not even as good as a paperback. Can't read them in the bath, can't shove them in your coat pocket to read on the bus, and the dust jackets get ripped after about an hour.

A dog-eared paperback on the other hand, is my favourite thing in the world.

Joe said...

brilliant post.

Jack said...

I once had a customer that said, "I'll take the hardback, its much more civilised". That was at 19 Oxford Street.

farmlanebooks said...

Don't let any of the music industry see this post - I'm sure they'd try it if they'd thought about it!

Karen said...

Well written. I hate hardbacks both as a buyer of books and a seller.

Edelweiss said...

and I love hardbacks - the natural state of a book. The first, the last, the always. Hardbacks say something about a book and the reader. Good things. Things that need to be said. No, you can't fit them in your pocket. But neither can you fit a microwave oven, a chainsaw or a jetski in your pocket - all things that we might like to carry with us but that we accept have their place, and it's not the arse pocket of your jeans.

Hardbacks furnish a room - paperbacks do as well, but only in the way that artex covers a ceiling. If your dustjackets are getting ripped after an hour, Edel, may I respectfully suggest you take off the novelty Edward Scissorhands gloves, you freak. Can't read them in the bath? CAN'T READ THEM IN THE BATH? Only because your muscles have wasted awayu from getting no aeorbic stimulation, or at least the feeble benefits given by reading a B format novel, which isn't much, given the crap they print them on nowadays. No, Hardbacks are always the answer, unless of course the question is 'Peter Kay'.

Simon Key said...

Edelweiss, I completely disagree with you on pretty much every level of your argument.
Books are born to be read, and by packaging them in a way that means that people can't afford them, when it's unnecessary, is a greedy trick which you seem to have fallen for.
If you're looking to furnish a room, I suggest you save the money you spend on your hardback book, and you phone the publisher and ask them to send you the dustjacket. You can then wrap this around an empty cornflakes box and the effect is the same.
You say, 'Hardbacks say something about a book and the reader'. Books aren't status symbols, and to see them as such is insulting to the author and the reader.
Books should be accessible to everyone, plain and simple, and hardbacks don't make this easy.

Minnie said...

Lovely blog. One of the things I always loved about life in England - aside from libraries - was the fact that there always seemed to be an independent bookshop not far away ... So it's great to see you two keeping going: long may it/you thrive!
With you & those who agree on pbacks; in France, most books have usually been printed in softcover form for some decades now. In theory, that should make them more accessible, but there's a fairly high VAT levied on 'em, sadly.

didntwanttodothis said...

Ah, sorry Simon, much as I always and totally respect your opinion on books, I have to disagree this time. I'm with Edelweiss on this - hardbacks are gorgeous things and definitely add to my reading experience. True, they can be expensive now (though second-hand?), but they don't have to be and considering the quantities they used to sell in they never used to be beyond the range of most book-buyers. And laugh all you like but they do furnish a room - much better than cornflake packets ;)Paperbacks are brill too - they're disposable, cheap(ish!) and because of that they make it easier to try new authors so definitely have an added function. But the hardback is a treasure to keep....