The End of Hardbacks

So it looks as if the era of a literary novel being printed in hardback before paperback is over. It\’s really rather odd that they don\’t actually explain what is really happening though.

Hardback then paperback is in fact simply a method of price discrimination. The publisher is trying to charge a higher price to those who really want the work and then a lower price to those prepared to wait a year for the paperback. If publishers are now to stop doing this, it will be because this form of price discrimination no longer works. The reason it doesn\’t is explained:

Libraries, which used to in effect underwrite the hardback market by guaranteeing to buy almost every new literary novel, have diverted resources to music, computers and DVDs.

Isn\’t that lovely? The literary fiction market, all those arty types writing and reading the most incredibly boring codswallop, has been subsidised by your tax money all these years. Good that it\’s ended then, isn\’t it?

12 comments on “The End of Hardbacks

  1. No, it’s not.

    Library purchases of books in hardback – not just ‘arty literary novels’, as you pejoratively describe them – but all forms of literature and other writing ensured that a wide range of knowledge was available for all to consult. The scandal is not, as you put it that this was ‘subsidised by your tax money’ but that this money was diverted to purchasing music and videos that were all served by the commercial rental market.

    Libraries, in my youth, were beacons of civilisation in a dark, bleak world of ignorance. There was no bookshop in the town where I grew up. The library served as both source of knowledge and development. An entirely worthy use of taxpayers’ money and even more necessary today in a world of reality TV and tabloid newspaper prejudices.

    But DVDs and pop music CDs? definitely not.

  2. Whilst I’m not averse to libraries sporting DVDs and CDs (as a renter from them, how could I be?), one must wonder whether this is a sensible direction. As yet, the internet has provided me the means to access almost any film and song in a relatively quick and convenient form. It has not provided a similar means of accessing novels. It is a pain to read large bodies of text on screen and even worse to print it out. Thus whilst libraries might feel to be moving with the times by offering digital media, they are not recognising that the ubiquity of that digital media makes their original role as a deposit of books more valid, not less.

    The change to modern libraries that I most support is the expansion of computing services. Access to the internet is absolutely in keeping with their original remit of providing a gateway of knowledge to all.

  3. If only libraries were still directed by Carnegie rather than the local council. ‘From the grave’ is a bit tricky though.

  4. but all forms of literature and other writing ensured that a wide range of knowledge was available for all to consult.

    Try telling that to my county library system. Barely anything current of significance to to the political right is carried in our libraries, even for ordering. And this area is so true blue Tory that Labour’s threatening to close down all our hospitals.

  5. My local library is a Carnegie. I suspect even from the grave he could do better job. Apathetic staff and a book selection that would embarrass a jumble sale. I take my kids to bookshops – helpful staff with story telling and other activities thrown-in.

  6. “Yes. I only ever buy paperbacks.” – the ultimate ‘Im all right, Jack’ self-centred, utilitarian, philistine comment.

  7. “The literary fiction market, all those arty types writing and reading the most incredibly boring codswallop, has been subsidised by your tax money all these years.”

    Instead, they’re making sure people get hold of copies of the likes of The Motorcycle Diaries, An Inconvenient Truth and Fahrenheit 9/11.

  8. A nice article by Jasper Gerrald in the Observer (I know it sounds like the start of a joke) which points out the best selling children’s book is Rupert Bear. And Dan Dare. Here’s the link. Avert your eyes and scoll past his blatant Islamophobia:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/story/0,,2212928,00.html

    The truth is that publishers are made up of Leftist humanities graduates with utter contempt for the reading public – or rather the actual, as opposed to ideal, reading public. You only have to look at the Booker Prize to see the problem. When was the last time a readable book won? Who in their right would read, say, Salman Rushdie for pleasure? I think there is a serious market for best selling books of the 1930s to be republished unedited. Anyone want to join me in republishing Henty, Muade Diver and Biggles? It is a terrible indictment of the modern industry. And look at how nostalgic even Harry Potter is – White, male, Middle Class hero without a sign of incest anywhere. Wouldn’t get that on any High School English class reading list.

  9. “The truth is that publishers are made up of Leftist humanities graduates with utter contempt for the reading public”

    Oh, I dunno; _my_ publisher isn’t.

    In any case, as near as I can tell, it’s the other way around. The paperback market has mostly collapsed due to the collapse of the “rack trade,” but hardbacks are doing fairly well.

  10. “Yes. I only ever buy paperbacks.” – the ultimate ‘Im all right, Jack’ self-centred, utilitarian, philistine comment.

    Agreed. Off to the gulags with him, for re-education!

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