One would think that publishers and booksellers, to have ended up in such an industry, would have to have at least a casual fondness for the written word and the pages those words are contained within. Yet, for some unfathomable reason, they keep committing sins so atrocious one might find themselves questioning whether they actually like books at all, or if they are all just monsters.
As book lovers, we’ve all been the victims of this uncivilized behaviour at one time or another, and I think it’s time we call these book-abusing scoundrels out and demand they start treating our books (and their readers) with the respect they deserve.
This is just a list of some of the abominations that are frequently committed at the hands of publishers and booksellers.
Possibly the most barbaric of all the sins committed by those we expect to love books the most. They range from advertisements to prices and they are all evil. Sometimes they can be removed without causing major damage to the book, but often they can’t. Even if they don’t manage to destroy the cover during removal, the residue can often be harder to remove than the stains a night of tequila leaves on your soul.
2. Fake stickers
Just when we thought evil couldn’t get any worse, it does. Like a tattoo of a mistranslated chinese character you had tattooed on your hip on your eighteenth birthday, this curse can never be removed. Never ever. It’s there forever, just like your disappointment.
3. Remainder marks.
These are those pesky little lines of sharpies that some unfathomably dimwitted bookseller thought it was a good idea to deface books with. This practice should just be illegal and all offending booksellers lobotomized. You wouldn’t be expected buy a TV if it had a line of sharpie across the screen now would you? No. Why is this acceptable for books? Two words: It’s not.
4. Mid-series cover changes
Imagine this: a bright young reader, their mind still full of hope and wonder, walks into a bookstore on the day the last book in their favourite series is released. They have been waiting so long and perhaps even patiently. Imagine their wide, searching eyes as they approach their favourite section and scan the shelves for their long-awaited treasure. They haven’t seen the cover yet, but they believe in their heart of hearts that they will know it when they see it. They scan the shelves. Nothing jumps out at them, they are confused for a moment, and then they see it. What they have waited to long for.
Now imagine how their brow creases in confusion as they take in the title, how their mouth drops in horror as they read the title, the author’s name, over and over again as they try to make sense of what they are seeing. Something has changed… All the light disappears from their eyes as they realise that their books will no longer match, and that for some unfathomable reason, the new cover is far worse. “Why?” the now disenchanted reader asks themselves as they try to make sense of the madness in front of them. “Why would anyone be so cruel?” Tears start to well in the young readers now-dead eyes.
Later at the publishing house, Satan is taking a nice refreshing bath in the young formerly-bright reader’s tears while congratulating himself on the splendid new covers for the Across the Universe series by Beth Revis.
Okay, things got a bit away with me there, but you get my point.
5. Publisher-sanctioned spoilers
Some publisher with a serious lack of human decency sprung this one on me just recently. I finished my book, and turned the paged, unknowing that I was committing a grievous error. On the next page was a synopsis for the next two books in the series, and they were FULL of spoilers, and not just small spoilers. Huge spoilers. Like who lives and who dies spoilers. Never before have I suffered such an incursion at the hands of a publisher. The worst part about this is that I just cannot fathom how supremely unintelligent someone has to be to not realise that having such spoilers so unexpectedly is a really terrible idea. Reading your synopses of the next books actively made me not want to read the those books because you spoiled it. It’s just unforgivable, and at best, a particularly poor marketing strategy.
6. Inaccurate covers
This particular sin ranges from the mere annoyance of a blonde on the cover of a book about a brunette to a downright offensive white girl on the cover of a book that is about a specifically, and explicitly described non-white protagonist. I’m not even going to make light of this one. It’s just so unacceptable that it doesn’t deserve jokes. If you’re reading this and you are a publisher who approved such a travesty, SHAME ON YOU.
5. Prohibitively expensive ebooks
This is another one of those sins that probably hurts the sinner more than it hurts sin-ee but it’s still really annoying, and it is the intentional pricing of ebooks so that they discourage you from buying them in order to get you to buy a physical copy instead. There is no logical reason why a digital copy of a book should cost more (or just slightly less) than the paperback, but frequenters of ebook retailers will know that this is a regular occurrence. Just the other day I was on the Kobo website looking to buy a copy of The Lesser Dead, a horror book that has received rave reviews of late. But I assure you nothing in this book could be as terrifying as the price of that ebook: $28.99 (and that was marked down from the RRP of #34.04!). Now I don’t know who is responsible for setting the price of ebooks (I know that it is the publishers, not the retailers, but I’m not ruling out Satan being involved in this one as well), but I am calling bullshit on this one. So suffice to say, I didn’t fall into that little trap and instead went on Abebooks and bought myself a hardcover edition for $6.
Tina 1, Publisher (and Satan) 0.
Speaking of Abebooks…
6. “Good Condition” of secondhand books
Now, I like hardcovers, but as a full-time student, I’m not exactly rolling in cash, so I buy a lot of them second hand. This practice is a bit hit and miss as the description of the book’s condition is often open to interpretation. “Good condition with previous signs of use” should generally be taken to mean “not-good condition with previous signs of abuse”. “No tears to the pages” should be taken to mean “no tears to the pages, but you better believe that cover is torn to sheds” and “cover clean and intact” should be taken to mean “oh you weren’t expecting a dust jacket were you?” (and don’t ever think that just because there’s a dustjacket in the supplied photo that that implies that the book you purchase will also have one).
On a side note, in the interest of saving any potential second-hand booksters from falling into some of the traps I have fallen into, here is my handy little guide:
New = (surprisingly) new; Very good = actually pretty bad, good = very bad; fair = it’s just not fair to subject a book to such abuse. Wont someone please think of the children’s books!
7. The Wrong Edition
This happens to me all the time. I find a book: the stock photo is the edition I want, and I diligently check the ISBN (I’ve been hurt before). I excitedly order the book and wait for it to arrive. Then when I open the package, it’s the wrong edition. I have ordered the White’s Fine edition of Treasure Island so many times, and I’ve received the White’s pocket edition at least three times and then this random picture book once as well. Whenever I email the seller to complain I always get the same response: “Well we didn’t have to one you ordered so we thought we would send you what we have”.
No. Just NO!
Okay, that’s probably enough for now because I am a person who is easily annoyed so, if unchecked, I could go on for some time. What are some of the things booksellers and publishers do that piss you off?