A Friendly Exchangeon June 11, 2010 at 9:34 am
Matthue: I never used to be a book snob, but I think I'm starting to become one.Maybe it's this whole Downfall Of The Publishing Industry thing, and I only really want to invest in nice-looking hardcovers anymore. Maybe I've just run out of space in my library, and I only want to commit to nice-looking books. Or maybe I've just run out of money.
All this is just a nice way of saying: I like expensive books, and I wish I could buy them. So when my friend Jake showed up to lunch toting -- or, actually, lugging, because it was so big -- a handsome slipcase edition of 'Absolute Sandman', I nearly coughed up my own intestinal tract and ate that for lunch. Granted, Jake works for a publisher and frequently brings me advance copies of stuff. But a $100 hardcover -- one that's out of print, no less -- is not the sort of thing that either of us ordinarily comes in contact with.
I'm a little bit ashamed at how much I love nice books. When I saw the cover of my own first book, I thought it was the coolest thing in the world. Inside, though, it looked as boring as any other book -- every chapter heading was the same, all the pages had the same layout as every other book on the label. In the designer’s defense, he did use a cooler-than-average font, and he must've gone through a hundred different fonts to find one that wasn’t totally bland—but that’s all it was, a different font.
Maybe I've just been spoiled. Reading comics -- especially reading someone like Neil Gaiman, or Alan Moore, who spend hours detailing the minutiae of how each panel looks. Yes, just mentioning their names is a cliché, but it's obvious that they were both the kind of kids who read each page of a comic a hundred times as kids. They really appreciate the graphic design of a page; you can go over the panels and margins of, say, 'League of Extraordinary Gentlemen' and find something new each time.
That's what I want my books to be like. The ones I write, the ones I read, the ones I buy. I know my prose-books won't get that way until I start self-publishing, or until I get really big -- Scholastic doesn't let their mid-range authors anywhere NEAR the design computers -- but a boy can dream.
And, in the meantime, I've still got my comics to read. And my omnibus Sandman to obsess over.
Ethan: It's funny that you've mentioned the subject of the never-ending omnibus hardcover releases, because I've very adamantly leaned towards the opposite side of the spectrum. I almost NEVER give any thought to those deluxe hardcovers. I'm strictly faithful to paperbacks; the worn edges, the musky smell of a library, and just sitting comfortably on the couch with a book in your hands. Besides the fact that it can be intimate, the paperback also offers a tangible satisfaction. It's art that you can touch, carry, lend and borrow.
Sure you can lend a DVD or a CD (cuz you can just download shit, right?), but music and movies both need devices to operate. You can argue that an iPod (or any of those i-Products) offers the same intimacy I've described for a paperback, but to me, it's a blank slate that an owner just projects their media onto. That's not the same as opening up a paperback on your lap and entering a world the author created specifically for you to experience. The art is one format, one presentation, no assembly required, no batteries. Just adequate lighting so you don't hurt your eyes.
Although harsh to say, I kinda hate those over-sized, expensive hardcovers. To me, those kinds of books destroy the intimacy that can be achieved between creator and reader. I've tried reading a 20 lbs hardcover before (it was last year when I was trying to get through 'LOCAS'), and I just felt like the story was being presented to me as a collection of sleek, over-polished gallery pieces.
Another example: part of me wants to purchase the deluxe hardcover of the 'Calvin & Hobbes' archives. But I know that once I do, it would sit on my bookshelf forever (outside of the occasional times when I'll show it to a guest or flip through it myself). And I think most fans who own those deluxe volumes of 'C&H' own it for the same reasons: they love the original material, they're loyal to the material, and they want to own it. But I'll bet all those same fans will head straight to the paperback volumes of 'C&H' if and when they decide to re-read it (re-read the WHOLE thing, not just one small section). And in the end, those deluxe volumes have lost all their functionality; more a symbol than anything.
I know I'm preaching to the choir, and I know you love paperbacks as much as I do. But I guess I'm just trying to say...to HELL with those big, fancy hardcovers!
Matthue: You totally caught me on the Calvin & Hobbes front. I've never been voluntarily into buying the expensive editions -- actually, as a kid, I resented the concept of "collected editions" so much that I cut out every Sunday's strip, dating it and everything. I mean, they were in color. It was a totally different world.
I actually think this is the single thing that's going to rescue us all from the monster that is the KiPad. Nice-looking books. Why should I pay $8 to own a digital copy of the new David Byrne album that gets fried the next time my iPod decides to reboot itself when I can pay $12, get a CD in a swanky case with cool drawings in the liner notes? And I can keep it on the shelf and show it off to other geeks when they come over.
Which is why, Mr. Ethan Young, you need to give me something to wrap my grubby paws around. I'm sick of reading 'Tails' on Google Reader. I want PAGES. I want something I can show my mom.