Tuesday, April 01, 2008

My hazy return

I'm back from England, which was fun and informative (I'm a big British history fan), but probably would have been a lot better if I wasn't sick with a bad cold and fever the whole time. Well, some things you can't control. Comments are back on.

A couple observations about the English book market:

(1) I saw my first-ever book vending machine in the airport. Awesome.

(2) With everything outrageously expensive in London against the dollar, I was surprised at how reasonably books seemed to be priced. While other products just seemed to have the same price as in America (1.00 for water) only it was in pounds so it was doubled (really $2.00 for water), books generally had lower retail prices than they do here, to reflect that the pound is worth more than the dollar and always has, even though the rates were much better when I was in Oxford in 1998. One novel that cost about $13.95 here cost 7.95 quid there, which was astoundingly fair.

(3) From the bookstores I was in (and believe me, I made the time for it, especially the used ones), it seems that the British are more into trade paperbacks than we are, an important cost-saving measure that I'm surprised we haven't done here. I saw new books that are only available in hardcover here in the States on sale as gigantic trade paperbacks on the front shelves. The downside, of course, is that you'll kill the spine with a huge book like that, but the book is lighter and costs a bit less.

(4) I saw a lot of books that had a glossy plastic cover over them. When I saw people reading them in the underground I thought it was just a library thing, but in a used bookstore, there was a giant pile of donations and most of them had the same plastic cover. Maybe British readers can tell me if this is something that's done regularly. It seems a nice way to protect the book.

9 comments:

Amy said...

As a general rule, the plastic covers are only from libraries. I don't own a single book with a plastic cover on it, and nor, I think, do any of my friends. Of course, people travelling on the underground might put the covers on themselves due to having the books shoved in their bags all day, to prevent damage, but it's not regularly done.

Deranged Goblin said...

I imagine a lot of used book shops by books from libraries when they sell them.

Mallika said...

In my home country of Thailand, many people have transparent plastic covers on their books -- to protect the book covers from smears, oils, tears, and the like. All major bookstores carry out a 'we'll cover your book with plastic' service, which is usually done for free. The bookstore employee stationed there would roll out a big piece of malleable plastic, cut it down to size for the book, and slip the book's covers through, folding the plastic behind the books and taping them in place.

All of the Thai-language books on my cousin's bookshelves have plastic covers. Only about ten out of the thousand books I have are covered in plastic, however. I tend to be extremely careful with my books (they all look new, except for the ones I've lent to friends -- and I can tell you that my white-hot rage when it comes back in a much less pristine condition makes me want to smack them on the head with a heavy hardcover book).

In Spain, where I now live, the plastic covers are not usually the norm -- except perhaps for textbooks.

Kim Kasch said...

I loved England. We took our oldest son when he graduated from UofO last June. One of my favorite places was the Cotswold and visiting Shakespeare's Stratford on the Avon. People were so friendly, we met a couple at Stonehenge and they invited us to dinner. I would definitely go again.

Anonymous said...

Libraries are generally the places where you'll find books with plastic covers, and they give away their most damaged books (or indeed, least borrowed books - after working a library for a while, I know that libraries will sometimes give away books nobody has borrowed for years to make space on the shelves, as they're regarded as a dead loss.) to charity shops very often, which accounts for the pile you saw.

And as a general rule, hardbacks aren't usually bought - Brits wait until they come out in paperback, and trade paperbacks are used for this reason.

Alex.

Aimless Writer said...

Sorry you're sick! I hope you're better now. Vitamin C!
Book vending machine? Not sure how that works. I like to read a couple of paragraphs of a book before I buy to hear the voice. How can you do that with a vending machine?
Unless its an author I absolutely love, I always wait for the paperback. Hardcovers are annoying. I like to carry my books with me, paperbacks are easier to tuck.
Plastic covers? I hope that makes it to the states. Since I do carry my books with me, a cover would help keep it in good shape. A reusable cover to switch from book to book would be great.

Anonymous said...

Glad you got to go to England, but I miss you when you're gone, Rejecter.

When you move on to editing or other jobs in publishing will you still keep up the blog?

Helen said...

Ireland is even more into trade paperbacks - it's very rare that I'll actually have to order in a hardback for a customer. I tend to go for trade paperbacks without even thinking about it; they're easier to carry around, and I'm of the opinion that a broken spine is a well-loved and reread book.

SLING WORDS aka Joan Reeves said...

I'm catching up on my blogs and just read about your trip to England. I'm so sorry you were sick. I certainly feel your pain. I went to Italy for 2 weeks last summer and was sick from the second day on. Thought I would die, and they'd have to bury me in Italia. Consequently, much of my time there is a hazy pneumonia-tinged memory.