Poor-quality books at high prices…

My copy of John Sandford’s latest offering, “Bad Blood”, arrived yesterday. Amazon, by the way, still don’t offer this book from stock, nor have they bothered to explain why.

Still, back to my book. List price is £18.05, according to Amazon, very little of which has been spent on its production.

It’s a hardback, published by Putnam, to the standards of a fairly downmarket paperback – which would be acceptable were it priced accordingly. It’s not. Even the Putnam name on the spine is badly foil-blocked.

The dust-jacket and boards are OK, and then it’s all downhill. It runs to 585 pages, but it’s printed in such a large font, with excessive line spacing, plus positively huge headers, footers and margins, that the actual amount of text on the page is much less than it appears at first. At a time when paper books are under threat from ebooks, such ecologically-unsound habits are impossibly to justify. (Nigel Slater’s “Real Food” has, I swear, more white space on the pages than text, though it is properly stitched!)

The binding is abysmal, glued, not stitched, something that is becoming increasingly common in hardbacks** – a production economy which seems never to be passed on to the customer. I can live with it, as long as it’s done well, but it hasn’t been. Some ham-fisted oaf has managed to glue the spine to the pages. That or the binder was too cheap to back the page adhesive with paper so that didn’t happen. Although, having looked closely at it, it might well be deliberate, which is just crass. Accident or design – either way, the execution is extremely poor.

**It seems to be something that’s bled through from cheap book club publications to become mainstream, but at much higher than book club prices!

The pages are badly glued, too, some looking as if they’ve made only the lightest of contacts with the adhesive. The point of hardbacks – and why we are willing to pay a premium for them, compared to paperbacks – is the stitched construction which ensures the book will be good for decades, even generations. I have a century-old hardback that’s still in decent condition (cover tatty, but pages still intact), plus a whole bunch of books not quite as old, around 70 years, which are equally sound, simply because of their stitched construction. But, as I said, they’ve foregone stitching in favour of glue.

Done well, this can be durable. This is done poorly, and in a year or two may well start shedding pages the way a dead goose sheds feathers.

The bottom line, though, is that if publishers are going to consistently present us with hardback books that are essentially paperbacks with board covers, then I think we have a right to expect a reduction in price to reflect the lower quality and shorter life-expectancy of the books. Otherwise, I see no reason not to wait for the paperback, or ebook, version.

2 thoughts on “Poor-quality books at high prices…

  1. Sad to see the company loosing its credibility. They are not making an effort to get the Router manufacturers to make the internet systems they sell accept Kindle and Nook . It is costing them money as why buy books with the Kindle when you can not use your home internet to see them or buy them ?

    • Let me clarify this, Tom. The router manufacturers have done nothing wrong, it’s not their problem. It never was.

      Anybody still on dial-up, or using a low-speed USB broadband modem (there are probably still some out there), is probably doomed. That’s their responsibility for not upgrading – you can’t expect old hard- and software to run new devices. OK, maybe they can’t afford to upgrade, but that doesn’t make it anyone else’s fault.

      It’s the job of Amazon, and Barnes and Noble with the NOOK, and everyone else to ensure that their devices comply with current international standards in terms of secure router connectivity. I can’t speak for the Nook, but the Kindle certainly does just that.

      This is what Amazon says about Kindle connectivity:-
      Supports public and private Wi-Fi networks or hotspots that use the 802.11b or 802.11g standard with support for WEP, WPA and WPA2 security using password authentication; does not connect to WPA and WPA2 secured networks using 802.1X authentication methods; does not support connecting to ad-hoc (or peer-to-peer) Wi-Fi networks.

      What it will and won’t connect to is quite clear. And as I said, there might well be problems with older computers and routers/modems. That’s nobody’s fault, it’s just a fact of life – old hardware often doesn’t work with new devices. It’s always been that way. It’s quite impossible to make a new device, like the Kindle, compatible with everything that’s out there, but it’s perfectly compatible with current equipment.

      The only problem is that Amazon referred to the Network Key as a password (it IS a password, but it’s CALLED a Network Key), which has clearly confused a great many people. From what I’ve read on this blog, many, maybe most problems seem to be user-related, people not doing what the Kindle needs, and inputting the network key, but inputting pretty much any code but that. Or maybe they don’t know where the Network Key can be found (it’s on the routers setup screen). I know how to get into mine; sorry, I don’t know how to get into anyone else’s. Once again, though, that’s not the manufacturer’s fault, or Amazon’s fault. Generally, being unable to get into the router’s setup is a user fault due, more often than not, to lack of knowledge and foresight.

      When you first configure a new router (or when you get someone to do it for you – it’s really not hard these days), using the installation CD, it accesses the router using your browser. Make a note of the address, (or put it on Speed Dial), because that’s how you get into the router, later, to find useful stuff like the Network Key. Also, you may like to do as I did and make a note of the Network Key and the SSID. Because as sure as god made little green apples, when the day comes that you need either or both, the CD will be nowhere to be found.

      Assuming the Kindle isn’t faulty, doing things in the right order, like fully charging it before doing anything else, as you do with any rechargeable device, then inputting the Network Key when prompted – taking care to type it correctly – is all you need to do.

      In the event that a Kindle just won’t, for whatever reason, connect wirelessly, and assuming it’s not faulty, then the simple solution is to use the USB cable – just pull it out of the charger plug.

      As for books, I’ll carry on buying them, because most books aren’t available in ebook format yet, anyway. Maybe they never will be, and that’s fine. Again, that’s not a Kindle issue or an Amazon issue – it’s up to publishers and authors to make new books available for conversion to ebooks. But that’s their choice, no-one else’s.

      The Kindle will reduce my book-buying, which was my intention, although ebooks I currently have loaded have prompted me to buy “proper” books I might not have otherwise. That’s life.

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