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.