Saturday, April 29, 2006

Publishers' Monopolies

When Catherine Coulter came out with Lyon's Gate, I declared a partial boycott of Penguin Books. I just can't bring myself to pay full price for the books in the new format. I wait until they get to my used book store (where everybody knows my name - my own personal Cheers). I even forbid myself from reading bits of them at Borders, since I know I won't be buying them there.

I've compared books in the regular and new formats and simply don't see enough of an improvement to warrant an extra $2 to $3. There is a minute increase of space between the lines but the obvious increase is the space around the edges. It's unnecessary and only serves to make the book larger. They say this makes it easier to read the book, but I've noticed no difference in ease of reading. In fact, they're harder to hold. If they truly had wanted to make it easier to read the books, then Penguin Books should have made them large-print trades, which they didn't. Penguin Books has cited the paper quality is improved. It is a little thicker and less see-through than other books, cool. However I, at least, was quite satisfied with the paper quality before. We didn't need the change.

I know that anyone reading this who knows what I'm referring to is wondering why I'm posting about something that happened almost a year ago. Well, I'm affected by it every four to six months. Catherine Coulter's Lyon's Gate was the last of her Sherbrooke series, so I can ignore anything else she publishes now. All of the other authors, but one, I've never liked. The exception is Christine Feehan.

Christine Feehan has two series coming out in this new format, both of which I read and collect because I enjoy the series so much. I've gotten all of those in the new format so far at The Book Swap for about $5.75 - a definite improvement over $9.99 plus tax. However, I have to wait to get them until someone else turns them in. I just got Dark Demon yesterday and it came out March 28th.

I know I sound whiny, but this format change angered me (and still does) so much that I wrote a letter to Penguin Books and carbon copied it to both Christine Feehan and Catherine Coulter when Lyon's Gate came out. I never received a reply from any of them - not even a form letter thanking me for taking the time to let them know how I felt they were doing, even if they disagreed with me.

I still buy books from Penguin Books. I don't have much of a choice, do I? With most industries a person can write a letter or in some way effect a change if something bothers them, but not the publishing industry. They have us over a barrel and they know it. We get addicted to the written word and our favorite authors, then the publishers change things on us - all in a move to make more money. Yes, yes, this is capitalism at work and their sole purpose is to make money, but where does business stop and exploitation begin?

In a way, I feel guilty about boycotting buying Feehan's books where she'd get the profits for the sale. After all, this is her living. However, by agreeing to be published in the new format, she sort of invited it from people like myself who have to plan out carefully what books they buy. I only work in retail (good wage, comparatively - but books are an expensive hobby) and I only have one small bedroom to store my books plus myself, my clothing and nearly everything else I own. I still have books in storage (for the last three years!).

A similar instance is with authors going hardcover. Congrats to them, they've made it to the Big Leagues of the Publishing World. Now I get to wait another six months to a year for the story. I'm actually happy (usually) for the authors of hardcover books at the same time my inner word addict is shouting "Why? Why? Nooooooooo!" Hardcover means more in the royalty checks, which means the bills and such get paid better and they can (hopefully) concentrate more on the next story, thereby getting it to me faster and feeding my "book habit", as I call it.

I just don't have the money or space for either hardcovers or the new, bulky format. Maybe others do and see no problems. I wish I was one of them. I also wish Penguin Books, Catherine Coulter and Christine Feehan had at least done me the courtesy of explaining what they feel the benefits are of the format change and why they did it. Even a letter saying, "We don't need your stinking money!" would have been preferable to being totally dismissed and ignored.

I need a new addiction.

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