Great Books… Greatly Diminished

On Amazon of course we now find lots of self-published/independently-published books. Due to easy to use technology, that site (and some others) has provided numerous writers with the opportunity to reach a reading – and perhaps pretty large – audience on entirely their own terms, with their own product. I am one.

The e-book Kindle’s appearance in 2007 was central in kick-starting that authoring “revolution.” Paperbacks have followed. I have seen lots of independently produced BOTH that are as products as good presentation-wise (in my opinion) as what you might see sold by a major publisher. (I will not offer an opinion on my own.)

However, there are downsides to that publishing “revolution.” We already know there is a great deal of copyright infringement on Amazon and other assorted ugly shenanigans.

There is also lots of re-publication of “classic” books that are out of copyright and are therefore fair game for anyone to re-publish; and there is nothing inherently wrong with doing that, of course, in principle. Good sized, non-Amazon publishers also do it – often with an edition offering fresh historical commentary in an introduction, etc. For example, this is a relatively recent re-publication of Anna Karenina

[Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy, 1877. Photo by me, 2021.]

…by a British publisher. It includes an academic’s introduction, is a standard sized 5 x 7 & 1/2 inches paperback size…

[Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy, 1877. Back cover. Photo by me, 2021.]

…and cost £2.25 for some 800 pages.

That is fine.

What is wrong (I feel, and I am hardly alone) is when a re-print is indifferent at best:

[The front page of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s This Side of Paradise, republished on Amazon by some unidentified publisher, 2020.]

I got caught the other day. I try to be careful with what I buy. But I missed this one.

I wanted that Fitzgerald novel – his first, published in 1920 – in paperback. So I went to Amazon. It is prominent on Amazon.co.uk’s “Prime” delivery.

THIS one is NOT worth the £5.36 (about $7.50 US) purchase price:

[First page of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s This Side of Paradise, republished on Amazon by some unidentified publisher, 2020.]

This version is a small text and stupidly large 7 x 10 inches (17.78 cms by 25.4 cms). That combination naturally keeps down the production cost price in order to maximize the profit for its “independent” publisher. The result: it is only 153 pages, while the original novel was 305 pages.

[Title page of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s This Side of Paradise, republished on Amazon by some unidentified publisher, 2020.]

There is also no “feel” to it. It has the aesthetic appeal of an undergraduate thesis. This is its back cover:

[Back cover of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s This Side of Paradise, republished on Amazon by some unidentified publisher, 2020.]

It is blank. That is the clincher. It is disgraceful and insulting.

I do not expect “perfect” from any book. However, in this case you do not even get an original new story. It is just someone’s lazy cheapo effort to ride on Fitzgerald’s century old book in order to try to make some fast money for themselves.

This sort of con is disturbing and angers me. As a purchaser, I want to feel I have gotten something of value for my money. “£5.36” for THAT? You must be joking.

[From F. Scott Fitzgerald’s This Side of Paradise, republished on Amazon by some unidentified publisher, 2020.]

I returned that Fitzgerald rip off. (Fitzgerald’s most famous book, The Great Gatsby, became public domain on January 1, 2021, so is likely to attract even more of the same treatment.) As a book buyer as in everything else, never forget: buyer beware. I know I am going to be much more careful going forward before I click “purchase” on a “classic” re-publication.

Have a good day, wherever you are. 🙂