Everything Is Nice

Beating the nice nice nice thing to death (with fluffy pillows)

Home Taping Is Killing The Music Industry

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Buying books online isn’t “morally dubious, but it is tragic. It has a lot of unintended consequences for communities.” According to this article in the New York Times.

It is a familar but stupid cry. I highly praised a couple of Jeanette Winterson novels this year. However, a couple of years ago I scorned her for this piece in the Times that incontinently argued that giving books to Oxfam was good, giving books to friends was good but giving books to strangers via the internet was bad.

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Written by Martin

31 December 2008 at 13:06

Posted in books

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3 Responses

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  1. Yesterday I popped into my local Waterstones in the hope of scaring up a copy of Heart of Darkness. This is a book that can actually be donwloaded for free and legally via Project Gutenberg.

    I learned that the Penguin Classics edition of the book – a novella mind you – is £7.99

    Frankly, if publishers are going to take the piss I can’t think of any reason as to why I should want to pay full retail price.

    Jonathan M

    31 December 2008 at 13:49

  2. I wouldn’t say Penguin are taking the piss. I don’t have that particular Penguin Classic, but I do have some others. They’re printed on nice paper, the text has usually been reset and proof-read properly (or so it appears), and extra value is added by introductions (a critical appreciation of the work or two) and appendices (which set the work in its historical context, or explain some of the more obscure events or words in the book, etc.), so I have no problem with them charging what they think is an appropriate price for what they’re selling.

    If you just want a cheap paper copy of an old book, rather than lambast Penguin you should simply look to another publisher’s offering. Wordsworth Classics, say. Last time I checked (admittedly a few years ago) their books were £1.50 each.

    Nick H.

    31 December 2008 at 14:43

  3. I should probably add that sitting next to it on the shelf was an American version of the novella that was accompanied by half a dozen critical essays (including the famous ‘bloody racist’). The cost? £8.99

    I’m a firm supporter of the Penguin Classics. I even wrote a column suggesting that SF publishers should follow their example as a means of raising awareness about their older titles.

    Having said that, I’m not a book collector or one of those people who loves books as objects. As such the better paper and improved type setting were never likely to increase my sense of value. In fact, I didn’t notice either upon picking up the book.

    I would have picked up the Wordsworth Classic had they had it but I really struggle to see £8 worth of value in that particular book.

    Jonathan M

    1 January 2009 at 19:01


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