16 July 2006

La citation du jour 2006-07-16

Le grand public pense que les livres, comme les oeufs, gagnent à être consommés frais. C'est pour cette raison qu'il choisit toujours la nouveauté. -Goethe (via Heileen)
Goethe is saying that the general public thinks that books, like eggs, should be consumed fresh. For this reason, the average punter tends to choose new releases. Of course the average punter these days isn't likely to choose a book at all, but this idea can be applied to the consumption of culture in general (television, cinema, etc.).

This is as true today as it was in the time of Goethe, particularly in the Anglo-saxon publishing world, where new releases in hardback can be found piled high in supermarket bargain bins just months after publication, thereby making room in the 'proper' bookshops for the next slate of throwaway bestsellers.

In the world of French publishing, hardbacks barely even exist anymore. Most new releases are done in a high-quality trade paperback format, and very often they remain in print for decades after their initial publication. After a year or so many books will also be available in the poche format, which is of a slighly better quality than the Anglo-saxon mass market paperback format. I wouldn't be surprised if the hardback format remains in use in the Anglo-saxon publishing world specifically because it stands up better to the demands of the supermarket bargain bin environment, i.e. an environment where books are chucked about by philistines like so many pieces of worthless tat.

What can you say? You just get the feeling that the written word is treated with more reverence in certain cultures than in others. Different strokes for different folks...