Ok, time for another rant. I was in the bookstore the other day–I won’t say which bookstore, only that I was buying a coffee, not a book–and I happened to notice something that precisely illustrates what I happen to think is one of the fundamental things wrong with big, conglomerate publishers. Which is that they are so trendy and so droolingly insane to capitalize on any fad, that if any book is in the least bit popular, a week won’t have gone by before the bookstore is packed with shelf upon shelf of spin-offs and knock-offs.
The example I will use to prove my point is The Dangerous Book for Boys. I saw this pretty much everywhere last Christmastime, and I thought it was fairly cute. Not purchase-worthy, but cute and retro and eye-catching.
Well, it must have been pretty damn popular because this year there is a dangerous book for everything. The Dangerous Book for Girls, The Dangerous Book for Dogs, The Dangerous Book for Ferrets, The Dangerous Book for Grannies… you name it, there’s danger attached to it. And the boys themselves have now got a pocket dangerous book, a dangerous board game and a desk calendar (how is a desk calendar in any way dangerous?).
And that’s just in the same franchise. Then every publisher has to have their own line of similar books. There’s How to Be the Best at Everything (The Boys’ Book). 211 Things a Bright Boy Can Do. The American Boys’ Handy Book. The Pocket Guide to Mischief. And ad nauseum, all of them sporting similar funky retro-style covers. Even Scholastic has jumped on this bandwagon, with the horrendously gender-biased The Girls’ Book of Glamour and The Boys’ Book of Survival (which the blog Strollerderby excoriates).
Seriously, this is why I hate big-business publishing. If a book sells moderately well, it has to be franchised and series’ed until any modicum of originality or wit is stomped out of it. And all the other publishers have to have their own line of unreadable copycat titles cluttering the shelves. Then someone will turn it into a movie.
It’s no wonder publishers are having such a hard time. Those of us who love good writing turn our noses up at fads like these. And there just aren’t enough suckers out there to buy all of this crap.
By the way, when I was in my local independent bookstore, I didn’t see all of these knock-offs littering the shelves. Valuable shelf space was taken up by real books, which can be enjoyed by both boys and girls. Score another point for the independents.