Wednesday, 12 May 2010
The Book Front: Distinction Clouds
Sales Assistant B is not having a good time of it on the Book Front. His latest dispatch arrived at the Learning to Read offices in a stained and battered jiffy envelope, with what can only be described as claw marks around each end.
Inside, along with his latest item de reportage des guerre, was a letter begging us to recall him from the front line, and to let him retire to a happy little asylum somewhere; where he could be fed, watered and treated. And allowed to write.
We said no, because Michael said it would be funny.
The thing about war is you get weapons. And the thing about weapons is that they hurt your enemies. The problem with the Book Front is that nobody knows who their enemies are, so they try and hurt everybody. It is better to be safe, they say, than sorry. You can't, after all, be too careful.
So the trend in Book Front weaponry is for indiscriminate, wide-gauge, crowd-pleasing weaponry.
I have identified four main factions from the chaos of the Book Front. Customers, Booksellers, Publishers and Authors. I'm not sure about the last one yet, they don't seem to realise the seriousness of the situation.
Today I'll share with you the first in a series on the heavy artillery of the Publishers.
The Distiction Cloud
There are good books and bad books. The Publishers want to sell as many of the bad ones as possible, so it is their main aim to completely cloud the distinction. For every good book (the hook book) there are another ten with exactly the same cover. Don't let your eyes decieve you, it is exactly the same. They've crossed out the title and written something else, if you're lucky.
So you read the hook book, and enjoy it. You try another -- oops. Bad books are bad, clearly. But they're not lethal. A strong immune system will get over them, if it didn't already fight the invasion. So far, so not-too-bad-really.
But the Publishers don't stop at a handful of bad books getting ingested for every hook book. Once a hook book is identified, it is swamped under a deluge of bad books, to ensure the hook book itself is a statistical non-entity. This is what leads to the horrible condition of 'cover reading'.
Brave readers chase the hook, reading any book with that cover that they can find, their desire for the hook book homeopathically heightened by its dilution. They think they can handle a few bad books -- they're not lethal -- and they keep searching. The sheer numbers, though, will inevitably take their toll.
If they're lucky, they will get very ill. That means they're fighting the infection. If they're not lucky, the distiction cloud itself will become ingested, and become part of their own faculties. No longer will they recognise the individual books they are reading; they will only recognise the same, repeated, cover. The cloud in their system fixes their cycle on repeat, and they spend the rest of their lives swimming lifelessly through the deluge.
The sad, sad bit is that, statistically, many of those readers will come across and digest the hook book that they were originally searching for, while in this clouded state. They won't even realise they are doing it. What a downer.
The Distinction Cloud not only negates the discernment of the Customers, it turns them into perverse cattle; not there to feed the Publishers, but to be fed by them.
NEXT TIME: SAD BOOKS, OR 'THE ENTERTAINING SIDE TO CHILD ABUSE'