Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Dan Kois' mass market marathon

One of my all time favorites.
In the not too distant past, and for a long time, I was the mass market buyer at the bookstore I worked at. Even when I started the job, the mass market book phenomenon was already beginning its long decline, though it didn't seem like it to me at the time. By the end of my employment, mass market was being written off by all but a couple of publishers. Although I haven't conducted a thorough investigation, what I hear frequently is that first, trade paperbacks killed them off, and then it turned out that genre fiction, which most mass market books are at this point,  lent itself very easily to being transformed into ebooks. They both have something of the same consume and dispose quality in people's minds.

Cheesy cover, great book.
Even when I began, though, mass was always a bit looked down upon by many of my coworkers, and I have to say I never really understood that. If you didn't like mysteries or sci-fi or romance, there were still always a strong line of classics that were to be had cheaply in this format. Jane Austen, Salinger, even, rather unbelievably, considering its density, Les Miserables. But even current literary efforts often took this form. So  I never really understood the condescension towards the format.
I'll read a book in almost any form, but I do have a fondness for mass market. So I was very pleased to see Dan Kois embark on a mass market marathon over at Slate this month. In celebration of his efforts, I checked out the used book shop at our local library yesterday, and picked out a couple of classics off the shelf. I was spoiled for choice, really.

What kind of rubbish was it? The Americans and The Aspern Papers/ The Spoils of Poynton, both by Henry James. 50 cents a pop.

Just to illustrate my point.



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