Friday, Feb 18, 2005
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By Dan Glaister
LOS ANGELES, FEB. 17. There is a crisis in literature. Many readers have stopped reading, and been drawn instead to other perhaps more modernish forms of entertainment. Sales are down, authors are despondent.The Book Industry Study Group reports that annual sales in the U.S. have fallen from 600 million volumes in 1999 to 535 million last year.
But U.S. publishers have come to the rescue. Literature's woes, they have decided, lie in the smallness of the print. ``Many people over the ripe old age of 40 are starting to have trouble reading, and reading mass market books has become very difficult,'' Jane Friedman, president and chief executive officer of HarperCollins said.
The answer is obvious: publishers are to make books bigger, thereby making space for larger print on the page and solving in one swoop the malaise affecting literature.
Maeve Binchey, Nora Roberts, Stuart Woods and Robin Cook will be the first to benefit from the new super-sized literature as Penguin launches its Premium range in the U.S. this summer. The new format, which other publishers also plan to adopt in the U.S. next year, will be half an inch taller than existing paperbacks. Moreover, the books will be printed on higher quality paper and they will sell for a figure between the price of an existing paperback and hardcover book.
A statement from Penguin said: ``The improvement is most apparent in the interior design, which has been crafted with the production values of a hardcover book in mind... The result is a much more enjoyable reading experience.'' The innovation, the publishers point out, is the first time that the mass-market paperback format has been tampered with for 50 years. It is their response to the declining book sales. The innovation may come as a relief to those authors who may have mistakenly felt that people were not buying their books because of something they had written. Rather than being concerned about such old-fashioned literary gimmicks as plot, character and the careful choice of appropriate language, they must now recognise that the key to successful writing is to change the font size setting on their computer and to invest in some heavyweight paper.
© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2004
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