Derek Dahlsad is a technical wizard and sharp designer. Self taught in most respects, he pulls a formal theatrical design education and part-time computer science courses into a skill-set that is neither purely artistic nor limited by technicality.

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MetaFilter On Binding Preference
23 Mar 2006, 7:53:07 am

At first, I was just going to yoink Metafilter's links and write something about the dwindling hardcover market versus paperback love, but I found that the MeFite's comments on the subject were more valuable.

Granted, their comments need to be taken with a grain of salt; they're the participators online, people willing to pay $5 to gain access (which, in a world of Farks, is an astronomical amount compared to the freeness of most accounts), which identifies them as preferential towards the internet lifestyle: quick devouring of information and then moving on. The average preference towards paperbacks doesn't surprise me, but it does concern me.

We've got only one hardcover book out -- actually a quarterly series -- at (nsfw - it's erotica), and we've been having trouble selling it. The cover price is $23, an average price for a 150-200 page hardcover, but it's 40% more than the average erotic paperback of similar size. The cost of producing a hardcover (despite what one MeFi commenter said) is significantly more expensive because of the extra parts involved, so we're undercutting our usual pricing method because there's no wholesale discount to account for when selling only direct. The top Amazon 'erotica' results have numerous sales in the past few days, but ours dwindle. While the subscription model is a big part of the tough sell, the cost of the book (compared to the erotica that could be had online for free) is our next-biggest worry for scaring off customers.

The New Generation wants content - content is king, remember? - so they want what's inside the book, regardless of the binding method. They don't expect their books to last forever, because much like everything else they own their books will be replaced with the Next Thing shortly. From their standpoint, the difference between a hardcover and a paperback is only price, because the other differences are irrelevant, nearly somuch as the paper manufacturer or the font are in their purchasing decision.

Do people want hardcovers? There's some out there, but it's not as many as I think we are expecting. The wifey and I are old-world book collectors, who generally scoff at paperback ownership except as a necessary evil, and would prefer the hardcover. The vocal online minority isn't to be discounted - because the silent majority turns to the vocal to help make their own decisions. While The MeFi conversation doesn't make my mind up one way or another, it does add to the perspective, one that we need to weigh carefully to avoid losing money on spendy hardcover publishing.

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Oscars And The Book Culture
6 Mar 2006, 7:05:38 am

Last night's Oscars weren't overly amazing: there wasn't much surprising or overwhelming, but one acceptance speech did strike home for us. Clooney's speech on Hollywood's activism was good, I'll grant him that, but the best speech came from an award winner who showed up in blue jeans to co-win a rather overlooked category. However, viewers should have been surprised if he didn't wear jeans to the Oscars, given his pedigree. Larry McMurtry, a Texas author, a Western writer of some calibre (Lonesome Dove, which had been adapted into a successful film and TV series, is his), co-wrote the screenplay for Brokeback Mountain, and he devoted the last half of his speech to a topic very close to him:

And finally I'm going to thank all the booksellers of the world. Remember, "Brokeback Mountain" was a book before it was a movie. From the humblest paperback exchange to the masters of the great bookshops of the world. All are contributors to the survival of the culture of the book. A wonderful culture, which we mustn't lose. Thank you.

If the million-odd viewers needed to hear one 'activist' comment, this was the most valuable. A scan of the list of writing winners in past years does show a connection between books and the winning films: Lord of the Rings in 2003, A Beautiful Mind in 2001, Forrest Gump in 1994 all won both Adaptation and Best Picture. "The movie wasn't as good as the book" is often tossed around as a problem with a film, so it is nice to have a writer remind everyone that there's more to reading a book than just to compare the film to the original.
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