Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Form Falls to Function

Like Chad Post, director of Open Letter (the University of Rochester’s newish non-profit publishing house for works in translation), I have a “visceral hatred for dust jackets.” That’s one of the reasons I’ve loved this first season of Open Letter books, most of which have been published in the paper-over-board format. As Chad explains in a post at Publishing Perspectives, “paper-over-board books are hardcovers without a dust jacket.” These books have the heft and the sturdiness of a hardcover book, but the cover design is part of the hard cover itself. This combination results in a wonderfully self-contained, beautiful object—perfect for reading or for gifting. With a good cover design, such a book is quite stunning.

Unfortunately, traditional American marketing and bookselling practices don’t know how to handle paper-over-board books, and, as a result, Open Letter has been forced to move to the more popular paperback format for its next season. While I understand the necessity of the decision, I’m very disappointed. Now Open Letter titles will look like every other press’s titles. Without a doubt, I’ll be renewing my subscription for next season. Whatever the format, I know the books will be amazing, but I probably won’t be ripping open my Open Letter packages with quite so much anticipation next year.

1 comment:

Zibilee said...

The paper-over-board books do sound like something that I would like. Too bad nobody is really making them in the U.S. I would love to get a look at one.