Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Celebrating Classic Canadian Compromise

It's a classic tale of East and West coming together to resolve an issue that has, interestingly enough, brought Canadians together to talk about books and about publishing.

Yesterday, when Gaspereau Press and Douglas & McIntyre announced The Giller Plan (which sees D&M aquiring the trade paperback rights to the 2010 Scotiabank Giller Prize Winner, The Sentimentalists, by Johanna Skibsrud), we saw the most wonderful of compromises being reached.

I call it a wonderful compromise because it's a compromise that doesn't really compromise the original intent of Gaspereau to remain true to their dedication to manufacturing their books in a manner that honours their content.

In some ways it's the classic Canadian compromise, where everybody gets to win -- the author, the original publisher and their dedication to the craft, a kindred spirit publisher with the ability to produce in larger volumes to meet demand, the booksellers who, every day, yearn to put books into the hands of their customers, and the readers, who can now get ahold of the book in one of three formats.

Now, The Sentimentalists is available in the original hand-crafted hardcover that brought all this attention, all this supply and demand worry, the original most broadly available Kobo ebook version (which was never out of stock) and a trade paperback.

With an expected ship date of November 19th for the paperback version, this announcement comes at the perfect time, meaning the book will be available broadly in physical form to meet the popular demand.  But at the same time, customers who yearn for the beautifully crafted hardcover will likely get it as well (although in some cases, there will likely still be enough people wanting a copy that they'll have to wait)  Although, ironically, the people willing to wait were likely relatively okay with the situation -- my concern was for those who might only consider buying the book while there is all this attention on it, those whose attention might quickly revert to some other media-attention darling, perhaps the latest celebrity expose or another title with a bit less, shall we say, literary merit.

Me, I'm holding out for the beautifully hand-crafted version; but I'm delighted that as a bookseller I'm going to be able to offer customers the choice between that original version and the more widely available trade paperback version.

And please don't get me wrong. Despite my comment about popular books with "less than literary merit" and my personal desire for the original hardcover edition, I'm far from what you might call a literary snob -- I read across the spectrum, and admittedly spend most of my time reading more popular fiction and non-fiction titles as well as regularly romping through the genres. I mean, I write horror fiction, after all, which might conflict a tiny bit with literary elitism. (And no, I'm not dissing horror novels or the speculative genres, because I find merit in those novels I read - I'm just addressing what's a typical association in people's minds)

The most interesting thing about this whole issue, in my own mind, is the hearty discussion it has caused. The conflict over Gaspereau's conviction and the public demand wonderfully brought even further attention to the Scotiabank Giller prize winning novel's author and publisher -- not a day has gone by in the past week since Skibsrud's novel was announced the winner that the story hasn't been getting broad media attention -- something the Giller was always attempting to do in its celebration of the finest of Canadian literature.

And if you can't get enough about this year's Scotiabank Giller Prize, you should definitely check out the other 4 novels that were shortlisted for the award -- all of them are definitely worthy of attention. These novels are David Bergen's The Matter with Morris, Kathleen Winter's Annabel, Sarah Selecky's This Cake is for the Party and Alexander MacLeod's Light Lifting.

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