Monday 11 October 2010

Social Relevance

I've discussed the cunning ploy used by publisher Orion/Gollancz/Weidenfeld for republishing classic books owned by another publisher: get hold of the cheap hardback rights, and publish the book as a small hardback at a paperback price. It's a tactic they're already using on a number of H. G. Wells' most famous SF works (see below), and they're about do it with five of his best 'social novels'. The designs for these paperback-sized hardbacks were done by Luke Roberts and Simon Cox, who won a competition run by design group D&AD. They run with the 'social problem' aspect by using a period newspaper look, with an object lying on the newspaper which interacts with a newspaper photograph in some way.

See more pictures here, and other entries in the competition here. (I especially like this, this, this and this.)

Penguin owns the paperback right to Wells' work, hence this hardback scheme. As I said before, a number of Wells' SF works are now in the Gollancz SF Masterworks series as cheap hardbacks. This excellent collection of books was recently given a facelift. Unfortunately, as I remarked before, part of this facelift involves tinting all of the covers a urinous yellow colour, a not entirely successful nod to the mid-20th-Century yellowjacket look of the Gollancz SF line.

And to compare, here are the Penguin Classics editions of these various titles, featuring the screenprint cover designs of Kate Gibb.


Ian Koviak said...

those Wells are brilliant. lots of nice work. Great ideas and solutions.

Most traditional pubs would never go for this type of stuff. definitely few and far between, but it's nice to see people thinking differently about repackagings.

JRSM said...

I wonder if the reason some of the other contenders didn't win was because their cover designs, though lovely, involved touches (like transparent jackets, etc) that would have pushed up the prices of the books too high above normal paperback prices.

As someone with a bunch of tatty old Wells editions from when most of his non-famous SF stuff was out of print, I'm trying very hard to resist upgrading.

Craig D. said...

Penguin owns the paperback right to Wells' work

Isn't this all in the public domain?

Dig that Penguin Kipps cover, by the way. All the Penguins are nice, actually. It seems to me like Penguin is either really good or really bad, with little in between.

JRSM said...

I believe Wells is in the public domain in the US, but still in copyight for a few more years in the UK/Commonwealth.

Derek said...

Although Wells' science-fiction books were written during the Victorian era, he didn't actually die until 1946, so in countries using the lifetime + 70 rule, his works won't be public domain until 2016.

These are delightful as creative ideas; my misgiving is that there's no clear relationship to the content. You could use these same ideas on a book first published in the 1970s.

JRSM said...

You're right--there is something very 1970s about these covers. Perhaps it's the font used in the newspapers? It looks like something popular in that era.