Thursday, 28 July 2016

"When is a book not a book?" A ReadItDaddy Editorial

I must admit that I'm largely at fault for being a bit of a numpty when it comes to the subject of this latest editorial but as the subject is entirely new to me (possibly not to you more seasoned book bloggers) I figured it was worth blogging about.

It's the first time it's actually happened to us so worth a mention at least but recently we were sent a Blad to review.

Now, those of you in publishing will automatically know what on earth I'm on about. A Blad is actually an acronym term for a Basic Layout and Design book, really meant to show how a book will eventually look and feel before it hits the market.

Blads are usually never seen outside publishing houses or industry insiders, so it was quite something to receive half a book (hence the image above). Dutifully the publishers had included a QR code for the full text of the story (which, as digital naysayers we had no means of doing anything with) but the big problem was mine - I sat down excitedly, ready to read this hotly anticipated book, utterly deflated as it started to read wrong, like pages were missing. I hadn't noticed it was a Blad you see, simply because I hadn't started the book at the back cover where it stated such. As the book isn't out until September this was a really early review copy, again unusual for a picture book so noob error on trying to read it like most of our other picture book submissions. Bad Daddy!

The book in question will be really stunning in its final incarnation, I've no doubt about it. But like being teased with an amuse-bouche when you want a plateful, it left us virtually hopping from foot to foot waiting for the full thing.

It did get me musing on a couple of points though...

1) What if the practice of sending out 'blads' became the norm. In an industry where publishers are sending out an awful lot of review copies it does actually make perfect sense NOT to send full copies of books out to folk who are (let's be honest) 'doing it for the love of it' rather than being professional book journalists, you know, the sort of folk whose short pithy sentences usually accompany PR blurbs when new titles are sent out (That bloke from a certain red top who always seems to say the same thing - "A great children's book destined to become a classic" yet is endlessly quoted in back-cover quotes or press material).

2) If it DID become the norm, would people give up book blogging in their droves? After all, most book bloggers see a complimentary copy of a book as a form of unofficial 'payment' for their time and effort in putting together blog articles and reviews. What if your 'pay' is suddenly halved? What about those unscrupulous folk who sell on the review copies they get? (That's almost worthy of a whole editorial in its own right, personally I can't condone that at all, I think it's wrong but there you  go, we donate all our surplus to charities and schools that genuinely need them).

3) Digital copies are economical and easy to distribute en masse but do they really offer the same reading experience that the eventual paper-based book will? (This is a debate that'll never have a right or wrong answer though I did smile about the news this week about a surge in print sales over digital, I can't really explain why I find bucking technology so endearing).

There are folk who work entirely digitally and don't really want the clutter or annoyance of dealing with paper books but dang that's a million miles away from where we are.

Personally there's nothing worse than trying to keep Charlotte's attention on even the best of the best e-books when you're forced to grab the tablet or laptop, go through the machinations of actually getting the right e-book file or copy on there, and keeping your child's attention on the thing when they happen to know there are a zillion other time-wasting apps installed on the device that they could be messing around with instead!)

Believe me, and I really cannot stress this loudly enough. We're hugely, hugely grateful for the books we're sent - even the blads - simply because it makes us feel wanted. It's as simple as that.

Someone out there wants us to write about their books, and perhaps even values our opinions enough to kindly retweet or mention on their sites a few words we've written. That is so cool and it also means that you are making one little girl very happy because you want to know what she thinks of your books and aren't afraid that she might think they're not up to scratch.

But perhaps the way we engage with books is changing, and so the ways we write about books and work with publishers must inevitably change too.

I'd love to hear your opinions whether you're a publisher, author, illustrator or book blogger so please do drop a sentence or two below in the comments for this one.