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Thursday, January 1, 2009

Today in Bad Publishing Ideas

Posted by on Thu, Jan 1, 2009 at 2:50 PM

A couple days ago, we received a copy of Firmin, a novel by Sam Savage in the mail. I read Firmin a few years back, and I liked it okay. It's about a rat who lives in a bookstores in Boston's Scollay Square district. The rat learns how to read.

It's a charming enough fable, and the writing about the seedy neighborhood known as Scollay Square, which was notoriously torn down to make room for Boston's hideous Government Center complex, is beautiful. But the marketers and designers of this book fucked up in a huge way. Here's the book:


That's not just part of the illustration: They have die-cut the book to make it look and feel as though a giant rat has nibbled on the side of the book. This is annoying enough, but the rat-hole is exactly where one's thumbs go when you're holding the book, meaning that if you try to hold it the traditional way, your thumbs wind up covering up text of the book when you're trying to read it. This is one of the dumbest book designs I've ever seen. Dear publishers: Next time, if you must die-cut a book for the sake of a little bit of browsing attention, at least cut the hole out of the top of the book, where it's less likely to annoy readers.

Luckily, the original edition of Firmin is available, in hardcover and hopefully without any rat bites, at many used bookstores around town.


Comments (8) RSS

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If I become Emperor, die-cut book covers will be punishable by death. Yes, even those ones where the outer foiled cover is cut short of the edge, leaving a strip of the colorful under-cover showing.
Posted by Fnarf on January 1, 2009 at 2:57 PM · Report this
Everyone knows that your thumbs go near the bottom of the book, not the middle. At least, that's how I hold books and I must assume that is the only correct way to do it.
Posted by elenchos on January 1, 2009 at 3:02 PM · Report this
I think here you've missed an opportunity to reflect on the binding as an example of book art. Normally book art sees its cutting edge in children's books, actually, where there is less criticism of taking risks, so this is a fairly unusual example of it from a mainstream publisher in a book intended for adults. I like it. The UW Libraries have a terrific collection of book art, incidentally, which is worth anyone's time to look through, whether you like this attempt at book art or not.
Posted by Simac on January 1, 2009 at 3:09 PM · Report this
Be glad it's not a novel about a lovable book-reading shark. Three words per page, max.
Posted by flamingbanjo on January 1, 2009 at 3:27 PM · Report this
Given the obsessive care I take with my books, intentionally making a book that looks damaged hurts me inside.
Posted by Gitai on January 1, 2009 at 4:03 PM · Report this
@1 - except in the case of v.c. andrews novels, right?
Posted by dana. on January 1, 2009 at 6:27 PM · Report this
Besides, mice usually nibble books from the corners.
Posted by this guy I know in Spokane on January 1, 2009 at 7:06 PM · Report this
wtf? does anyone care that the illustration on the cover looks absolutely MISERABLE? ok so the die-cut is annoying but with one look at that depressing, disgusting, completely unappealing rendition of a rat I want to go running in the opposite direction. Apologies to Mr. Krahn the illustrator, but that creature doesn't even look like it is from this planet.

And I'm the type who thinks rats are cute. I had them as pets as a kid.
Posted by onion on January 1, 2009 at 9:48 PM · Report this

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