Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Book Addiction: Part II

As Britney Spears's writing committee once said, "Oops, I did it again!"

I went out and bought more books. But it wasn't my fault. They were on sale and I can't resist a sale!

Here's what happened: York University was having this book fair as part of some humungous conference and there were all these publishers there selling books at a reduced price. So I went to all the independent publishers and shmoozed with some of the folks I knew from when I used to do The Show (because now that I have gainful employment, I no longer have time to volunteer for community radio) and one thing led to another and I walked away with three books: "Heartways" (many authors, Arsenal Pulp Press), "Pure Inventions" (James King, Cormorant Press) and "Race Against Time" (Stephen Lewis, Anansi Press).

Now, you may be wondering why I shun the large publishing houses, like Random House and Penguin. The thing is, me and the large publishing houses, we don't get along. When I did The Show, the large pubs would send their new, sexy, hardcover books with their glossy press kits to us whether we wanted them or not. Then their publicists would call us and ask when we would have the authors on. And I swear, 90% of the time, the books blew goats. I mean these books, even if they were by major authors, were unreadable. I don't ever give books away (or even sell them or lend them out), but recently I took a bunch of these hardcover monstrosities and left them in my building's lobby for people to grab. They were that bad.

And, you know, I don't fault the publicists for sending us these books and pestering us to do the interviews because, frankly, it's their job to get exposure for the authors and the books. They're just doing their job. I hate whatever machine keeps these cruddy books with their sub-standard editing and poor-quality writing published. I have two books on my shelves that have glaringly obvious factual errors in them -- factual errors that could have been corrected with one Google search. How can a large publishing house justify that? Forget James Frey and his dumbass fiction-cum-autobiography, it's the small, minor-league editing errors in real non-fiction that shows that a publishing house only cares about the cash.

That is why I don't go near the large publishing houses anymore. Occasionally I'll still buy one of their books if it's by an author I know and respect (and who I often feel happy for because they're finally making some money). But, in general, I'm so disillusioned by the whole thing that I'd rather take my chances with some small press book by a no-name author. Then, at least, I know that my money is going to someone who loves what they do.

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