That’s the title of an article in Charles Stross’s blog.  More in his posting:

Two key points of difference:

1. Genre-based marketing. With a paper book, the cover design, artwork, pull quotes, title, and other front material—and the publisher’s imprint logo—serve to tell the bookstore staff which shelves to put the item on, and to cue readers that this book is similar to others with similar design values. That’s all. Genre is basically just a tag to identify how the item is to be sold.

Because this system is static, printed on paper and card, it’s inflexible. You can’t easily market a novel as both crime fiction and SF simultaneously; you have to pick one, or the other, and hope to hell that the genre you put the product in is the one that will sell best.

You can, in principle, put different covers on the same book. But it’s expensive, and you also have to get the [reluctant] distribution channel, the booksellers, to understand why you’re trying to jam twice as much content down their throats to fill their precious shelf-inches. (After all, they can’t sell something if they don’t have shelf space to display it on.) It works for bestsellers like the early Harry Potter books while they were breaking. For midlist authors? Go away! …


(Via Charlie’s Diary.)


  1. When ever we frame discussions of print and ebooks in terms of contraries the out come is predictable; the meaning that lurks between the polarities will be missed.

    “cover design, artwork, pull quotes, title, and other front material—and the publisher’s imprint logo” are all parts of paratext or tags that influence our reading. If such components are viewed as static or dynamic, fixed or mutable, or as simple binaries we will miss the meanings between.

    In between we can consider how one format can complement another exchanging in either direction. Book transmission in general is benefited by such interplay especially within a competitive media world. An advantage of books is that they encompass BOTH paper and screen display systems. TV and the web are already confined to screen display alone.

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