Tossing and Tortured 'Till Dawn

I come back to you now, at the turn of the tide.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Pet Peeve of the Day: Wasted Space in Books

It's especially common in trade paper and hardback editions of books. The author produces a volume that for whatever reason the editors decide would sell better if it were a little less slender, so they go ahead and give it falsies. What good is this, other than making the book weigh more in my bag? This week I'm reading Gavin Menzies's 1421: The Year China Discovered America (take that, Senor Colon!), and it's about X mm thick. I have the habit of thumbing through the pages before I begin a read, to get an idea of the size of the task at hand, and I found that this book labels pages up to 649. It's beefed up with 3 sections of pictures, each 8 pages in glossy. The actual book, however, ends on page 456. Beyond that, it's a postscript, appendices, an index, works cited pages, and, of course, a lot of blank pages.

Furthermore, the editors of this volume haven't heard that acknowledgements and prefaces that aren't part of the body of the text don't get the usual page numbers -- they're to be labeled in lower-case Roman numerals, starting with page i. I firmly believe the first page of actual material should be page 1! In 1421, it's page 29! Even that is an introduction, though I'll award that real, Arabic page numbers if they like. The introduction carries on until page 38, and then there is an entire page with a section title, a 2-page map, a blank page, a full-page chapter title, and a blank page. Chapter 1 begins on page 45! This continues until page 71, and then we get a blank page, a full-page chapter title, and a blank page.

In short, pages 1 to 75 have less than 25 pages of chapter 1, plus a 10-page introduction, for a ratio of about 50 per cent.

C'mon, HarperCollins. You can do better than that.


  • At 7:00 PM , Anonymous Geoff Wade said...

    You may also like to comment on the content of 1421, after reading the critiques at:

    The publishers have much more to answer for than the size of the volume

  • At 7:21 PM , Blogger Argentius said...

    Interesting stuff, geoff. I guess I'll have to reserve debunking the book until I've finished reading it, but I'll get back to you on this...

  • At 4:36 PM , Blogger ryan said...

    Courtney and I watched a NOVA special about Gavin Menzies.

    We were really high, and it sure did seem hilarious to repeat his last name in a gross voice.

  • At 4:37 PM , Blogger ryan said...

    Mirabile dictu! I can comment now!

  • At 2:09 PM , Blogger Argentius said...

    Yeah, you can. "new"Blogger has finally gone out of Beta, which means they are integrated again...


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