The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #103818   Message #2119278
Posted By: Malcolm Douglas
04-Aug-07 - 06:24 PM
Thread Name: Review: Marrowbones (EFDSS Songbook reissue)
Subject: RE: Review: Marrowbones (EFDSS Songbook reissue)
Exactly so.

The economics of specialist, small-scale publishing are such that you either sell a book at a realistic price and make a modest profit, or you sell it cheap, make a loss, and can't afford to produce more. The price in this case is normal for books of this kind from a small publisher.

There's always going to be a trade-off between price and quality. A professionally produced book aims to be attractive and (at any rate in the case of reference books) durable; in this case the quality of the paper used, which I think is acid-free (I'll have to check to be sure of that) is quite important. A cheaper grade wouldn't have made a great deal of difference to the cover price, and would certainly have attracted criticism. 'Good enough for folk' isn't a notion I subscribe to: I want the best for it.

As to the physical construction, today's 'perfect binding' —or at least the kind used here— is a very different animal from the sort that produced so many auto-destructing books in (particularly) the 1970s and '80s. The glue won't become brittle and crumbly, for one thing, so it should be perfectly safe to open the book fully. Additionally, the pages are bound in traditional signatures rather than glued together as separate sheets; this probably adds to the initial cost a bit, but it also adds considerably to the life expectancy of the book. Generally speaking, ring-bound volumes are less robust and shelve awkwardly, tending to damage adjacent books. Personally I don't like them; the revised Wanton Seed, when it appears, will be uniform with Marrow Bones.

The original series (1965-1974) was specifically budget-price and pocket-sized, being aimed at the large number of young, aspiring folk-singers attracted to the then rather fashionable 'folksong movement'. Durability wasn't seen as important. This time around, though the demographic is wider, the potential readership is a lot smaller; and good quality, presentation and legibility are expected these days.

In fact, of course, as editors/authors, Steve and I didn't have any say in pricing or physical format. Design, setting and so on was handled by professionals; Nigel Lynn and Julian Elloway. I've worked with them before (on Classic English Folk Songs, the revised reissue of The Penguin Book of English Folk Songs), and they generally adopted any recommendations I made, though as a designer myself I had to resist the temptation to interfere overmuch. I did insist, though, on preparing the digital images of the photographs myself this time. Nobody had a problem with that, or with my recommendation for the cover image.

That's quite enough, I think, on technical issues. Having neglected to announce the book formally here (it was published in June) I'll return to this thread with more information on the actual content. Meanwhile, I have work to do on the sequel.