Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Split editions

This Friday, a freight company will deliver two pallets of our new titles to the office. These are the first titles that we're printing as split editions (simultaneous hardcover and paperback printings). From here on out, we're printing all full-length collections in split editions. There's a reason why publishers seldom publish hardcovers--they're blazingly expensive to print, heavy, cost more to ship, require additional design and layout . . . etc. But, there's just something about a hardcover that announces itself as an artwork with a lasting depth, especially when it's offset printed and well designed. You can't fault the "paperback original," nor can you fault publishers that choose print-on-demand and short-run-digital printing options over offset printing (SALT is a great example--they publish a host of deeply talented authors and are able to do so through inexpensive digital printing). It's true, you have to publish fewer authors per year in order to publish books in hardcover--and it hurts. But, tonight, looking at some of my favorite books, I was reminded why it's essential to print hardcover editions. I pulled one of my prized books down, The Man with the Blue Guitar by Wallace Stevens. I'm very lucky to have a rare first printing of the first edition of this book (a gift from another poet), which is a stunning hardcover edition with a very understated dust jacket. The end sheets, pictured above, are strikingly designed (utilitarian and lyrical), and they have a startling texture that is difficult to describe. They nearly feel like pool-table felt. They are alive. 

Michael McGriff