The major Canadian literary prize, the Giller, was won in 2010 by Johanna Skibsrud’s “The Sentimentalists”. The book was published by a small boutique outfit called Gaspereau Press and was available only in a small edition typical of small presses (they specialize in runs of between 400 and 4,000 copies). The Giller would generally add tens of thousands to sales and a number of larger publishers have offered to print a large run. Gaspereau however has so far refused all offers, dismissing Random House et al. as people he wouldn’t want to do business with, and strongly defending tiny quality print runs.
That is one part of an interesting story. The other came in an interview that the publisher at Gaspereau had on CBC Radio one morning where it was noted that Gaspereau has made an e-Book version of “The Sentimentalists” available to anyone online. The publisher dismissed that as merely “the text,” comparing it slightingly with the “book” and being condescending to those who would be content merely “to consume the text” rather than hold the book in their hands.
I understand where he is coming from but I am sure he simply does not see how that diminishes the author, who in this scheme of things merely wrote “the text”, and puts the publisher/binder in the position of artistic genius above them. The book is mightier than the text. Hmmm, I don’t think so.
I’m not interested in reading rubbish no matter how beautifully the physical object is crafted; and I would be happy to read DeLillo and Dos Passos and Richard Brautigan on scrap pieces of paper rather than not read them at all.