Tried & True, Repackaged For You!

book reviewsAs the seasons come and go, the great reads remain solid as granite in the memory of man. Unfortunately for publishers, as the seasons change so do the tastes of the reading public. Yesterday’s bestseller is simply today’s drab book. While it is said that one should never judge a book by its cover, the rainbow of offerings in any book store show that the “judging” is alive and well. Even more to the point, something like 90% of the value of a modern first edition might be wrapped up in the condition of the book jacket, regardless of the content between the covers.

This war to keep the artistry of the book jacket viable and attractive to the customer is particularly fierce when it comes to the classics. How do you keep a book like Machiavelli’s The Prince fresh when it’s been out for centuries? Publishers routinely repackage the great books in new fashions to catch the hungry eyes of readers, and this methodology helps keep classic titles – always strong sellers – fresh and even more profitable.

One of the most common strategies for re-release is to piggyback on a movie or related book, and that strategy is in full swing with this year’s release of what will likely be the #1 fiction title for 2013, Dan Brown’s new Robert Langdon novel Inferno. Brown again takes a historical item – in this case Dante’s The Divine Comedy – and weaves a conspiracy around it. With Brown putting focus on Dante, revamped versions of the tripartite poem are popping up every month. First on the scene is the Deluxe Penguin Classics Edition of Divine Comedy. A compact but hefty paperback, the book follows in the colorful tradition of the Deluxe Penguin series, with a cover featuring gold lettering and pink & black scenes illustrating important scenes from the book. Perhaps more elegant than other titles in the series, this edition still has the semi-cartoonish feel the Deluxe Penguins exhibit in their design.

book reviewsThe Divine Comedy is also getting a reboot from the poet and critic Clive James. Releasing on April 1st, this edition will undoubtedly be both extremely impressive and highly controversial. James has made some major stylistic changes (changing the original poetic form to a quatrain for ease of readability and flow in English) as well as actually incorporating his footnotes and ancillary research into the text of the poem. Whether this will aide or hamper the flow of Dante’s classic is yet to be seen, but anything “Dante” should do well between Clive James’ hard work and the new impetus given by Dan Brown.

Any anniversary is a perfect excuse to slap a new cover on a classic, and on April 30th Edith Hamilton’s school-reading staple Mythology will get this treatment. Just having passed its sixtieth anniversary, Hamilton’s compilation of classical Greek tales will get a new look in both the Hardback and Trade Paper formats. The new look is a little more artistic and freeform than the prior incarnation, and if you’ve held off buying the book in hardcover then this is the time to jump in.

book reviewsFinally, sometimes the best way to update the look of a classic is simply to revive the original cover. Whether it appears old-fashioned or suddenly becomes retro-chic, the original book jacket design often attracts purists and collectors who like new books that have at least a sheen of age on them. Modern Library is a notable purveyor of this sort, and their latest hardback release fits the bill perfectly. They have released a new edition of {In Cold Blood} by Truman Capote, with only slight embellishments to the cover. The streamlined design is eye-catching due to its bare simplicity, and a good example of why classics sometimes look best in their original outfits.

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