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"Many a small thing has been made large by the right kind of advertising." ~ Mark Twain
May 3, 2012 8:43 AM   Subscribe

Don't judge a book by the ad on its cover. [Guardian.co.uk] Chalk it up as another brilliant innovation – or a sign of the impending apocalypse – as China Daily reports that publishers are making space on the front covers of books for advertising. Apparently the "first book to carry an advertisement" is an account of the famous cellist Yo-Yo Ma, written by his mother, which was published in March adorned with "the logo of a well-known Chinese textile manufacturer".
posted by Fizz (40 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
When I was a kid (in the US) it was not uncommon for the paperbacks we had around the house to have a glossy ad insert right in the middle of the book (not loose like a magazine subscription card, but bound in). It was double-sided and seemingly both sides were always cigarette ads.
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:54 AM on May 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


Behold, the return of book covers! Now they're not just for Jr. High kids who want to draw on their math and English books.

I also look forward to websites where you can download custom covers to print and adhere to your books, or sites that sell such custom sleeves printed on sticky material, similar to custom DVD or Blu-Ray boxes to make your own box-sets.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:57 AM on May 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I remember my dad had a bunch of old paperbacks and they had occasional ad inserts like that. Seemed to vary depending on the pulpiness of the paperbacks.

But surely this will be what brings people running back to print after abandoning it for their Kindles, e-readers, and whatnot.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 8:57 AM on May 3, 2012


________________________________
|GENERAL ELECTRIC PRESENTS...   |
|                                                 |
|A Warner Brothers publishing...     |
|                                                 |
|             Ulysses                                               |
|                       by James J
[BUY THE NEW]    |
|                       [VOLKSWAGEN]   |
|                          [JETTA! NOW! ]    |
|                                                  |
|Brought to you by McDonalds         |
|                                                  |
|                 Have you had your       |
|                 break today? :)            |
|_______________________________|
posted by griphus at 8:58 AM on May 3, 2012 [12 favorites]


I don't understand why they don't just put the advertising in the text of the book. "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was Miller Time."
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:00 AM on May 3, 2012 [24 favorites]


(I'd take it if they fixed the glue issues that plague the paperback version of Ulysses. Who else knows what I'm talking about?)
posted by 2bucksplus at 9:01 AM on May 3, 2012


George_Spiggott: "I don't understand why they don't just put the advertising in the text of the book. "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was Miller Time.""

Already being done.
posted by octothorpe at 9:07 AM on May 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Smoke This Book NYTimes Essay (2007)
The bulk of paperback advertising came from tobacco companies, which were looking for new places to push their products after a federal ban on cigarette advertising on television and radio passed in 1969. Beginning in 1971, the Lorillard Tobacco Company began buying into print runs of tens and even hundreds of thousands of copies apiece at the astounding rate of 125 titles a month, often in pulpy volumes like “Purr, Baby, Purr” and “The Executioner #8: Chicago Wipeout” — not to mention the poetically if unintentionally matched “I Come to Kill You” and “Unless They Kill Me First.” True to the era, Lorillard placed advertisements in 150,000 copies of “Group Sex,” as well as in “Heloise’s Kitchen Hints.” By 1975, the company had spent $3 million for advertisements in a staggering 540 million paperbacks.
posted by Fizz at 9:07 AM on May 3, 2012


Ghostride -- I've got a lot of Science Fiction paperback going back several decades and have seen a handful of color ad inserts bound in them. I recall a cigarette ad for sure, but maybe some others as well. Not common, but as you note, it's not really new.
posted by jclarkin at 9:18 AM on May 3, 2012


When I was a kid (in the US) it was not uncommon for the paperbacks we had around the house to have a glossy ad insert right in the middle of the book (not loose like a magazine subscription card, but bound in). It was double-sided and seemingly both sides were always cigarette ads.

A certain publishing house ... bound a cigarette ad into one of Harlan [Ellison]'s paperbacks, breaking a stipulation in Harlan's contract. Although better related in Harlan's essay "Driving in the Spikes", suffice to say that after trying nicely to get the book rights reverted back to him, as per his contract, and getting blown off, Harlan mailed 213 bricks postage due to the man (this was back when the US Postal Service would mail anything postage-free, making the recipient pay up), had a Luthuanian hit man friend of his have a talk with him, and then mailed the dead gopher, along with Ted Cogswell's recipe for braised gopher stew, fourth class mail, where it stank up the mailing room for quite a while.

- alt.fan.harlan-ellison FAQ
posted by mykescipark at 9:19 AM on May 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


Can't wait for the Kindle and Nook adverts!

And by that I mean adverts for ereaders on the cover of paper books.
posted by Celsius1414 at 9:19 AM on May 3, 2012


I don't mind that. They can do anything they want on the cover, as far as I'm concerned.

What annoys me about magazines is when they a) hide the table of contents, then once you've finally found that, b) hide the page numbers on the majority of pages and c) make some of the pages out of stiff paper so I can't flip through right to the page I want. Book publishers: don't do that.
posted by ctmf at 9:24 AM on May 3, 2012


An excerpt from the new edition of Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami.

Cash isn't the only thing I take from my father's study when I leave home. I take a small, old gold lighter--I like the design and feel of the classic Zippo™ brand elegance smooth in the palm of my hand--and a folding knife with a really sharp blade. Made to skin deer, it has a five-inch blade and a nice heft that that proves once again why Leathermans™ is the most trusted name in blades. Probably something he bought on one of his trips abroad. I also take a sturdy, bright pocket Maglight™ flashlight out of a drawer. It's superb battery life and brightness will surely be useful during any season. Plus sky blue Revo™ sunglasses to disguise my age. Revo™ are gauranteed to make you look like a fashionable gentleman I think to myself.

I think about taking my father's Sea-Dweller Oyster Nolex. It's an ok watch, but something flashy will only attract attention. My functional Casio™ watch with an alarm and stopwatch will do just fine, and might actually be more useful. I return the Rolex to its drawer secure in my decision.


Later, all the mentions of music come with a link to iTunes and there is an entire chapter about how thrilling it is to drive a Miata.
posted by Winnemac at 9:25 AM on May 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


The joke is on them; nobody reads anymore.
posted by Renoroc at 9:27 AM on May 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'd say there ought to be a hard cover you could buy, like an ipad cover, but we know that the publishers would just make nonstandard size books on purpose (not that there is really "a" standard size anyway).

It makes me happy that I don't have a job where I spend a lot of energy trying to actually thwart my own customers in getting what they want while not quite pissing them off enough to stop being customers. What a miserable way to make a buck.
posted by ctmf at 9:35 AM on May 3, 2012


An excerpt from the new edition of Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami.

That sounds like a Bret Easton Ellis/Ian Fleming co-author.
posted by griphus at 9:38 AM on May 3, 2012


I don't understand why they don't just put the advertising in the text of the book.

I've heard Tim Powers talk about this, but the only reference to it I can find on the web are in the comments on Scalzi's blog. A German publisher of science fiction and fantasy translated from English would insert product placement for soup, apparently as clunky as Subway product placement on TV, with the characters taking a break from the action to say "but first, let's eat some delicious, wholesome Brand Name Soup!"
posted by Zed at 9:50 AM on May 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Paperbacks are transitional. The ebook replaces them and beats them in price & convenience. In the future, we'll still be buying books though, but only hardbacks as gifts and pieces of pride. But they'll be awesome: iron clad editions of China Miéville, illuminated editions of Winnie the Pooh in cloth, and so on.
posted by TwelveTwo at 9:54 AM on May 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Of course, what's to stop them from sticking ads into an e-book between every chapter?
posted by smackfu at 10:05 AM on May 3, 2012


The unskippable commercials on DVDs have driven many to the Pirate Bay..... love to see how this works out for books.
posted by SueDenim at 10:09 AM on May 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oprah has been advertising her empire with stickers on paperback book covers for years now, no?

Still, this could be fun:

BENJAMIN MOORE PRESENTS: Fifty Shades of Grey
The Girl Who Played with Fire, FROM THE MAKERS OF FIRST ALERT
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, BROUGHT TO YOU BY BEATS BY DRE HIGH-PERFORMANCE HEADPHONES
posted by argonauta at 10:26 AM on May 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


My question is this: When are publishers going to give the vinyl model a try and include a download code with the physical book?
posted by lumpenprole at 10:26 AM on May 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Books on vinyl is a silly idea.
posted by cjorgensen at 10:28 AM on May 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


The waterproofing would be nice for some subjects.
posted by Dr Dracator at 10:37 AM on May 3, 2012


Such as the contentious subject of how best to make believable naval, radar, and submarine noises in the bath tub. I'm partial to the Horatio Nelson school of thought.
posted by TwelveTwo at 10:42 AM on May 3, 2012


Illuminated Winnie the Pooh??? GIVE IT TO ME!!!
posted by symbioid at 10:59 AM on May 3, 2012


Books on vinyl is a silly idea.

What, you never cribbed boatloads of awesome Caedmon LPs from your public library in the '80s?
posted by mykescipark at 11:02 AM on May 3, 2012


Paperbacks are transitional.

Paperbacks have been around for more than 100 years, so I don't see how that's "transitional".

I also remember the 1960s paperbacks with big ol' cigarette ads or Columbia House Record Club ads stuck in the middle.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:10 AM on May 3, 2012


I think they meant paperbacks are in transition. Which I would agree with.
posted by smackfu at 11:49 AM on May 3, 2012


The waterproofing would be nice for some subjects.

For instance, the Waterproof Bible.
posted by Zed at 11:50 AM on May 3, 2012


There are many technologies which were long lasting, but proved to be a transitional technology. Certainly they were necessary for further technologies, but they were like first stage booster rockets. In the case of the paper backed book, we can see now that it was merely a step on the road. The paperback was just paper and ink. No good binding, no backing, no promise of lasting, no endurance, low price, easy to make, disposable. But now we can get rid of the paper AND the ink, and still sell it. We know now that we aren't going to see further development down this path of making paperbacks cheaper, easier, better, more durable, because it now has a successor which does all of those things, one which many of us did not see coming, but there it is, the discovery that the disposable book was the technological foreshadowing of the coming of the ethereal book. Which means we now have two very very different products on the market: the material book as art, and the ethereal book as text. All those dudes who got big into custom book making a decade ago, and since developed their craft, are going to find themselves, against all odds, in demand. Likely, they'll find work designing prototypes for mass production of "limited run" editions of every book ever. However, unlike those faux gold trim pleather hardbacks of Jane Eyre, there will be actual designers somewhere in the development cycle. Of course, these "gift quality" books will cost you $400 for that copy of Snowcrash in carbon fiber with digital oled bookmark, but it'll be "heirloom quality." And, again, this will all look like a stupid fad and in a few generations only old people will buy these collector's edition books, but damn it, who wouldn't buy a designer edition of their favorite book? No one has ever gone broke selling on sentimentality.
posted by TwelveTwo at 12:10 PM on May 3, 2012


I have a 19th century Dickens book with ads for brass polish and mangles on the endpapers. Far from being some new nadir of commercialism, it used to be the norm. In an era of poor copyright enforcement, this was how publishers recovered their costs on mass-market editions. If people want the option of downloading everything for virtually nothing, then publishers have to make their money back some other way.
posted by anigbrowl at 12:38 PM on May 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


When I was a kid I went on a Pat Conroy kick, that started with the Lords of Discipline. I remember the next book I read, The Great Santini, had a passage that struck my young mind as obvious product placement. Something about a character wearing an Arrow-brand dress shirt and Gold Toe-brand socks.

I read somewhere that Raymond Carver promised to do product placement in his stories and may have even gotten some stuff advanced to him, but that he never followed through.
posted by jayder at 1:02 PM on May 3, 2012


Books on vinyl work for me!

However, I would LOVE to be able to get a physical and digital copy of a book for a price that is less than just buying a book in digital and physical. I don't want to go all e book or stay all paper.
posted by tilde at 1:06 PM on May 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


NOW A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE
posted by Artw at 3:00 PM on May 3, 2012


Is SO good.
Is SO funny.

Read today!

DILBERT.
posted by en forme de poire at 3:20 PM on May 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Renoroc: The joke is on them; nobody reads (listens to, watches) ads anymore.
posted by aurelian at 12:52 AM on May 4, 2012


I've heard Tim Powers talk about this, but the only reference to it I can find on the web are in the comments on Scalzi's blog. A German publisher of science fiction and fantasy translated from English would insert product placement for soup, apparently as clunky as Subway product placement on TV, with the characters taking a break from the action to say "but first, let's eat some delicious, wholesome Brand Name Soup!"

And that's why Terry Pratchett switched publishers in Germany.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:39 AM on May 4, 2012


Perhaps this will lead to a resurgence in sending books off to the local bookbinder's, who can rebind your entire library in matching leather covers. Or, you know, drive sales of the ebook version.
posted by startled at 11:32 AM on May 4, 2012


It will do both.
posted by TwelveTwo at 12:06 PM on May 4, 2012


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