Thursday, 18 December 2008

Lack of backlist large print titles

Very few books are published in large print in the UK. In fact less than one and a half per cent of books are published in large print, and most of these are popular fiction.

Those that are published tend to remain in print for only a very short time. In fact three books published earlier this year, and which we could probably have sold well over the Christmas period, are already out of print. They are Stratton's War by Laura Wilson; The Last Fighting Tommy by Harry Patch; and Spitfire Women of World War II by Giles Whittell.

The specialist large print publishers in the UK are really only interested in selling to libraries who buy books at the time of publication. So the publishers have little interest or incentive in keeping titles in print. Add to that the fact that most licenses to issue large print editions are only granted for five years with the consequence that perennial bestsellers, such as Birdsong and Captain Corelli's Mandolin are not available.

But the evidence is very clear to us at that many readers want to re-read old favourites, rather than the latest book.

They have been greatly helped in this by the fact that most of the major out-of-copyright classics have recently been published by new publishers taking advantage of print-on-demand technology. You can now buy nearly all Thomas Hardy, Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, the Brontes, etc. Now that they have been issued using this technology, they need never go out of print again.

But publishing out-of-copyright titles is the easy option, with no typesetting charges since the text is lifted free-of-charge from the internet, and too little effort is made to make the designs aesthetically pleasing.

What we now need is for publishers to issue backlist titles that are in copyright, particularly titles that are set books at GCSE such as John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men and William Golding's Lord of the Flies.