The eight new titles for the summer programme were announced yesterday, and one can confidently predict that there will be some entertaining and thought-provoking titles as usual, selected by Amanda Ross.
However, with Specsavers as major sponsors of the TV Book Club now, it would have been good to see rather more provision made for the visually impaired.
Of the eight titles, only 3 are available in large print (and only from US publishers). These are The Help by Kathryn Stockett; Stone’s Fall by Iain Pears; and The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf.
Only 3 are available as audiobooks: The Help and Stone’s Fall, and also The Bed I Made by Lucie Whitehouse.
And only 3, so far, are available as ebooks: The Help, Stone’s Fall and The Weight of Silence.
This really is pretty unsatisfactory all round. All typesetting is digital nowadays so it is comparatively easy to produce an ebook edition, comparatively easy to produce a large print edition. Audiobooks are not so easy, but at least the three available are all produced by publishers who cater for the visually impaired, Isis and WF Howes, so the audiobooks are likely to be unabridged.
Ebook sales took off dramatically last year in the US and are likely to follow suit in the UK this year. Whilst UK publishers try to work out what to charge for ebooks, and how to protect copyright infringement, I suspect they are going to be overtaken by events as people adopt the expensive but beautiful (and beautifully simple) ipad.
Still, at over £400 for the cheapest version, the demand for large print editions is not going to diminish in the immediate future.
So lets see Cactus TV, Specsavers and Channel 4 use their clout to encourage the major publishers of these eight titles: Penguin, Hodder, Orion, Bloomsbury, Random House, Macmillan, Harper Collins and Mira (an imprint of Mills and Boon) to ensure that alternative editions are produced as soon as possible.
Furthermore, if they could be encouraged to produce their own editions, rather than selling rights to specialist large print and audiobook publishers, they might be surprised at the commercial benefits they derive.