Fuse #8

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Reprinting Landmark Books

Why won't Johnny read?
Or rather, why won't Johnny read non-fiction? Maybe if there were more series titles out there, Johnny'd be more interested. So say two former employees of Houghton Mifflin.
They had noticed there's a strong nonfiction market for men -- adventure books such as Sebastian Junger's "A Perfect Storm" or Jon Krakauer's "Into Thin Air." But, said Hill, "it was clear that publishers were ignoring adventure, history, and nonfiction for 10-to-15-year-old boys." Hogan said, "If you look at what men read, there was no springboard for boys. If they want to read the kind of books they will read as adults, there is nothing to lead them into that area."
The idea is that series books do better than individual titles. So they're bringing back an old series by the name of Random House Landmark Books. My concern with that wasn't too far off from that of former ALSC President Caroline Ward who said, "One of the criticisms of that series in the 1950s and '60s is that it was somewhat fictionalized to sweeten the material. There is such interest in fact-checking and documentation today. We try to avoid narrative nonfiction if it has dialogue that is conjectural."

Plus, are they not tweaking any terms at all? Cause call me crazy, but isn't one of the problems with old non-fiction its... uh... colorful view of people who aren't white?

So I looked through some of the titles we have here at Donnell. We have about 100 of them, as it turns out, with titles like, Rogers' Rangers and the French and Indian War , Captain Cook Explores the South Seas, and Balboa, Swordsman and Conquistador. My boss, for one, was very excited to hear that this is being reprinted. But will they play in Peoria?

Thanks to Mediabistro for the link.

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At 3:03 AM , Blogger The Buried Editor said...

Oh, you mean they're going to literally reprint the series from the fifties? Dick and Jane nostalgia aside, there aren't that many books from that era that most people would want to read now. Like you said, it's just a different type of non-fiction. If it were me, I would bring back the series title and then commission new books on both historical and more contemporary topics. 10 year old boys are just as interested in the guy that had to cut off his arm with a pen knife as 30 year old men. After all, there is still a Tom Swift series selling, but no one except academics actually wants to read the original Tom Swift series.

At 10:59 AM , Blogger Elzey said...

I remember running into some of these titles when I was eleven or so back in the early 1970's and they didn't even speak to me then. Having seen a few of them recently I find them leaving me equally cold today.

I think the aim and idea are solid but it requires a contemporary appeal. I'm still waiting for children's publishers to give the political history of the second half of the twentieth century a gloves-off look. Where's "Sam Irwin, John Sirrica and Watergate" or "American Propaganda of the Cold War" or even a good middle grade version of "13 Days in October"?

At 8:18 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I did (and do ) like the readability of the Landmark books. But another blogger pointed out several flaws:

Hey, some of the facts are outright wrong. Are they going to do some research and editing and correct this, or are they going to leave the Landmark characters still thinking it's impossible to get to the moon.

Secondly, it's being published by the Barnes and Noble publishing company (Sterling) and B&N will fill up their shelves with this old stuff and not have room to display/ sell much of the well written/ well researached/ well presented new nonfiction.

Thirdly, if boys won't read fiction (as they claim), what makes B&N feel that they will want to pick up a word dense fictionalized non-fiction like the Landmark books. Most of the boys in my library want some text with lots of photographs -- color photographs preferred.


At 1:58 PM , Blogger jngoh said...

What an interesting way to get people interested in reading! Book trailers are like movie trailers, but for books! You can find them all over the internet now, but here is a site that's featuring them on YouTube. http://www.youtube.com/booktrailers


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