Yesterday I attended London’s annual paperback book fair in Victoria. On previous years it had been poorly attended. Two years ago I walked in and found myself the only person in the room apart from the dealers. This year, though, the place was completely packed – what had happened?
Recently we’ve been told that hardback books are making a comeback as desirable gifts because of their steady price and the fact that book designers are becoming more adventurous at turning novels into attractive packages. This seems to leave paperbacks out in the cold, a format waiting to be cannibalised by the e-market.
So why should old paperbacks suddenly become desirable to own? Well, for one thing the covers of certain publishing houses have taken on a kitsch value. Then there’s the novelty of sets like the Armed Forces editions, which are narrow and long, like flip-books, designed to slide into a small pocket or purse (I love this format). Also, the days when you could buy rare paperbacks for a few pennies are gone – some of the harder-tofind books here were selling for £25 or more a copy. I picked up Jack Finney’s ‘I Love Gailsburg In The Springtime’ in paperback for £20 because I did not even know it existed, and I thought I’d read everything he wrote.
But the big reason for the fair’s huge success is the internet. Instead of having to find out about it through flyers or friends, this one gained traction through Facebook and Twitter, bringing in a whole new generation of younger collectors.
Perhaps there’s hope for future paperback fairss after all.