You may have caught wind of an online uproar today surrounding an edition of Anne Of Green Gables. If you're not familiar, it's a set of Canadian stories published in 1908 about a charming, precocious, freckled, red-headed orphan girl, and beloved by a lot of people. As with many things that people warmly remember from their childhoods, its legion of fans fiercely defends its integrity—so you can imagine how they reacted when a new edition appeared on Amazon with a cover depicting the titular character in a way that is quite faithful to modern audience expectations, but not so faithful to the text:
People are appalled, they're outraged, they call it disgusting—a sign of our shallow times where art is warped by corporate pandering. But really, the whole thing is a bit of a misunderstanding, which seems to have been sparked by an NPR "round-up" style column with a bunch of brief news snippets. What a lot of people failed to realize before running with the story (or chose not to emphasize) is that Anne Of Green Gables is public domain, and this edition was published independently through Amazon's CreateSpace. So, all of this broad outrage has really been sparked by one anonymous person using an independent publishing platform. The opinion that the cover choice is stupid seems perfectly legitimate (couldn't it at least be a sexy redhead and not completely betray the text?) but the reaction is a tempest in a teapot. There are tons of editions of the book on Amazon, self-published and otherwise, as is almost always the case with popular public domain works. There's really no conclusion to be drawn from this new edition, other than "some person out there didn't actually read the book," or possibly "gentlemen prefer blondes."
But there is something worth drawing from the controversy that has emerged: there's no difference between traditional publishing and self-publishing in the eyes of the average consumer. They simply don't notice anymore. While this is best demonstrated by the popularity of some self-published books, sitting right alongside books from big authors and big publishing houses in the Amazon listings, it's also demonstrated by a controversy like this, where the public considers one self-published public domain edition to be every bit as representative of "the world of publishing" as one of the major house's "classic" lineups. Can you imagine, even ten years ago, people getting worked up about what would have still been called vanity publishing?Permalink | Comments | Email This Story
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