I alluded to it in a previous post, but thought that this might make a good topic for discussion.

“Booksplitting” is the process where a publisher will buy a manuscript for a single book, split it and publish it as 2 (or more) physical books. A good example here is Scott Westerfeld’s manuscript for a novel called Succession being split into The Risen Empire and The Killing of Worlds. (See the review of the latter for some insight of the process by the author’s wife – also an author.) Another example is John C. Wright’s whose Golden Age story was published as three separate volumes. (See our interview for Mr. Wright’s point of view on the subject.)

Earlier this week, Rick Kleffel wrote up a rant that talks about booksplitting (and, to the best of my knowledge, is the first to use that term). His piece was most recently addressed by Tor Books editor Patrick Nielson Hayden who defends the practice.

I’m of mixed mind here. I don’t pretend to know the ins and outs of the publishing business or the book market, so I believe the usual arguments of publishers maximizing profit. Certainly, that’s sound business sense. More money for them means being able to publish more (hopefully) quality stories. As long as readers keep buying books at $25 a pop, the publishers will gladly sell them. Until consumers send the message that they are overpriced, they would be foolish to do otherwise.

At the same time, from a reader’s perspective, paying $50 (2 hardbacks @ $25 each) for something that could easily have been printed as a single book stinks. I’ve heard the argument that readers are unwilling to pay $50 for a bigger book from an unknown author. That is a weak argument in my opinion because Neal Stephenson’s 900-page System of the World doorstop sold for only $28. And he’s a well-known author. Are publishers expecting me to believe that Westerfeld’s Succession would not have been sellable as a single 635 page book? (And that’s if the large type of the split books was used – fewer pages required if a normal type size was used.) I’m not rich (or brazen) enough to support my biblioholism at $25 a hit. As I stated before, I was lucky enough to find both hardback Succession books at bookcloseouts for under $15. Maybe the occasional reader is willing to pay $25 every now and then for a 300-page book with a larger typeface, but this sf fan sees the practice of booksplitting as an impediment to getting crunchy sf goodness to the masses.

What do others think about booksplitting? Does it matter to you at all? Would you rather have the bigger single volume or multiple smaller ones?

Uh-oh. I think I feel a poll coming on. (As it were.)

Filed under: Books

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