More Vocabulary 1

A reader of this blog has emailed to ask if I would spend some time considering which takes up more electricity: switching on a lamp to read a book or switching on a Kindle.

Excuse me? This isn’t one of them there scientific blogs that dissects cell phones. I can send you to another address if you want straight science (well, science a bit twisted here and there.) No, if you want information, I’ll give you some more vocabulary lessons for reading book descriptions. It’s more fun than sticking those pins through the flippers of the cell phone.

FIRST THUS: This phrase basically means “NOT the first edition but we thought you might be interested anyhow.” It may mean this book is the first edition that had illustrations, or the first edition with THESE illustrations (The Little Engine That Could and Little House in the Big Woods, for example, have different sets of fans for different artists). It may mean this is the first edition in hardcover if the book was a PBO. (Some dealers ignore the first edition of a PBO and call the hardcover the first edition; this is less honest, or at least less informed, than saying “First Thus”.)

PBO: This stands for PaperBack Original, and indicates a book which was written to go straight to paperback, which once upon a time was as bad for a book’s reputation as :”straight to video” was for a movie. The modern era of the paperback book in the United States started in 1939, when Pocket Books, after an experiment with The Good Earth, brought our Lost Horzion as Pocket Book #1. Most early paperbacks were reprints of books that had done well in hardcover, but World War II and its aftermath convinced publishers that cheap, portable books were moneymakers. So quickly did the market grow, goes the story, that a lot of books which never would have seen the light of day in a sedately hardcover world were published. Jim Thompson, author of many a gritty tale of psychosis, is often used as an example. When the paperback market turned self-conscious, Jim Thompson was writing movie tie-ins.

MOVIE TIE-IN: These are novelizations of the movie, picture books of the movie, books on the making of the movie, etc. (There are also TV tie-ins.) It is easy to make fun of these (Got the novelization of Road to Perdition last week and realized I was looking at a novel based on a movie based on a graphic novel) but the novelization of the script can be better than the movie. Novels based on a movie but not involving the events of the movie (sequels, prequels, etc.) are usually not considered movie tie-ins, but it’s up to the collecter. What you WANT, of course, is a copy of the book signed by the star of the movie, or with a copy of the movie contract laid in.

LAID IN: Anything left in a book–a flower, a letter, a $50 bill–can be described as “laid in”. If you see this used in a dealer’s catalog, it almost never refers to a $50 bill. It’s generally a letter from the author or from someone mentioned in the book, or some other document. “Laid In” is used in contrast to TIPPED IN, which means the document or what-have-you has been pasted down. “Tipped In” also applies to the illustrations published with a book, if, instead of being printed on a page bound in, they are printed separately and pasted onto blank pages in the text. This is more expensive, and is usually done only in deluxe art books these days, or in new, expensive editions of books that have already made it. In which case, of course, the new edition is “First Thus”.

(That’s your signal to go back to the top and start reading again. My studies show this takes less energy than trying to read one of those scientific blogs.) 

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