Thursday, 2 July 2009

False Advertising

What really annoys me is shortened versions tryign to pass themselves off as taller.

I'm not talking about high heels, although I'm not a high heel wearer and that's another thing I don't see a need to do. I mean, why try to convince anyone that little old me is actually 2 metres tall. I'm not fooling anyone, especially when I fall over.

And that's just it, you're not fooling anyone. The shortened versions get noticed!

My gripe is about books!

Recently I had a discussion about whether cut-down/shortened/abridged versions of classics should be "allowed". Some people are very precioius about them and don't think they should exist. I believe they should be allowed - I'm all in favour of options - so long as the original is still in print for those who want to access it.

However my belief is that any abridged version should be clearly marked as abridged. The consumer, I believe, should be able to assume that a verison is in its complete form unless it's marked abridged/cut down/shortened whatever. And the marking shoudl be fairly obvious. Say on the cover or spine or on a sticker on the front if applicable.

Unfortunately, it seems many versions like to tuck their notification away. In rather obscure places. Say it's written in the copyright page, or discussed in the foreword/intro.

I think this is more than a little annoying and the buyer shouldnt' be expected to rummage through these places before they discover it's not the full version. Frankly, I'd be pissed off. i've had that experience before, fortunately just with library books. And I've heard some people discuss it on the web.

Sometimes it's not even said straight out, for instance I read of some people complaining that they had read Murakami's Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. A comparison was made with other translations and it was found chapters were missing. A reviewer noted that the copyright page said it was 'adapted' not 'translated' from the Japanese, but this didn't explicitly say it was a shortened version.

That would be very annoying if you had wanted the full-length version!

I am all in favour of shortened versions being available for people; some people do not want to read the whole of a long book but would like to share in the experience of popular stories. However please mark them so, so that consumers know what they are getting! And so they can make an informed decision as to which version they would prefer.

Thank you.


TimT said...

It's complicated. Some of my favourite classic works can be easily cut and shortened for different editions - works like 'Grimms Fairytales' or the '1001 nights', since the first example doesn't have any overall narrative structure. The second does, but it can be ignored (old editions of the Arabian nights tend to omit and include stories at will, according to the whim of the editor/compiler/storyteller. The individual stories are what's important, not any nebulous overarching narrative.) Other classic works do have an overall structure, but one that is too complicated to work out.

Still other classic works (poetry mostly, short stories too) are almost never published in authentic 'original' versions. Wordsworth and Coleridge are frequently anthologised, but republication of their book 'Lyrical Ballads' is not so frequent.

Maria said...

Well, I think it is definitely "difficult" as you said, TimT. Certain stories that many people seem to be not exactly sure what the original version "exact" is - maybe there isn't one - e.g. fairytales and folklore - I think it's fine to not have to write a huge "ABRIDGED CINDERELLA" on the front cover.

Many different versions are out, with different people telling it in their own way.

On the other hand, I find it wnnoying that someone might reroduce a copy of something like, say Pride and Prejudice, and then not tell you it's abridged but maybe 20% of the book is not there because key paragraphs and chapters aren't in it but it still has "Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen" on the front cover. Like I said, reproduce it that way but tell me it's abridged!

Some books I think do very well as shortened versions, in fact many may prefer them that way. And I have no problem with "adaptations" - adapted stories from the Bible is a good example. I'm not a stickler for having to have the original there.

But I think I'd get pissed off if I thought I was a getting the Bible and it turned out someone had just stuck an abridged copy of retellings of popular stories like the Adam and Eve story, and Cain and Abel, and Noah's Ark together and said it was the Bible on the front, not "Adapted Bible Stories" or "Retold Bible Stories".

Same deal with a classic when you find several chapters are sliced out!

Maria said...

Oh ... and I also realise that in certain ways - Bible I think included, variations have been out there for so long that it can be difficult for people to decide what's in and what's out. Or which shoudl be considered the "definitive" edition any more.

But some books, it's really quite obvious. It's a novel from beginning to end with a narrative, not a collection of essays, stories or poems. It's fairly clear as to what the original manuscript includes. The reason it is hacked up is to make it accessible to someone who wants a shorter edition, except for some reason they don't want to label it a shorter edition - maybe because they don't want those people to feel stigmatised? Or because they want it to be shorter so it can look more appealing on the shelf as a smaller more readable book but they feel "abridged version" would put some people off buying it?

Bah. That's what I really do not like!

Oh and if the 1001 nights version I bought had FEWER than 1001 nights in it due to editing - I would demand my money back!

Dan the VespaMan said...

I wonder if a solution may be for the publishers to sell the shortened versions, with an option to upgrade to the full length version later for a nominal fee.

But yes, I agree as a consumer the product should be clearly labeled if you are not getting the full version.

Maria said...

dan, as a consumer I agree.

But a vendor ought to know it's just in their best interests also.

It can't be in their best interests to have a gang of irate consumers after them hurling not-well-labelled abridged versions after them screaming "YOU BASTARDS!" can it? After all, some abridged versions come in hardcover too. VERY hard covers indeed!