19 November 2007

The Hardback Book c. The Middle Ages - 2007

The Hardback Book now sits sadly beside the papyrus scroll and vellum codex upon the remaindered shelf in the great discount bookshop in the sky, following the decision of publisher Picador to issue all future novels in paperback, paperbacks being so much easier to pulp when an indifferent public prefers to spend its gift tokens on the new Leona Lewis CD.

Printed Material had been knocking around in libraries from Alexandria to Alnwick for centuries before some bright spark had the idea of collecting these loose pages and binding them between two hard covers. Indeed, monks had been illuminating manuscripts for hundreds of years - normally by dropping a candle on their painstakingly crafted vellum whilst half-blind from years of rising before dawn to knock out another chapter of The Book of Hours You'd Really Like To See and St Ethelburgha's "Be Everythinge inne Life Shitte or Be Itte Juste Me?". But, as William Caxton claimed in his book How I Inventedde Ye Booke - a bestseller in its day shifting almost 13 units and staying at the top of Ye Very Longe Rivere in Ye Undiscoverede Continente charts for nearly two hundred years - it was he and not "yon lying slagge" Johannes Gutenberg who had invented the modern Hardback as we remember it today.

Whilst printed material was taken up with gusto by medieval early adopters these technophiles remained a small minority as books failed to catch on with the public at large, thanks to their excessive cost and the failure of Ye Conservativves plan to ensure that every child in Britain would be able to read by the age of six (normally because, by the age of six, nearly every child in Britain was dead of ye plague).

The Hardback truly came of age in the 19th century when a more enlightened and educated middle class (and some uppity working class types) clamoured for something heavy and absorbent to line the walls of their libraries, parlours and drawing rooms and keep the cold at bay until a six-year-old could be shoved up the chimney to find out why the fire wouldn't draw.

The advent of the mass-produced Paperback in the 1930s proved the catalyst for the Nazis, allowing them to hold big book-burning rallies - as The Paperback burnt so much better than The Hardback. But despite its early flirtation with fascism, and despite being less weighty (and thus useless as a doorstop or as an accurate missile to project across a classroom to wake Timson Minor during double Latin) The Paperback proved more popular with the public as it was smaller, lighter and easier to dry out on the radiator after being dropped in the bath.

With sales plummeting over the decades, The Hardback desperately tried to adapt itself to modern life - hollowing itself out to offer aspiring spies a place hide their Walther PPKs or faking itself in plastic to give VHS pornography buffs a respectable place to hide their tapes on the living room shelves.

In desperation The Hardback swallowed its pride and turned to the fiction of Dan Brown and JK Rowling to reverse its ailing fortunes, but when even award-winning novelists (that award being the Olympic Medal for Literature - designed, judged and awarded by one J. Archer) such as Jeffrey Archer struggled to shift more than a few thousand in hardback, the publishing world realised the game was up and took a suicide pill (believed by some to be several thousand copies of As A Dodo: The Obituaries You'd Like to See, the perfect Christmas gift for all the family, available now in all good book stores).

The Hardback Book will be pulped at St Naomi Campbell's Church of the Remaindered Book. The service will be conducted by the Right Reverend Mariella Frostrup and the congregation will sing Hymn 47, Paperback Writer. The Hardback is survived by The Paperback, The Audio Book, the e-Book and Dan Brown, JK Rowling and Jeffrey Archer.

1 Comment:

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Seriously sad that a publishing co is giving up on hard backs but your post cheered me up!