Whither the publisher?
I occasionally browse for stories related to the current state of the publishing industry. As someone who is interested in books as "things" (see my last post) and as somebody who writes on fairly niche topics, I find it important to keep abreast with what one's favorite publishers do. But as this blogger keenly points out
, most people simply don't care or even notice. For many consumers, the extensive branding that goes into the graphic design of books and their covers is dead on arrival. As some of the comments to the blog entry show, the only reasonably successful ones - Penguin, Harlequin, maybe Dover - adapt strict standards of uniformity. In most cases, a consumer can walk to a shelf and notice a book by these particular publishers from several feet away. While I am decidedly against rote sameness in most areas of life, the design wit of publishers appeals to me. Most of my favorite publishers have streamlined their process such that their books stand-out when shoved next to other titles in stores. The aforementioned Penguins have always had a certain degree of unity. Ellipsis of London (now, sadly, defunct) and Green Integer both designed smaller-sized books with a relatively uniform cover layout. Wallflower Press (an independent cinema studies press) has used a uniform font, a prominent logo, and generally designs their paperbacks to be all of the same size.
So while I'd go a long way to argue that *I* care about who publishes the book I am about to buy (and to what end), I doubt that most people care. Also, film distributors/studios generally try to do a certain amount of branding - usually from the DVD case right through to the ads, previews, and commercials that proceed a feature - but I suspect that much of this is lost as well. Branding on films is a little more obtrusive, as in most cases, and audiences has no choice but to see the logos of the makers at least one.
Branding won't go away - if anything, it will become a larger part of our lives - so I'd like to defend the practice to an extent before warning of its saturation. We are in trouble as consumers when the logo/brand/company overwhelms the text and all that we are actually buying is the brand-image. This certainly already happens in clothes (ads you can wear!) but I don't want it to happen to my books!