Reading you under the table since 2012

Reissues & Reboots

by

Rachel Seigel

Have you ever seen a book on a shelf in the book store and had a strange sense of deja vu? The cover doesn’t look at all familiar, and the title might not ring any bells, but as soon as you read the jacket copy it all comes back to you and you realize you’ve seen this book before. No- you’re not going crazy- you’ve fallen prey to a funny little trick that publishers sometimes perform, and what I like to call the reissue/reboot.

There are a number of reasons that publishers do this. Sometimes, it’s simply a cosmetic change- like a new haircut or outfit to keep up with the times. There are books that have been in print for decades, (or centuries as the case may be) and let’s face it- as worthy as they might be of still existing, without a freshening up, they start to look old and dated. Publishers are also fond of marking book milestones, and a popular title can be reissued in a special anniversary edition to celebrate the occasion. One example of this is Madeline L’Engle’s fantasy classic A WRINKLE IN TIME, which is celebrating it’s 50th anniversary, and is now available in a special commemorative edition.

Other reasons a cover might change include a change for a paperback edition, a shift in publishing rights (such as the CDN editions of HARRY POTTER) or a modification to match an early title with new books in a series, or a movie tie-in cover.

A reboot, unlike a re-issue takes a more drastic approach, and can be anything from a title change to an updating or re-imagining of the original content. Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, for example, have been solving mysteries for more than 80 years, and have appeared in several incarnations over the decades. They can be found in early chapter books, middle-grade novels and even graphic novels. While the characters remain the same, their appearances, ages, and cases change from version to version. A recent reboot of SWEET VALLEY HIGH included several “tweaks” to the original series to try and make them relevant to the GOSSIP GIRL generation. The twins’ waistlines shrunk from size 6 to size 4, the cars have been upgraded, and the kids now have cell-phones and internet.

Unfortunately (or fortunately) even with these changes, the reboot didn’t work, and the project was abandoned after the first few titles. In the case of Robin Wasserman’s SKINNED trilogy, not only did the reissue give the books new covers, but the series name and the titles of the books changed. (The series is now called the COLD AWKENING TRILOGY) Although no specific reason was given for the change, I suspect it’s an attempt on the publisher’s part to capitalize on the current popularity of Dystopian trilogies.

It seems like today you can hardly go to the movies or watch t.v. without seeing some kind of a remake/reboot, but how do you feel about this when it comes to books? Does it pique your interest, make you re-consider reading it (if you passed before- say because the cover was awful) or would you rather they leave these books alone and move on to something new?

Rachel Seigel is the Children’s/Young Adult Book Buyer at wholesaler S&B Books in Mississauga, Ontario. She also maintains a personal blog at http://readingtimbits.blogspot.com and can be found on Twitter as @rachelnseigel

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23 Comments

  1. Posted March 7, 2012 at 4:37 am | Permalink

    I like the different covers if I didn’t like them before, and didn’t buy them because of that. Like, there are some Tamora Pierce books that had covers I didn’t like, so I didn’t buy them, despite the fact that it is my one goal in like to own all her books… One thing I really hate is when they do covers to go with the movie adaptations, but then you can’t find copies with the normal covers on them. Generally, I’d rather the original covers than the movie related ones.

    • Posted March 7, 2012 at 11:12 am | Permalink

      I agree 100% on the movie-tie-in reissues! I tried to buy the Narnia series around the same time the films came out (was not a fan of the films but I want to own everything by CS Lewis) and EVERYTHING had “now a major motion picture” slapped on it. Annoying!

    • RachelSeigel
      Posted March 7, 2012 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

      I prefer original covers to book covers as well- especially when the book is part of series!

    • RachelSeigel
      Posted March 7, 2012 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

      I agree- a better cover can make me take a second look at a book I passed on the first time around!

  2. Posted March 7, 2012 at 4:45 am | Permalink

    The re-boot I most remember was when The Baby-Sitters Club series got all new covers and new content like cell phones, internet, etc. Ugh – I’m not positive, but I don’t think that really worked out. Don’t mess with the BSC!!!

    • RachelSeigel
      Posted March 7, 2012 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

      LOL! I think the relaunch was to support the release of the prequel. I don’t recall seeing anymore releases in the last season or two, so maybe they are done with the project for now.

      • Posted March 9, 2012 at 6:06 am | Permalink

        Wait, back the truck up. They tried to tweak BSC? Grrrr, back off! You may take my freedom, but you’ll never take Claudia’s AWESOME 90s FASHION!

        • RachelSeigel
          Posted March 9, 2012 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

          They did try it- though I’m not sure if it was successful. I think those 80’s/90’s series paved the way for a lot of stuff, but sometimes you just can’t recapture the magic a second go around.

  3. Posted March 7, 2012 at 7:00 am | Permalink

    Hey Rachel! Great post – such an overlooked topic! This post makes me think of all the different covers I have to scroll through when I add an older book to my Goodreads shelf (I like to use the cover of the edition I read.) I swear there are dozens of covers for LOLITA on Goodreads, and I still have never found the cover of the copy I own! :P

    • RachelSeigel
      Posted March 7, 2012 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

      I have the same problem sometimes- especially with classic books!

  4. Posted March 7, 2012 at 7:13 am | Permalink

    Really great post, and a topic I never really thought about! I’ve seen different covers from and wondered what though process went behind the change.

    Also: WHAT?! Making the Sweet Valley Twins a size 4?! Isn’t 6 small enough already?? I’m secretly glad that project fell through.

    • Posted March 7, 2012 at 8:41 am | Permalink

      DUDE. My jaw dropped at the waist size change, too! How is this a necessary tweak? Six is already small. I get adding in upgraded cars and cellphones, but how does making them smaller add any more relevance for today’s teens? I think this says a lot about our current society and the “image” that girls feel so much pressure to match. *sigh* Maybe I’m over-reacting.

      That aside, really interesting post, Rachel! I always find it interesting to browse special edition covers, but I never really buy them. If my interest is sparked, I’ll pick up my original and reread. I despise when they redesign covers mid-series. (eg: hardcover #1 looks one way, and then they release the paperback version with a new design, and choose to use new design throughout the rest of the hardcovers.) It always messes with the cohesiveness of my shelf collection ;)

      • Posted March 7, 2012 at 11:15 am | Permalink

        Not to condone this *one bit* but could they have done this because a 1980s size 6 is probably more like a 2000s size 4? I know sizing has changed over the years…not that they couldn’t have, oh, I don’t know, not worried what size they wore regardless? (Please let me know if that’s somehow integral to a plotline…I can’t imagine it could be…)

        • RachelSeigel
          Posted March 7, 2012 at 10:34 pm | Permalink

          I think that’s exactly what their reasoning was for shrinking waist size. Sad though that girls that skinny are the average, but then again, most stores sell a size zero these days, so maybe it’s not as bad as it could have been! ;-)

      • Posted March 7, 2012 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

        Some redesigns / special edition covers are cool. Like I love a lot of the Penguin Classics updates, and I adore the Fahrenheit 451 50th Anniversary cover (the version I ultimately bought). I have to agree with Erin about hating cover redesigns in the middle of series! Like if the series is redesigned in paperback, that’s fine, but I hate having my hardcovers NOT match! It sucks because there are a series or two that I’d like to own, but they were redesigned midway through, which makes me not want to buy them. :P

      • RachelSeigel
        Posted March 7, 2012 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

        There was huge backlash on the message the books were sending out to girls, which I think was a big part of why the reboot failed. I loved them as a kid, but glad this version didn’t stick around.

        As for mid-series re-design, I see that on my shelves all of the time! A series gets a re-design and I decide to stock them because of the new covers, but we still get shipped old editions on some and new ones on others. It annoys our customers too! I wish that once they announce a new cover they’d stop shipping out the old editions. Or at least give the new covers new ISBNS to make sure we don’t get old ones anymore!

  5. Posted March 7, 2012 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    I think it’s good to refresh a cover if it’s a particularly old book and the cover has really become outdated, because even though we shouldn’t, everyone judges a book first by its cover. But I totally agree that the waist-change Sweet Valley High thing is ridiculous!

    As for changing a series name or the title of a book – I know it happens a lot when a book is released in a different country (ie. UK and North American titles and covers can be VERY different), but to change a series name and title as a “rebranding” effort, especially once ALL the books in a series have been out, seems a little weird to me. I’m fine with cover changes – but I’m not a big fan of title/series name changes just to breathe new life into something. I don’t really think it was necessary to change the series name and book titles of the SKINNED trilogy – isn’t it enough that the cover has changed?

    • RachelSeigel
      Posted March 7, 2012 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

      I agree- if it’s still a good and relevant book, I don’t mind a new cover- sometimes it helps revitalize interest. I thought the whole title change thing was odd as well, but maybe the series didn’t work the first time around and they still thought it could work. It did drive me a bit nuts because I initially thought they were new until I saw the plot descriptions!

  6. Posted March 7, 2012 at 9:14 pm | Permalink

    Great post, Rachel! It definitely gives me things to think about, especially since I’m usually picky about covers (most movie cover tie-ins make me annoyed). I think cover reboots for series can work sometimes (like the Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld, or even Holly Black’s Curse Workers), just to give everything a fresh, more ‘current’ look. I read somewhere about an author revising and retitling a book from adult to YA, and I kind of cringe at that for some reason :P

    • RachelSeigel
      Posted March 7, 2012 at 10:36 pm | Permalink

      Sometimes it really doesn’t work- Art of Racing in the Rain was adapted to Middle Grade novel, and it really didn’t work in my mind- there were too many things from the adult book that had to be cut or changed for a MG audience, and they didn’t really always make sense. On the other hand, the MG versions of “Three Cups of Tea” and “Marley and Me” were immensely successful.

  7. Posted March 9, 2012 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

    All I remember about SWEET VALLEY HIGH is having a crush on the rich badboy… Bruce Patman, I think? Why is there room for that in my brain but not my own phone number? I also remember feeling like the world in those books was more alien than anything I found in Dune or Dragonlance, and made me feel decidedly crappier about myself. So, yeah, not sorry the reboot failed.

    Great post! Curious about the change to the SKINNED trilogy. I will say that when you line the new covers up, they’re pretty cool (if a bit James Bond opening credits).

    • RachelSeigel
      Posted March 9, 2012 at 10:30 pm | Permalink

      I read them religiously for a few years in Jr. High, but more for a fascination I had with twins as opposed to anything else.

      I also thought the singular image on the three books side-by-side was really cool in the Skinned trilogy. Until I lined them up I actually hadn’t noticed it. Shows how observant I am- lol! ;-)

  8. Posted April 10, 2013 at 12:08 am | Permalink

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