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