A Book Buyer Complains About Books-to-Movies

In which I lament the inability to buy movie books during movie season.

You know book-movies, don’t you? Yes, I’m sure you do. Most people don’t care much for them, and neither do I. But if there’s one thing I detest about book-to-movie conversions, it’s that every single time (and I kid you not about this) one such conversion is made, the cover of that particular book changes. And that happens like clockwork, doesn’t it? The publishers will decide – one month before the movie release date – that it would be best to switch the existing book cover into a bloody movie poster. Or a still from the movie. And then suddenly you see your favourite bookstore plastered over with these hideously moviedified books, all covered with a messy porridge of actors and faces and backdrops that can only come from a studio-sponsored photoshop, and it’s all crass and horrible and you wonder at the state of taste in the publishing industry.

What’s worse is that the original book covers are often works of art in their own right. Don’t believe me? Alright. Take Atonement then, by Ian McEwan.

Atonement after the movie

That first one was better, wasn’t it? And when the movie came out I hopped over to the nearest bookstore to find the book, but I came back empty handed. I did not want Keira Knightly’s face on my bookshelf, hot as she was; if I did, she would pop up in my head the instant I sat down to read … and the idea of having my reading experience shaped by a hot girl on the cover; no sir, not my cup of tea.

I have by now lost count of the number of times I have stopped myself from buying a book … because of a movie cover. I own a movie-cover version of The Kite Runner, and a movie-cover version of The Lord of the Flies (think: half naked boy holding spear looking at second half-naked boy on a leafy set that can double as the backdrop to Gilligan’s Island … hell, I should sell the thing as a novelty item on eBay) and they are by far the two most despised covers in my collection. They stick out like sore thumbs. I bought another copy of The Lord of the Flies, and I now keep the second one in a storage drawer, far from prying friends and curious relatives.

Oh and The Kite Runner? That one sits buried under the casing of my external hard disc drive. I think it makes a fine shock dampener.

This is a quirk, sure, just as even the best of us have quirks. But it is a quirk with a reason: I want my books to be as perfect as they can possibly be, and in this day and age where we consume most of our text on the Internet, the book is the last remaining proof that there still is care in this world, and good taste. It is the final bastion of loving typography, and new-paper-smell, and tight binding, and I want my books to be beautiful things I can own, and when I’m done I want to pass them on – to my kids, perhaps, or to friends and family (and yes, by gum – I WILL get them to read).

Just – imagine now, would you? You’re old, and the movie stars of today have passed on the way of Marilyn Monroe and James Mason, and one day you give your kid a movie-copy of Atonement along with all the other books in your collection. And your kid asks: “Who’s that?”

I fear for my book collection. I really do.

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