Browsing through some classics in my local bookshop, I noticed that there were several versions of the same writings, including The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli,The Social Contract by Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë. I realise that with the former two, one could argue that the translations are different, and therefore of differing qualities or significance, and thus influences the overall price.
So let’s take the example of Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, which needs no translation for this Anglophone market so all versions contain the same text. Of Wuthering Heights, there were three versions by three different publishers; Wordsworth, Collins and Penguin. Respectively, the prices for each of these were €3.75, €3.15 and €11. All were paperback editions.
Personally speaking, I like the quality and presentation of Penguin’s books with their black spines and white borders which look neat and consistent on the bookshelf. Penguin generally has good notes, introduction, historical backgrounds, bibliographies and other such useful extras included which enhance the experience; the paper quality and binding also feel good. But are these extras worth three to four times the price of paperbacks of the same story from other publishers?
On this occassion, I could not justify paying this much extra for Penguin’s paperback even with these extras, especially when finances are tight, to say the least. Finally, I decided on the Wordsworth Editions’ version of Wuthering Heights due to its more comfortable size (Collins’ paperback classics are rather small and the font too close to the end of the page for my liking – my thumb gets in the way of the text etc.), and its seemingly in-depth and expert introduction, which seemed more useful and interesting to have than the random dictionary that Collins include at the back of their edition. I would have preferred the Penguin edition, and, if I was wealthy enough, I probably would have bought their version given its superior quality, extras and appearance.
But my experience got me thinking, and I thought it would make for an interesting and fun poll. So what do you think? Would you spend more on a different publisher’s edition of the same story in paperback, or is it all the same? (I realise that it’s not really a straight forward question, but feel free to leave any qualifying comments, or just general comments, below)