A Brief Review of Two ERB Books

Two ERB books
I am deeply disappointed in the quality of these two ERB books received from Amazon yesterday in my efforts to complete my collection of Burroughs’ novels. Both are noted as “Manufactured by Amazon.ca” in Bolton, ON. Production quality is poor, particularly in the designs and layout: they are more like amateur efforts than professional publications.

The Jungle Adventures book from “Premium Classics Books” (no address is indicated anywhere) is not only too big for comfortable reading (8.5 x 11″), the lines of type inside are 7″ wide (about 18cm), too wide for effective reading, let along carrying it (it would be awful for commuters on public transit) or reading in bed.

The novels in it are only minimally formatted; three are printed in what appears to be 12pt serif (I suspect it uses the mundane Times New Roman) but the last two are printed in what appears to be 16pt type with excessive line spacing as if it were a large print publication (same typeface, though). The difficulty in reading long lines is exacerbated in the 12pt text.
Jungle Adventures inside

There are no headers or footers to identify which chapter or even book you’re in, just page numbers. The layout is dull; headings and body all use the same typeface, with no dropcaps or any other ornamentation to begin a chapter.

There are no title pages between the novels, so the only visual indication that a new one has started is a single bold title at the start of each book. Books two, four and five begin on even-numbered pages (proper book design would have them start on odd-numbered, or facing pages).

There is a table of contents at the beginning, which inappropriately lists each chapter in the five books, but no TOC with chapter page numbers at the start of each book.

The Moon Trilogy from Book Valley Publishing House has no frontispiece information including no contact information.

The typeface in this volume is too light for the brightness of the paper and the letters don’t stand out well for comfortable reading (I’d guess the body type was about 300 weight and should be 400-500 at least). That’s especially noticeable in the typeface (Antiqua? Bodoni? Bembo?) used throughout: it has thin stems unsuitable for this font weight.

There is no table of contents at the beginning of the volume with page numbers, so you have to manually flip through pages to find where any book begins. There is a TOC before each book, but it doesn’t have page numbers for the chapters.

There are no headings or footers on pages to identify which book or chapter you’re reading. There is no title printed on the book’s spine (so you can’t easily identify it on a bookshelf).
Moon trilogy inside

The title page of book 2 in this trilogy (The Moon Men) begins on an even-numbered page with its TOC also on an even-numbered page as shown above (both should be on odd-numbered, or facing, pages by usual book design standards).

Two of the three novels are formatted with indents but no spaces between paragraphs, but the third has no indents but spaces between. That’s an amateur’s inconsistency.

There is no copyright or publication history on the frontispiece of either volume, not even the dates of original publication or copyright. Neither volume has any introduction advising readers about the author or the background of the novels. Are these titles in the public domain or pirated editions?

Both strike me as egregiously amateur productions; their inconsistencies and oversights would easily be rectified by a proper editor or designer. I am appalled that they would even be sold on Amazon in this condition.

I have been a book, magazine, and newspaper editor in my day: I still read books on typography, style, layout, and design, even though my editorial days are past me. Maybe I’m overly pedantic and obsessive about it, but this stuff still matters to me. I would never have allowed such sloppy efforts to see print when I was employed in that role.

Little would have been required to bring these books up to even the lowest level of acceptable book design standards. Surely someone involved could have made that effort. Have they no pride in their work?

I highly recommend readers look elsewhere for professionally-produced publications if they want copies of these ERB titles. Frankly, Burroughs’ novels deserve better treatment than this.

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