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Apr 04 2007

Generic Books

sdn, over on her lj, asks the following:


my inflammatory comment of the day: why do books that are clearly generic ripoffs of other books (a) get ridiculous deals, (b) sell in large quantities to actual, presumably intelligent readers, and (c) get good reviews from established sources? is everyone high? this applies to all age ranges/categories/genres of books, by the way, not just books in my particular world(s).

Since LiveJournal hates me, I’ll answer here.

I think the phenomenon in question has more to do with the good books they’re ripping off than it does with the bad books. Really good books are often good because they make us uncomfortable, challenge us while offering us enough in the way of story and language to keep us moving through our discomfort. They stick with us because they changed us. Sometimes I’m too tired to put myself through that again.

A generic version of the same book repackages the story without the discomfort. Those who read the original can read the weak carbon and be reminded of their experience with a good book without undergoing the trauma. And since the new book is generic, it can have that kind of resonance for several good books–and lots of readers. Hence the sales. Hence the deals.

It doesn’t explain the reviews, but I’ve never claimed those were explicable.