In case you missed the news and fuss of sobs from readers and their wallets, there are going to be a few special editions of Sarah J. Maas's Empire of Storms, the fifth (if you don't include The Assassin's Blade) and penultimate installment in the Throne of Glass series. These special editions are the reason for this rant (which, yes, I already did on Twitter, but there's more and this blog post won't limit my characters and this is a legit problem, if you ask me) and are a royal-pain-in-the-ass conundrum. Before I get started, let me list the various editions of Empire of Storms and their prices (that I know of, and excluding most foreign editions).
- US Hardcover: $12.79 (Amazon), $18.99 (IndieBound), $17.00 (Book Depository)
- UK Paperback: $9.39 (Book Depository)
- Target Special Edition Hardcover (with exclusive short story + poster): $16.50
- Barnes & Noble Special Edition Hardcover (with exclusive short story + fan art): $14.99; $18.99 signed GCR preorder
- Waterstones Special Edition Paperback (signed + possibly with exclusive content; waiting for clarification): $10.56
- Signed Preorders: $18.99 (Books of Wonder), $18.99 (Books-a-Million)
Herein lies the question of the century: WHICH EDITION DO I BUY?
I am very much a fan of the Throne of the Glass series. (I cosplayed as Manon at ECCC, I have to own all the editions of these books, I'm only slightly obsessed and am possibly thinking about buying more copies so I can annotate them, and I may as well tattoo fire-breathing bitch-queen on my forehead.) And I, as a fan, have to pick WHICH EDITION I SHOULD BUY OF A BOOK I VERY MUCH WANT TO OWN. Let's be honest: it's bullshit. We all know that Empire of Storms is going to make bank and hit the bestseller lists (even if people are, er, mad about things, this will still happen). Probably anything with Sarah J. Maas's name on it will. So WHY SO MANY FANCY SCHMANCY EDITIONS. Would you like to know what it looks like from my point of view? A way to make money. And I am falling right into it.
I am exactly the kind of person this marketing ploy is targeting. I don't like it--actually, I hate it--but I WILL STILL BUY INTO IT because I have to--really, really want to--own every edition of every book in this series. Also--and maybe even more so--I really don't want to miss out on special content (and in its original format). I really, really don't. And so, as of this moment, I am for sure buying two editions and about forty dollars' worth of Empire of Storms: the Target and B&N special editions. (And if the Waterstones edition does have special editions? Make that three copies and fifty dollars.)
I can't afford this, but I can manage it. I should be spending this money elsewhere or even using it to buy other books instead of two that are exactly the same except for some art and a short story no one can see when the identical books are sitting on the shelf like I have a bookstore and not a library. A lot of people can't afford this (and there is, by the way, no shame in that). A lot of people will go for the Amazon edition because it's cheapest--that's what I was going to do. (I gotta save money where I can and I try to buy things as cheap as possible, and when it comes to books Amazon is best for that.) They have to give up on the special editions because they cost more and, hey, they're not even helping independent or smaller bookstores; they're supporting the big wigs. And people outside of the US have to miss out because shipping will cost an arm and a leg and losing those aren't really an option. And that sucks, because these worshiping, blood-sacrificing fans have to miss out on special content from a world they love because it is not attainable to the average reader.
I took a class in college on technical writing or professional writing or something (I don't remember; I preferred creative writing and fiction), and I was introduced to some concepts: readability and usability. If you're going to have a website, it needs to be navigable to users both experienced and novice. Whatever you're doing, it needs to appeal to the reader and the user and consumer, for without them whatever you're doing doesn't have an audience. Without them you have nothing. If a person walks into a bakery they expect to find cakes and pastries, because that's what you said you have. If they walk into a bakery and find car parts and basketballs, they're going to turn around and leave because they expected nuts on a cookie, not nuts with bolts.
A Fan's Woes
Throne of Glass is not the first series I've obsessed over. My first obsession was the series that got me into reading and writing (and I will always love this series): Twilight. I remember waiting for the movies to be on DVD and learning that I couldn't just buy a DVD because every store and their mother had their own edition of Twilight, and I, a fan and Twihard, had to pick one. I couldn't buy more than one because a) money, and b) what the hell am I going to do with more than one copy of the same movie? I was terrified of missing bonus content or some cool features, but I eventually went with Target's and got to the store before it even opened (I wasn't the only one) to buy the DVD as soon as I possibly could and race home and watch it. Every Twilight movie (and every movie, really) after that was purchased at Target, and I even drove half an hour away to go to a midnight release party at a Target different than my own so that I could get Breaking Dawn - Part 1 with the super fancy case and one of the flower petals from the wedding. But I had to constantly stress over movie versions (fucking movie versions) and research which one to get because there were five million in existence, and I did this again with Divergent and The Hunger Games. And here's the kicker: I never even watch any of the bonus content that I fretted over missing.
But with books it's different. I can see that bonus content and hold it and pet it, and sometimes it's a deleted scene or extra scene or totally new point of view and it is precious, especially when the book it's coming from is precious. But I shouldn't have to pick and choose which edition of a book to buy because of varied content--and I, as a fan of the book, shouldn't have to choose what bonus content I'm missing. When it comes to the Throne of Glass series, I have to own All the Editions. I have all the hardcovers (original and redesign for Throne of Glass), ARCs of the first three books, all the UK paperbacks, a special edition (or something) UK hardcover of Throne of Glass, and a Polish paperback of "The Assassin and the Pirate Lord." Aaand I might be buying the US paperbacks for annotations. You might be thinking, "Well, this sounds like a personal problem," but you'd be missing the point. THE POINT is that this is all ridiculous, and I promise you I'm not the only who thinks that.
I can see having one special edition of a book. That makes picking and choosing less difficult; you either want the bonus content or you don't. (Though affordability and accessibility can still be a problem.) But it's not that simple. Let's use A Court of Mist and Fury as an example. Target had a special edition with a short (short) story, but we didn't know who it was about. (More on this later, but I can see how this could sometimes be a spoiler and I get that.) Even though A Court of Thorns and Roses wasn't a favorite of mine, I still had to have the bonus content for the sequel. (And thank gosh I did because ACOMAF is my drug don't send help ever.) I got to Target on release day as soon as I could--9:00 a.m.--and they hadn't shelved it yet and they couldn't find it, so I had to come back later. I did. There was one copy left. I'm the kind of person to go through every copy available to find the absolute best one. (How many of you are nodding your heads right now?) This one copy was not pretty and not something I would ever purchase. But I HAD TO, because Sarah J. Maas was in town for a signing that night; I didn't know when/if my Target would get more copies with the bonus content; I called every Target in the area and Targets along my almost-hour-long route to Seattle (for the signing) and NO ONE HAD IT. So I had two options: miss out on the bonus content (and/or getting it signed) or buy the shitty copy. I went with the latter. And THEN I went to the signing, where I got my second copy of ACOMAF because it's my ticket to the signing and I paid nearly $20 for that ticket. And because the bonus content edition was the one I would read, I switched the covers and therefore couldn't return the bookstore's (if that's even allowed). (But even with switched covers it's not the cover, you know?.) At the end of the day I had two copies of ACOMAF; spent, oh, let's say at least/around $40 on those two copies; have one cover in bad condition; have a copy I really don't need. Maybe it's not a big deal, BUT.
Money, Money, Money
Money is a big fat stinking factor in everything. Not everyone--not a lot of people, actually--can afford to buy books at full price, let alone more than one. I can't. I'm not the only person to rely on Amazon's discounted, more affordable prices. When there's a multi-author signing, I can't afford to buy four books for $80 at the bookstore, but I might be able to get four for $40 on Amazon. People may really want the edition of the book with the bonus content, but if they're going to a signing and have to buy the book from the bookstore to attend said signing, they have to skip the bonus content--and owning that special edition for themselves--because they can't afford both books (or could spend that $20 on somewhere other than an additional copy of a book they already own). Sure, someone's going to post the bonus content on the internet that week or your friend can send you pictures of it, but it's not the same. That's another issue of sorts, by the way, having to buy the non-special-edition version of the book for the signing and then picking between meeting the author or getting special content.
Let's talk about me and Empire of Storms. I'm going to spend $20 when I buy it in-store at Barnes & Noble and $18 at Target on September 6. That's $38. That's nearly $40 for two books where the only difference is a point of view and some art. Now I'm going to make things more ridiculous and possibly less about the point and more about me. This book has a preorder campaign, and I want the goodies. I don't think I'll preorder from Target because I don't know how soon their preorders arrive and if they're usually in a very stellar condition. (But I could definitely look into it and see if I can exchange it in a store, but I need to get there early so I can avoid a repeat of the ACOMAF fiasco.) I refuse to preorder from Barnes & Noble because they never arrive on time (though if I get Target's edition on time then I guess this won't matter) (as you can see I'm working things out as I type), so I'd drive at least half an hour to the nearest store and hope they have a copy and that it's in a very stellar condition. PERHAPS I could preorder the UK paperback from Book Depository ($11) and submit that proof for the preorder campagain and not get a third hardcover? I always preorder from Amazon because it's cheap and gets here on time and the books are usually in a nearly stellar condition, and if not their return service is great, and again, money money money. Then I got this stupidly disgusting horrendous idea: do I need the regular first edition hardcover of Empire of Storms to match my regular hardcovers for the rest of the series? (Horrible, horrible thought.) Say I get four copies of this book: two special editions, one UK paperback, and one regular hardcover. I'm only going to actually read one, and then just the bonus content(s) of the other(s). And the only difference between three of those four is a sticker and point of view and some art. And I'm going to spend at least, what, sixty dollars on the same damn book?
I'm not against various editions of a book to an extent. Foreign editions? I'm all for it. And that makes total sense because they're all from different countries. Special editions? More than one is completely and utterly ridiculous and a waste of (readers') money and shelf space and stress. I'm not saying I won't buy them all (because, book depending, I will). I'm just saying that the whole concept kind of sort of really fucking sucks for the reader. Let's revert back to the Twilight DVD. If there's something with various editions and I only need one, playing the game of pick and choose is like some kind of sick love octagon and picking one means getting something but missing out on something else. Sure, that content might be released elsewhere later on, but it's not the same as owning That Edition. (Some people care, some people don't, and that's totally fine. But I'm the person who cares and needs That Edition.) And the thing about Empire of Storms is that they don't even look different. It's going to look like I have two copies of the exact same book when they're shelved. That's not exactly fun. I've also compiled a list for your viewing pleasure that's all about fun things in regards to special editions:
- You have to pay for each one individually and they're full price (which isn't bad but when you're buying more than one it gets costly and you are forced to pick and choose like when you ask Mom and Dad who their favorite child is and they can't tell you because someone's feelings are going to get hurt)
- They either come with a sticker or a printed sticker that's part of the cover and never ever comes off not even with a laser for tattoo removal (neither option is good)
- The spine of the book might say "special edition" (my Eclipse says that and it doesn't match the rest of the books)
- What shelf space?
- If you don't buy the book soon enough it might sell out and then you can't get that edition
- You might buy the special edition and the bookstore edition for a signing
- You might want to support an independent bookstore but you really want the special edition but it's only at big stores that make a lot of money (which path do you take?)
- You might not even know what the bonus content is or who it's about so you have to hope it's all worth it (The One's bonus bit in the B&N was disappointing and I waited two days after the release date for that book to arrive) (if Empire of Storm's is about Nesryn then so help me because I want that bitch to die)
- If you live outside the US it may be very hard to obtain a specific special edition and doing so may also cost a lot of money $$$
- Tell me again, what's so special about a special edition?
The Big Fucking Deal
Confession: I've only read the first four Harry Potter books and I've seen all the movies. I'm not a big Potterhead, but I like it! But for fuck's sake, there's a new edition of those books every week and that's only a slight exaggeration. Thank gosh I'm not a megafan because I don't know if my bookshelves, obsessions, and wallet could handle all those editions. And I don't really get it? Why are all these editions necessary? It's not like Harry Potter needs to appeal to new readers (and constantly). These covers aren't outdated. Harry Potter is still hot shit. There are theme parks. Harry Potter is worth like a gajillion dollars and an endless pit of magic. Money isn't an issue. (And, hello, there's a new movie and play and book. And new Funko! Pops every day.) So I'll ask again: Why are all these editions necessary? I honestly have no clue, but my mind thinks M O N E Y because it's just making money while we, the readers, are spending it. (Or crying because we don't have the money for every single thing related to Harry Potter.)
So I'm also wondering: Why does Empire of Storms need more than one special edition? What is the point? I honestly want to know the answer to that question. Yes, it's giving readers a great big treat. But obtaining those treats is hard, like it's dangling from a branch and we can't jump high enough to grab them--or pay someone enough to get them for us. I could be completely wrong and over the top and ridiculous about all of this. (Do you think I like talking about this series like this? I love this series. I hate having to use it for something so negative and to paint a bad light on it and my love for it.) I am not in the publishing business and I don't know why this decision was made and what went into it and why there are two (maybe even three) very similar editions of one book and why why why. I'm just a blogger and a reader and a fan who loves this series and someone who understands what it's like to want to know everything about characters you worship and worlds you want to fall into forever. I do know that I am not the only person frustrated and upset and pissed about this. I do know that, from this side, it seems like a way to make money. From this side there is nothing to benefit the reader except bonus content that we have to pick and choose from and empty our bank accounts for or just plain can't afford. From this side the reader is being hurt. From this side it is at the cost of the reader.
What do you think of a book having multiple special editions?
I would very much like to make clear and reiterate that I am in no way bashing or trash-talking or targeting any specific books, authors, publishers, or people. I used what was current because it was the best example and the spark that led to this discussion. Let it be clear that I am obsessed and in love with the Throne of Glass series; that I adore Sarah J. Maas and her books and the feels she puts in them (and the cruel things too); and that the people at Bloomsbury are actually magical fairies with wings made out of specially printed book pages. I am no expert and I do not have much knowledge on this aspect of the book publishing process. This is just my side of things and my release of frustration.