No doubt, if you’re a fan of Anne, you’ve already seen the stupid new “Anne of Green Gables” cover that has been making the rounds. Though this edition was put out in November, the Internet just got their indignant little hands on it this week and it’s no surprise, given the collective hubbub, that the cover and, in fact, the edition itself has been removed from Amazon as of this morning. Those of you who are not fans of Anne may be scratching your head over the hue and cry. So here’s the deal. Anne of Green Gables or Avonlea or The Island or wherever is a redhead. Plain and simple. If you’re not familiar, it may sound stupid to quibble but it is, I assure you, a most essential part of her story. And the young Canadian orphan (young, as in 11 when the book starts, not however old that hussy up there is) is such a beloved character to so many so when you mess with her, you mess with legions. For what it’s worth, many of us who grew up not only with the book but the 1980s mini-series think Anne looks something like this:
Or, if you prefer, here was the most prevalent book cover when I was a young reader:
And, if you like, you can see a smattering of editions here. So what’s up with blondie? Well “Anne Of Green Gables” was written in 1908 and the copyright has expired putting our carrot-top protagonist in the public domain. As is often the case with works in the public domain, Anne has been snatched up by some self-publishing outfits to be reprinted and distributed (for profit) to the masses. In this case, the culprit is Amazon’s CreateSpace.
Now self-publishers are certainly not the only outfits to re-market classic books to a younger “sexier” demographic. Bigger publishers who really should know better are also guilty of this practice. My fellow bookstore employees and I often bemoan what we call “Twilight” covers e.g. these delights from Harper Collins:
And this absolutely batsh*t “Alanna” cover from Simon & Schuster:
Now you can go ahead and call me a snob for being irritated by book covers. And you can tell me marketing shouldn’t matter if the content is the same. But as an employee of an independent bookstore who fights against Amazon every day for its very existence (dramatic but true), I take a particular pleasure in curling my lip in disdain at CreateSpace’s misstep. “Oh of course it’s f*cking Amazon,” we booksellers sighed when we looked up who was responsible for that irritating “Anne” cover. And Anne isn’t the only one. Behold the beautiful idiocracy to be found in the CreateSpace collection:
“Awakening”: The cover for this one is fine enough but the Table of Contens? Well…
**Drags out soap box. Clambers atop it.**
I’m not even remotely trying to hide the axe I have to grind. So if you want to get out now, I wouldn’t blame you. You might want to argue that these dumb covers have nothing whatever to do with Amazon. That CreateSpace is merely a platform and that whoever chose a blonde Anne Shirley or a tank top’d Mary Lennox or a high heel’d Catherine Morland is really the offending party. But I will tell you this much. No independent bookstore employee would willingly stock that “Anne Of Green Gables” cover. No buyer would order it. No manager would would accept it. No bookseller would shelve it. What’s apparent here is that Amazon and their ilk lack the very basic awareness that we bookstore employees pride ourselves in.
Is it blowing things out of proportion to get this excitable over a book cover? Possibly. But what you have to understand is that we’ve made books, especially beloved ones like “Anne of Green Gables” our religion, our passion. We work for very little money in a dying industry because we care that deeply about what we do. It breaks my heart that we’re being edged out by a large, faceless company who has no awareness, no love for books. But I’m not stupid. The market and the basic fact of supply and demand is what’s at play here. And I’m sure video store clerks are equally distraught that I’ve abandoned their knowledge of arcane films for the convenience of On Demand or Netflix. These past two paragraphs are not a lecture or an attempt to convince you of something. Just a sad wistful sigh for something that’s dying. Something that I think is valuable. Your mileage may vary.