Wednesday, September 10, 2008

An Observation on Marketing

Trivial observation of the day:

I've finally gotten around to reading Lynn Flewelling's Nightrunner series. At the time I first ordered the books, there were only three, so I ordered the fourth and got it today.

I would like to mention that I don't measure the font size of every book I read. But when I've just finished reading three books printed in a relatively small font on paper thin enough to make 500 pages a not-exceedingly-thick book, only to open the fourth book and feel like I've accidentally gotten the large print edition, I notice. So, I did a quick page feel, then a page count. Surprise of surprises, the new book, despite being slightly thicker than its companions, runs about 300 pages. That's 200 pages shorter. And whereas the first three clocked around 450 words a page, this one hit closer to 300. Net result? Despite being the same size, Book 4 is about 75,000 words shorter.

I should emphasize that this is not a complaint, merely an observation on the mysteries of book marketing. Presumably someone who has purchased the fourth book wouldn't be doing so unless they had also enjoyed the first three. So what does a publisher do when the fourth book turns out to be something less than 70% the length of the others, and they don't want readers immediately saying "Gosh, it's not nearly as long as the others"? They make it look as long as the others.

It's not even as if this is news. At some point in the last couple of decades book publishers realized that thick books sell better, and so books became thicker. Anyone who's wrestled a Neal Stephenson book into bed knows that sometimes this is achieved through sheer word count. But anyone who's had the chance to compare two printings of the same Nero Wolfe novel published forty years apart can see that this is also achieved through thicker paper and bigger fonts (the refuge of college freshman everywhere).

Again, this is not a criticism of the writing, the book or the author. I have so far enjoyed the series, and in fact I'm looking forward to seeing what the author does with a tighter book (which, really, was one of the few quibbles I had about her in the first place). This is just me marveling at a very simple marketing tool that, had I not just finished reading the previous books, I might never have noticed. Well, until I read them all through again. :)


Saturday, September 06, 2008

Sore Throat: 1; Red Cross: 0

Well, crap. I made an appointment to donate blood this morning, but instead I woke up with a sore throat. I did wallow around in denial for a while, but then I sucked it up and admitted to myself that the Red Cross doesn't *want* my infected blood, even if it is O-.

I'm especially bummed because between the three bouts of bronchitis, the feeling crappy after the bronchitis, the feeling crappy before the bronchitis and in general feeling crappy between the bronchitis, it's been well over a year since I donated. Still, there's always next week. :)

In the good news department, my service appointment for my car only cost me $425. You may wonder why this is good news. I will tell you.

On the way to DragonCon, the automatic sliding doors on my van quit working. If it wasn't for Jamie cleverly figuring out that we needed to turn the doors off, we would all have been driven insane by the buzz of the door alarms. As it was, all I had to do was push the doors open and closed manually. This is okay in the short term, but it's a severe drawback in the school drop-off, pick-up lines, which are run on timing similar to a NASCAR pit crew. In addition, I have been receiving complaints from the passengers (ie, Boo) about the lack of air conditioning in the back of the car.

Now, the door problem was, I hoped, a minor one. Maybe a reset or cleaning the contacts. But the A/C problem was one I dreaded. My mom had had similar problems in her last two cars, and both times hadn't fixed them because they were prohibitively expensive. As in $1200 or more of prohibition. Also, if the door issue was some kind of electrical snafu, I could be looking at hours and hours of labor. Needless to say, I was wasn't looking forward it.

You can imagine my relief when it turned out that both problems were relatively simple wiring problems. One of the wires on the door system had gotten kinked up and subsequently shorted out. One hour of labor, no parts. The A/C problem took longer, but it turned out to be an unplugged connection, so the only cost was in the time spent tracking it down. Again, no parts, just the labor.

Now, it might seem that $275 (the maintenance check/upkeep stuff was $150) for two simple wiring problems is a lot of money, and it is, but I was seriously anticipating that these repairs might run me into the $1000 or more range. Electric problems *suck,* and I felt pretty darn lucky that they were solved with only three hours of labor and not with many more expensive hours spent finding expensive problems. Bullet dodged.

ETA: Finally located the thermometer and took my temperature. 99.7. I don't think the Red Cross wants me today.