Can We Give Readers Some Credit?

Give Readers Credit

I don’t mean to be all fist-shaking and “We’re going to Hell in a handbasket!”, but several articles had me putting on my cranky pants this week. Though they’re not directly linked, their combined force is pushing me to share and allow you to join in my ranty feelings. (Or disagree, you can do that, too).

First up, Dan Brown is reissuing The DaVinci Code as a YA book…because? This just feels like a broad stroke insult, especially to YA readers and writers, which the article details more closely.

While I’m less bothered by the thought of printing difficult books like The Sound & the Fury in multiple colorsI can see how such changes could be a great benefit for readers—it’s just a bummer to think about the loss of the challenge. Maybe this is the best way to get people reading something they would otherwise avoid, but there’s just something so unique about a challenging reading experience and I hate to see us navigating around it.

And finally, when checking out a Vulture article about BEA galleys, I noticed this:

“We’re restricting our annual list of top-ten galleys to fiction for two reasons: first, the strength of the 2016 lists, and second, the tendency of publishers to skip big nonfiction in an election year, when campaigns capture most of our fact-based attention.”

I don’t know how true that is, but wow. If it is true, I imagine some kind of sales data is guiding the decision. It still makes me a little huffy and puffy. And as several people mentioned on Twitter, those of us who do love information are looking for anything but politics right now.

I know 99% of this is about money, but is it so hard to give readers some credit and let them read?


  • TheShrinkette

    Hmm so I’m not sure if I feel super ragey about the printing difficult books in multiple colours, mostly because I’m torn between looking at it as a reader and a reading challenge, and also looking at it in terms of accessibility to a wider range of readers beyond just reading comprehension. I haven’t quite parsed out my thoughts on that one. I’m definitely with you on the Dan Brown and BEA news. First of all The Da Vinci Code is not exactly Faulkner, and I don’t imagine a 13-year old having difficulty reading that book (I know I didn’t). Also, there’s tons of adults who read YA and also teenagers aren’t idiots and basically it sounds like it’s all about the money. As far as sales data go, I wish the powers that be learned to study the numbers and not misread correlational data to be causational. It’ll be interesting to see where they go with that, especially considering how readers are responding to it.

    • Yeah, the colored printing definitely bothers me least, too. I think it could be great for books like The Sound & the Fury, but the article also mentions how it could be used in other books and gives Game of Thrones as an example (that each character should be in a different color). Things like that just seem unnecessary and I hope that’s not the direction we’re headed in.
      All agreed on YA!

  • Alex (Sleepless Reader)

    Wait.. what? It’s a small post but with a lot to digest. I think that last one hit me the most. I’d be VERY interested in the data that confirms that. Should it be the same in Europe of the European Cup this summer?

    • Haha, I did kind of just drop a load of information and run, huh? Ann actually left a comment up above that explains the nonfiction a bit more!

  • I’m definitely one of those people looking for anything but politics in my reading right now! I get enough of it watching TV, reading news, and listening to podcasts.

    And – I heard yesterday that The Martian is coming out in a sanitized version (minus the F bombs) so it can be used in schools. In this case, I think it’s ok b/c The Martian actually makes science exciting and maybe if kids can learn science in a fun way when they’re young (rather than from a dry textbook), then that’s a good thing. And subbing out the F bombs doesn’t really change the story itself much.

    But, what would a YA version of Da Vinci Code even look like? Does the story change or just some language? Maybe that’s the key for me…are they changing crux of the story or just cleaning up some meaningless details to be more appropriate for a younger audience. That being said, and its been awhile since I read Da Vinci (so I’m hazy on the details), but is there anything really inappropriate for a younger audience in there? I don’t remember there being…

    • I saw that about The Martian, too (and had actually forgotten about it!). I’m kind of on the side that swear words won’t kill kids, but I can see parents getting a little up in arms considering the first sentence.

  • A YA version of The Davinci Code??? That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. We all survived just fine without “YA” books before that was a thing…

    • I just feel like this might be a fundamental misunderstanding of the term YA on Brown’s part. Like, that doesn’t mean “easy.” It means “focusing on the stories of young people.”

      I’m on the YA defensive since finishing TRC. ;)

  • The DaVinci Code, while fun (I guess), is hardly a challenging adult-level book. Doesn’t seem necessary to alter for younger audiences. Also, if you are a reader that is mature enough, just read it! I think the color-coding might turn out to be helpful for students with real reading difficulties. And if it helps kids who are afraid of long books or get over their dread of reading, then I am ok with it. I guess I liken it to large print for those with eyesight issues. I DON’T think it should become some sort of a crutch or the norm. I agree that at some point readers need put their big kid pants on and just read. And yes, I am all for reading a biography or history about something other than politics these days.

  • What the what re: skipping nonfic in election years. ??? It makes it sounds like they think most people only have enough attention span for one factual topic at a time, per year. I would be super interested to see the data that led to this conclusion.

  • Is it just me, or does YA seem to be taking over the universe?! We used to just read the books off our mother’s shelves! That’s more fun anyway, because it feels more rebellious.
    (Not that I have anything against YA – just that it seems to be the thing now, when I don’t even remember it existing 20 years ago. Okay, 25 years ago.)
    As for the nonfiction – that just feels insulting. But, you’re right, I’m sure it’s based on monetary reasons. Maybe someone should dig deeper into what’s going on there and write a book about it. :)

    • I think YA has always been around, but it does seem to have blown up in recent years (though maybe I’m just paying closer attention). I read plenty of it 10-15 years ago.

      Is revamping adult novels to be more “YA” (which is a load of BS) really a trend? This is the first I’ve heard of it!

  • Okay, we’ve already discussed the ridiculousness of the political stage taking over in place of nonfiction, but The DaVinci Code as a YA novel? Wow. Is this just about marketing, then?

  • Amy Sachs

    I’ve always wondered about YA versions of things! I remember seeing Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken come out for young readers and wondering why. I hate to be that person, but I (and probably most of us) read adult books as a teen and turned out just fine, thank you! I also had no idea nonfiction publishing was any different in an election year. I’ve never been a huge nonfic reader, but like to think people can handle more than one fact-based thing at a time. And in THIS election year in particular, people would probably welcome it!

  • Laura Frey

    Thanks for this, I had not seen the Faulkner thing… I don’t really have a problem with it, because it sounds like the author intended for this to happen, and, Folio Society!! I mean, come on. They published a version of Tristram Shandy with coloured text too and I think it looks so good. Want.

    Dan Brown – meh, couldn’t care less. I don’t know what a YA version means either, until someone explains, there’s not much to comment on. Like will the hero suddenly be 15? That would be kind of funny.

    Meh to the Vulture thing too, I mean, is their top ten list a super important, official thing? If so I never heard of it…

    • So, here’s what else I found about DaVinci Code: “Designed for ages 13+, it will maintain the original’s plot but be slimmed down.” Which…is pretty lame.

  • I mean, is the Da Vinci Code such a challenging read that young people can’t read it? NO. Holy sh*t. That’s maybe the worst case of pandering I’ve seen. Clearly about the money but maybe Mr Brown could turn his attention to just writing another book? I feel like that would achieve the same end.
    As for non-fiction…my non-fiction reading is rarely political. It tends towards social sciences and history. Again, I think we could maybe give readers some credit and pretend like we’re an intelligent bunch who don’t need reading options removed FOR us because our poor brains might be overloaded.

  • Is Brown going to be revamping the story so it focuses on young people? THAT might be kind of cool. If he’s just using YA as a catch-all term for “easy enough for young people to understand,” that’s some infantilizing crap. I read TDVC as an actual young adult, and, to be frank, that shit ain’t hard.

    As for the color-coding, I do wonder (like Janani said) if that might just make certain books more accessible for folks with more limited reading comp/attention/etc. Again, it COULD just be infantilizing, but I’m willing to give that more of the benefit of the doubt, especially because I haven’t read the article about it. ;)

    And I think you know how I feel about limiting nonfiction releases. Eff that crap. Let’s just type infantilizing for a third time.

    Thanks for giving me reasons to get mad on a Thursday! ;)

    • Apparently the book is just a slimmed down version of DaVinci Code, which is pretty ridiculous. I don’t think there was even anything remotely difficult or inappropriate in the first place!

  • Yes, yes and yes. I find it particularly annoying that we think of a second young people are not “capable” of reading adult fiction. As if we aren’t asking those same young people to read serious classical fiction as part of our school curriculum. There is no reason why Brown needs to change the text. Maybe a re-release with a cover that would attract different readers? Promoting the book among influencers to get it in front of young people? Sure, why not. But nothing about needs to change to make it “easy enough for young people to understand”.

  • Amanda

    This nonfiction makes me INSANE. We all need things to some attention/interest/emotion away from the elections. Why can’t it be nonfiction?!

  • Ha! After typing about 3 paragraphs, I decided I’ll compose a blog post later today/this evening in response. Ach! Let’s just summarize by my saying that I purchase books for my grandchildren at all reading levels. One of my daughters-in-law was discussing how she didn’t want her oldest, who is 6 1/2 to try reading books that were “too hard” for him. I gave her a mini-lecture from my teaching days. It is good for children to be able to challenge themselves, too! Okay, later, all! I’ll link to my post when finished!

  • I get super irritable when publishing becomes obviously about money, which is clearly the case with a YA The Da Vinci Code. I know it’s mostly about money, but don’t be so obvious about it. Ugh.

    (I have a special hatred for the adult version of TDVC because I think it borders on garbage, so…I’m likely biased here.)

  • I’m not sure I have a problem with the YA Dan Brown thing. I think whether or not an individual teen can and should read adult books seems like a decision that should be made on an individual basis, between them and their parents. What’s the harm in having a “clean” version of a particular book around if there’s an audience for it?

    Haha, now the nonfiction thing hits a nerve with me, of course. I want my nonfiction! If I’m completely honest, I’d rather read most of the nonfiction I read than read about the election. The election certainly isn’t going to impact what I choose to read for fun!

    I have the most mixed feelings about the color-coded books. It seems like a nice idea, helping people approach difficult books, but part of me feels as though it’s preventing the reader from experiencing the book the way the author intended. I’d not want to pick these up any more than I’d want to pick up an abridged version.

    • From what I’ve read about the new DaVinci Code, they’re not actually taking out anything inappropriate (there wasn’t much to begin with), but just making it “slimmed down” and that just seems a little unnecessary.
      Definitely agree on the mixed feeling with the colors – mostly I think I’m just hoping it wouldn’t become the norm.

      • Hmm, in that case, I’m with you on the new DaVinci Code. That just seems silly!

  • The Dan Brown thing especially bugs me — like you, it seems insulting to kids to suggest they can’t read the book as it’s originally written. I never mind anything the Folio Society does though. Their books are so preeeeetttttyyyyyyy, and I do truly love it when classics have illustrated plates inside. I have a so-pretty old edition of Jane Eyre with woodcut illustrations throughout, and I love it.

  • That makes so much more sense with the nonfiction! I know I’ve definitely been hearing fewer authors on shows like Fresh Air etc, so I can see how that would be a problem.

  • Dan Brown is adapting his novel for the YA crowd? Why? I read it when I was a young adult myself. It wasn’t what I would call a challenging read.

    As for Folio Society Faulkner book…I’m kind of on board with that. I can appreciate a challenging read, but even I need guidance sometimes. Especially since I don’t often read classics. Not even in high school. There have been time where I’ve plucked Faulkner books off bookstore shelves only to replace it a few minutes later because I’m intimidated. I would buy that colorful version of the Sound and the Fury.

  • Lisa Almeda Sumner

    “our fact-based attention” is one of the most noxious phrases I have ever read. Yes, we are going to Hell in a handbasket.

  • I’m not sure about needing a YA version of The DaVinci Code. I read the original and it was ok, but just ok….and not particularly challenging.

    I’ve never read The Sound & The Fury, and probably won’t. I tend to not like the ‘classics’ anyway. But this color-coding thing seems to me to make it MORE complicated…not less. Now I have to memorize what each color means??!!

    I’m not sure about skipping non-fiction reads either. I really don’t have a lot of interest in politics. But I don’t think I will particularly miss other nonfiction being published either. I have so much nonfiction to catch up on from my TBR that was published in 2015….and 2014…and 2013…and……

  • That is terrible if they’re skipping nonfiction in an election year. Ugh. Enough already! If you turn on CNN — the campaign & Trump are on there 24 hrs a day. … as if the world didn’t have more pertinent news going on. Huff & Puff !

  • I was a little confused when I saw the press release for the YA DaVinci Code. It just smelled of money. I hadn’t heard about The Sound & The Furty thing.

    I think the thing that bothers me the most in this industry is that so much of it IS about money. I get that books are businesses for publishers and all of that, but some of the tactics and things that happen take away from the magic of books.