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Thread: Penguin vs Bantam vs Barnes & Noble

  1. #1
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    Penguin vs Bantam vs Barnes & Noble

    Hello,

    I am starting to read more of the classics and want to start a collection. I am wondering what the differences are between the Penguin, Bantam, and Barnes & Noble editions. Are there pros and cons to each? I read that Penguin was the market leader, at least back in 2003, is that still the case? Are there ones I should shy away from? Is there another publisher I should instead check out? I've searched a little on Amazon.com, but would like your thoughts as well. I'm interested in paperbacks, not hardbacks, in case anyone wonders.

    If this is a tired thread or off-subject, please say so and let it die a swift death.

    Thanks,
    Highway Kid

  2. #2
    a dark soul Haunted's Avatar
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    Doubleday and Random House are big. Modern classics such as On Chesil Beach is published by Doubleday. Doubleday to me is an a high end publisher for slick, literary works — Sheer Abandon, Leonardo's Swans...oh, Chuck Palahniuk is one of their authors if you like edgy

    Doubleday also publishes such blockbusters as the Da Vinci Code, everything from John Grisham, and Dexter, now a USA Network tv series for the 3rd season (I'm hooked!) They'll be releasing Dan Brown's next Da Vinci Code called The Lost Symbol, in September!!!

    I think Bantam is mass market....
    Last edited by Haunted; 07-27-2009 at 11:48 PM.

    "But do you really, seriously, Major Scobie," Dr. Sykes asked, "believe in hell?"
    "Oh, yes, I do."
    "In flames and torment?"
    "Perhaps not quite that. They tell us it may be a permanent sense of loss."
    "That sort of hell wouldn't worry me," Fellowes said.
    "Perhaps you've never lost anything of importance," Scobie said.

  3. #3
    Registered User billl's Avatar
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    First, a question: Are you trying to buy all the books from the same publisher, so it looks more like an orderly "collection"? I wouldn't recommend that, but if you are interested in doing that, I'd say don't go with Barnes and Noble, because your shelf might end up looking like a B&N display more than an attractively packaged array of classics.

    Beyond that, I'd recommend just opening up some books in the bookstore and deciding which ones feel more comfortable and have the best size type-set for your eyes, or combination of those, also even the color of the paper is something someone could get picky about. And all of that is personal taste.

    I guess the Bantam would be cheapest (or B&N?).

    Finally, the MOST IMPORTANT THING in my opinion, would be to pick the best translations for each title you're gonna be reading in translation. Checking on the forum here can help with that, and reviews at Amazon are another way to get opinions about translations (it's often the only real point of controversy about certain classics on Amazon).


    P.S. Just going with Penguin usually has worked for me, and sometimes that'll be the only one on the shelf in the store anyhow. More expensive, but comfortable to fold open and read in bed or one-handed on a train.

    P.P.S. But paying $1.75 for a used Bantam is always hard to beat.

  4. #4
    Asa Nisi Masa mayneverhave's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by billl View Post
    Finally, the MOST IMPORTANT THING in my opinion, would be to pick the best translations for each title you're gonna be reading in translation. Checking on the forum here can help with that, and reviews at Amazon are another way to get opinions about translations (it's often the only real point of controversy about certain classics on Amazon).
    This is the most important thing. I myself buy books based on translator rather than what is cheapest, aesthetically pleasing (in terms of things like cover art), or convenient (i.e. all in one volume).

    I have a few Barnes & Noble publications, which are decent with a fair amount of extra material.

    Bantam usually has a very sparse amount of extra material and usually comes in small dimensions for a low price.

    Penguin books usually have a large amount of extra critical material (albiet not as much as the Norton Critical Editions), and usually some very nice cover illustrations. "The Serpent and the Eagle" essay that comes with my Penguin copy of the Oresteia is nearly 100 pages in length, so there is more than just the work itself to go around.

  5. #5
    Critical from Birth Dr. Hill's Avatar
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    I like Modern Library hardcovers but their selection is limited.
    The salvation of the world is in man's suffering. - Faulkner

  6. #6
    Registered User aeroport's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by billl View Post
    P.S. Just going with Penguin usually has worked for me, and sometimes that'll be the only one on the shelf in the store anyhow. More expensive, but comfortable to fold open and read in bed or one-handed on a train.
    For the most part, I too would say, When in doubt, go with Penguin - certainly between the three mentioned in the OP. The covers crease very easily (or perhaps it's just more apparent because they are black), but in the way of critical introductions and endnotes, I've typically found them to be the most satisfactory - though of course you should flip through it before you decide.

    Modern Library produces light, comfortable paperbacks, often with slightly larger type in my experience, but while the notes and intro are sometimes as good, they are not as dependable about it as Penguin, so again be sure to take a look first. I've had a few of these with disappointingly brief introductions, sometimes written by novelists rather than literature professors (nothing wrong with that, but it wasn't what I was looking for).

    And the same goes for the Oxford World's Classics series. They are used as class texts pretty often too (though still not as much as the P), and have a slightly tougher binding.

    Most important is simply to know which version of the text the book contains, often a bigger deal than commonly recognized. In the case of a book like Moby-Dick, for instance, there are at least three different texts you could wind up reading. Same goes for just about any Henry James novel or short story collection, and of course Shakespeare. Texts often have long, complicated histories, which it is good to be at least somewhat familiar with when approaching a given work.
    Of course, if you want all the details about the differences between them, get the Norton Critical Edition, where you will find long, tedious, word-to-word lists of 'Textual Variants'.

  7. #7
    Yes Penguin are pretty solid books generally, I'd recommend them. About 90% of my classics at home are Penguin editions. The newer cover editions in black and white often come with a good introduction, notes and links to further reading. They just feel right most of the time too, with good art work and crisp white pages. The downside is that they can be a little pricey, I picked up a Maupassant novel today which cost £9.99, though I could have saved a bit buying from Amazon, but I needed it desperately (on holiday).

    Other than that Oxford World Classics are also good, and have good introductions and extensive notes, those and Wordsworth editions (which are a bit cheaper and not quite as good) make up the rest of my collection.

  8. #8
    Infrarrealista March Hare's Avatar
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    My personal preference is for Penguin. They seem easier to read to me vis. the typeface and paper. I like the page breaks between chapters. And I've always had a thing for the covers. But Signet, Bantam and BN fit into a back pocket well.
    There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
    Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

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    Registered User grotto's Avatar
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    An eclectic collection is always far more interesting! I always choose translation first and foremost; I have paid twice the price for an enjoyable, lively and understood read rather than one that matched a set. A good example would be Tolstoy or Dostoevsky, sit down with a number of translations and you will see the difference.

    Other than that, I like Penguins’ if I had to pick just one.

  10. #10
    Artist and Bibliophile stlukesguild's Avatar
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    I would say that at least 90% of my collection of classic literature would fall into the category of "none of the above". When speaking of literature not originally written in English I agree that the quality of the translation is the first concern. Deciding upon which translation is best often takes a little research but as has already been suggested you can always ask for feedback at a site like this. My library is made up of clssics published by Everyman, Modern Library, The Library of America, Penguin, Oxford, Bantam, and number of university presses and probably the whole gamut of major publishers. I would estimate that about 1/5th of my books are hardcover... but again I will only choose these over a soft cover book if I believe it is better or equal in terms of translation, editing, and quality of the text... although I will admit to owning a few volumes for pure aesthetic purposes. In these instances, however, they are not the sole edition I have of that book.
    Beware of the man with just one book. -Ovid
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    Awesome! Thanks everyone for the great responses. I like the idea of going more by translator than looks. I also liked how some mentioned the differences or versions of the same text. Another question I had regarding the three publishers mentioned and even others, is exactly that: is the actual text different between the various publishers. From what was mentioned I assume it certainly could be. The world of the classics seems fascinating so far! I think I will take each book on a case by case basis and research what I think will be the best [for me] publisher/edition etc. Thanks so much, again.

    Jason

  12. #12
    Yes taking each book on a case by case basis is definitely the best way to go, certainly where translations are concerned.

    As for your other question, all versions should almost be exactly the same, barring translations of course, which will always be different. Texts in English will only vary due to very minor decisions on behalf of the editor, in cases of ambiguity or to update to modern punctuation in some older texts, for instance. But essentially they're all the same.

    The other thing to watch out for is texts that might have been abridged, never buy an abridged version of any book, make sure it clearly states "complete and unabridged" somewhere on the book (usually on the back), though most aren't abridged. I can't understand why anyone would read an abridged version.

    Personally I've also got quite a lot of the cheaper Penguin editions which I used to buy when I couldn't afford the other editions. I used to be able to pick this up for less than a pound, unbelievable really, they have mostly stopped selling these now though. Even these books are still really good.

    Of course the best bit is choosing what books to read. Have you got any particular novels in mind?

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    Four that I have so far and eager to jump into are:
    Moby Dick, Northwestern-Newberry, 150th Anniversary Edition
    Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain Library, says "The Only Authoritative Text"
    Catcher in the Rye, Little Brown and Co.
    Hamlet, The Annotated Shakespeare (Black cover, red stripe at top)

  14. #14
    Great, that's quite a varied bunch. Moby Dick is supposed to be quite dense, though I haven't read it yet, but don't be put off if it seems hard work.

  15. #15
    Registered User Pollopicu's Avatar
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    I agree with choosing best translations first and foremost. I also agree with an eclectic collection, rather than all from the same publishing company.

    I bought an oxford classic "Count of Monet Cristo". Left it in the car on a hot day and a chunk of the pages came out.

    I bought B&N "Madame Bovary" and the translation left a lot to be desired.
    "So this is hell. I'd never have believed it. You remember all we were told about the torture-chambers, the fire and brimstone, the "burning marl." Old wives' tales!There's no need for red-hot pokers. HELL IS--OTHER PEOPLE!"
    — Jean-Paul Sartre (No Exit: A Play in One Act)

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