Category Archives: books – the physical book

caveat emptor


I have learned to abhor so called print on demand booksellers.

They are sort of like cockroaches. If you are looking for a book online — from, or a bookstore/bookseller with a web page — and, say, you enter a search term such as “Theodore Dreiser” or “Sister Carrie,” you will get far more hits than you need or want.

Many of them are for on demand publishers. For instance:

Lightning Source Inc.

Forgotten Books

Trieste Publishing

Andesite Press

I was recently fooled, as it were, by seeing the name Trieste Publishing for a bookseller. I ordered a hard to find book of essays by William Hazlitt from them.

Trieste Publishing sounded like a bona fide publishing house, not an on demand publisher.

The book arrived in no time. It was what in booksellers’ parlance is termed an ex-libris copy, an ugly photocopied book from a public library with marks and stamps on it.

Some time ago, I ordered the lengthy novel by David Graham Phillips Susan Lenox: Her Fall and Rise. It was out of print. It was sold by Indypublish.Com. It came in two volumes with a plain dark blue cover. There were no words on the cover.

The title page simply read Susan Lenox Her Rise and Fall.

They couldn’t even get that right. The novel’s title is actually Susan Lenox: Her Fall and Rise. If you read the novel, you will see that the difference in titles makes a big difference.



Here are some more ludicrous examples.


The cover of Theodore Dreiser’s novel The “Genius,” published by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

book cover, The 'Genius' (Create Space).jpg


I was astonished to see the cover of this edition. How could they have a portrait of Albert Einstein on the cover? Dreiser’s novel was based loosely on the life of Greenwich Village artist Everett Shinn, who in no way resembled Einstein appearance wise, and of course was from a totally different world, so to speak. The “publishers” did not bother to ascertain what the novel is about.


The cover of Theodore Dreiser’s novel The Financier (which is based on the life of the American financier Charles Tyson Yerkes), sold by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.


book cover, 'The Financier' (Create Space).jpg


The financier, Yerkes, died in 1905. He was active in the late nineteenth century in places such as Chicago. Dreiser knew of him. In the CreateSpace cover illustration, he is dressed in garb appropriate for Benjamin Franklin.


The cover of an edition of Theodore Dreiser’s Plays of the Natural and Supernatural, sold by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.


book cover, 'Plays of the Natural and Supernatural' (Create Space)


The cover of an edition of Theodore Dreiser’s play The Hand of the Potter, sold by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.


book cover, 'The Hand of the Potter' (Create Space).jpg


The illustrations look like they could have been done by Bruegel or an Italian Renaissance painter.



It’s disturbing, to me, to see books being marketed by firms that have entirely no knowledge of books or their content. A related problem which concerns me is that such sellers clutter up the online market for books, so that one can’t find which editions are in print that are worth purchasing.


— Roger W. Smith

   May 2018

a horrible book cover – “Platero y yo”


a18 Platero y yo - Icelandic

Juan Ramón Jiménez, Platero y yo – Icelandic

I recently visited the Casa Museo Zenobia y Juan Ramón Jiménez located in Moguer, a small city in the province of Huelva, Andalusia, Spain. The town was the birthplace and home (in his youth and early adulthood) of the poet Juan Ramón Jiménez (1881–1958).

Jiménez is best known for his prose poem about a writer and his donkey, Platero y yo (Platero and I). The book has been translated into innumerable languages.

Show above is a photograph of the Icelandic translation of Platero y yo, which is on display (with many other editions, in many languages) at the Casa Museo Zenobia y Juan Ramón Jiménez. The cover art of this edition baffles me. It shows what is possibly supposed to be (?) a donkey’s tail and a cockroach! A cockroach. Why? And how does this relate to the content of the book?

Platero and I is a wonderful book that leaves the reader with good, warm feelings. It is a popular book for children as well as adults. This cover leaves a distasteful residue — so to speak — in terms of the image and what it suggests.

I experience unpleasantness when I see a cockroach in our house, and this book cover gives me a similar feeling.


— Roger W. Smith

   June 2016