Tor Print-on-demand Editions: Not Exactly What I Had in Mind

13 Feb 2013

So, a while back I picked up a copy of the Tor trade paper edition of the Kage Baker novel Sky Coyote. It looked like this. The cover is a piece of full-color artwork with a matte finish:

The edition information looks like so:

Here’s a bit of the text:

Nothing very exciting here; it’s just a book. The paper is kind of low-grade, like newsprint, definitely not archival, but you can’t have everything.

So I enjoyed this book and enjoyed the first novel in the series and some stories in The Best of Kage Baker so I bought a couple more novels in the series, from a seller on Alibris. Here’s one of the two books I got in the mail today:  

The cover is glossy, not matte. (That’s not really a big deal or anything, although I prefer the matte finish; but if I wind up trying to buy a series for my library, I like to get them, if possible, in a uniform edition so they look nice on the shelf, even if it’s not a fancy edition.)

The edition information doesn’t show the printing, it just says “P1.” I guess that must mean print-on-demand.

The print… the print looks terrible. It looks like it was made on a photocopier that was set too dark.

The title page graphic:

I think that’s supposed to be readable text on a gray graphic. It’s been rendered to one shade and is pretty illegible. Here’s some more of the text:

The features of the characters are blurred, spaces filled in and distorted, descenders mushed. Dark sounds good, except when it is too dark it becomes hard to distinguish letters. It makes my head hurt. Check out the As in the word “MASA,” below:

Wow. I did not realize that “print on demand” would mean “will look like a bad photocopy.”

Is this what Tor reprints look like, now? Does this bother anyone else?

My eyes aren’t great and I wear bifocals and I’m old as dirt (in my forties now) but it seems to me that a laser-printed PDF should look a lot better than this.

Tomorrow I will ask to return the books. Really disappointing — because I wanted to read them! But I guess I’ll look for a used copy that isn’t print-on-demand.

Is this how Tor treats all their deceased authors? Is this even an authorized edition, or did a shady seller do something strange?

Or has the whole world moved on to e-books, and so I should just expect print copies by the major publishers to be second-rate from here on out?

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