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« Recession Snows Tahoe Under | Main | What Salinger Read »

January 28, 2010

A Disappearing Book Genre

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

We'll probably drive to Reno tomorrow so that Nancy can take a break from skiing. While there, I'll probably stop by the National Automobile Museum, site of what's left of the once-massive Bill Harrah collection. If I do, I'll probably do a walk-through of the books/gift shop.

Am I using the word "probably" a lot? Well, here's one more: In the shop I probably won't spy a lot of books dealing with cars of a given brand (or "marque" as it's often put).

Actually, automobile books of all descriptions save shop-manuals seem to have been in comparatively short supply for the last ten or 15 years or so. Okay, another exception is the sort of car book you can see piled high in the discount section of your local Barnes & Noble store. What I've been missing are serious histories of marques intended for car buffs like me.

Back in the 1970s and 80s there were many such books that I'd drool over in stores, fingers itching, especially in times when my book-buying budget was tight. Nowadays, I just don't see many compelling car books. Why?

One possibility is that it's just me; I bought the good stuff and new titles get ignored because I really don't need a lot of redundancy.

Most likely, publishers find that books about defunct marques simply don't sell all that well. Marque books I notice on store shelves tend to be about existing makes (Porsche, Ferrari, Chevrolet Camaro, Ford Mustang and such) or dead brands familiar to the under-50 crowd. (Be braced for more titles dealing with Oldsmobile, Pontiac, Saturn and Plymouth.) New offerings treating Packard, Studebaker, Nash, Hudson and De Soto are rare, and often take the form of photo albums.

This seems to be true in Europe as well. When I visit, I keep my eyes open for books dealing with 1927-1947 vintage Alfa-Romeos, Lagondas, Lancias and such. I'd like to find a decent book about pre-1958 "street" Ferrari coachwork by various builders such as Touring and Vignale. Of interest to me are those now little-known English makes such as Jowett, Riley, Wolseley (I do have a book or two about these). French publishers seem to do a little better, so I have a fair collection dealing with French brands.

Besides the personal experience factor, it's likely that people (usually guys) are less emotionally involved with cars these days than my generation was. Therefore, I await the launch of books dealing with histories of cell-phone brands.

Later,

Donald

posted by Donald at January 28, 2010




Comments

Come to Detroit. You'll find a little better selection.

Posted by: Ted Craig on January 28, 2010 2:01 PM






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