Sunday, October 17, 2010

Subterranean Press; A Book Review.

In this series I'm going to evaluate the quality of book manufacturing from various publishers. I intend only to focus on the quality of the physical book itself. For previous comments on Easton Press, Everyman's library, Franklin Library, and what I deem "The mass market Hardback" please see the respective links.

Subterranean Press is a small independent press with a strong focus on fantasy and science fiction though they publish outside those genres. All of their books are of a 'limited edition' nature with high quality paper, sewn signatures, and no heed for the cost of ink; often printing with multiple colors. They feature small print runs; many of which are signed by the author, and create instant exclusivity. Subterranean Press publishes cloth bound and leather bound books. This review will only take the cloth bound books into account. I hope to own enough of the leather bound books to offer my comments soon.

The quality of these books are on par with those from Everyman's Library: top notch. The paper is an archival off-white, and the full cloth binding is very well done. There signatures are divisible by eight and seem to be on the large side; apparently at the discretion of the printer but have proven very durable. There standard Deluxe Hardback Editions run around twenty-five dollars and are worth the money if you are a collector, have interest in the author or have previously read the book in a different edition. The company has a very strong following that sometimes gobbles up all available copies of a book via pre-orders before it is released. This can make it difficult to 'get one's toes wet' if you aren't familiar with the author and are considering a purchase.

Collector's beware: Subterranean Press's warehouse staff seems to be nothing short of epochally terrible. It is all too often that the company newsletter announces it 'found' x number of copies of a previously sold out, out-of-print book. So if you're trying to sell them second hand for a profit I'd advise looking elsewhere. (I can admit that the preceding has nothing to do with book quality, but the frequency with which it happens and the books 'limited edition' nature makes me feel it was noteworthy.)

More than any other publisher I've come across Subterranean seems to go above and beyond when it comes to illustrations. Every one of their book covers are stunning; printed on a heavy matte photo paper to show off the commissioned artist as best they can. Many of the higher priced, signed editions will have multiple full color illustrations, all based on material from the novel, of course.

None of the Deluxe Hardback Editions I own features endpapers--which I think is a shame considering the limited edition nature of the books. The one signed author edition I do own does have endpapers and perhaps the price difference (my one signed edition is The Club Dumas by Arturo Pérez-Reverte listing at $125, and no I didn't pay anywhere near that for it) is the deciding factor.

My one true gripe with the quality of these books is that of every one I own there was a big glob of glue near the spine on either the tail or top edge that was so prominent and offensive to me, that it drove me to an x-acto knife, and the utmost care, to remove it. While this errant glob doesn't effect the quality, it is poor fit and finish on an otherwise excellent product.

You need to know you like the material before you buy, but should you purchase from Subterranean Press you will be assured a unique and gorgeous addition to your library.

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