Top classics of 2006
Two of Britain's biggest book publishers are locked in a battle for control of the lucrative literary classics market. Penguin is the leading classics publisher, with its familiar black or silver-spined series accounting for about 65% of all classics sold in the UK. But next summer rival Random House will launch an audacious bid for a slice of those sales.
Isn't it refreshing, as Random House prepares to compete with market dominating Penguin in the classics market. that the great literature of the world continues to thrive in bookstores? Random House is apparently preparing to bring out a quite reasonably priced line of classics to compete with Penguin's impressive list of over 500 titles.To make matters more interesting, the new Random House line will feature "modern classics": a product line in which the likes of Martin Amis and Salman Rushdie will be repackaged in the same format as Tolstoy or Dickens. The classics war is the result of chain bookstore policies, which make it harder for newer books of worthwhile literature to compete with the canon for shelf space. For libraries in search of paperback classics to replace aging hard copies of either contemporary or older classics, there will be soon be more than one market source..
To be published under the Vintage imprimatur, Random House classics will have red spines and carefully researched iconic images on the covers. Twenty titles will be launched by August 2007, including editions of Oliver Twist and Middlemarch, and the advertising campaign budget for the series will exceed that of a new thriller by Dan Brown or Thomas Harris, and Random House plans to release all 43 of P.G. Wodehouse's novels as well, after a deal with Wodehouse's estate. Penguin has long been the sole publishers of Wodehouse's novels.
Penguin is the market leader, with a combined total of over 1300 contemporary and less contemporary classics, and according to the marketing director of Penguin classics, last year marked the highest sales yet recorded for the division. According to Bookscan, the top ten classics of 2006 are:
- War and Peace
- The Tibetan Book of the Dead
- The Poems of Thomas Hardy
- Classic Fairy Tales
- Summer Crossing (Truman Capote)
- Dr. Johnson's Dictionary
- The Three Musketeers
- The Aenid
- Fortress Besieged
The list above, of course, is probably U.K only and likely to be heavily influenced by set books for school exams.