I recently purchased and read a copy of Dorothy Parker’s ‘Complete Stories’, in this process I noticed it had some differences than the Penguin Classics that I am used to perusing. It would quite happily, if placed with a page open, remain this way, allowing you to put your book on the table and read it straight rather than holding open the pages. I had encountered this peculiarity before with another book, but had been unable to deduce the cause and dismissed it as just being how that publisher printed books. In this instance I had another Penguin Classic to compare it to and in so doing made the discovery, one somewhat obvious in hindsight that the edition I had been reading was an American copy, the price on the back being in dollars being the obvious and somewhat stupidly overlooked clue.
Googling around found me no wiser as to the reasons behind the bindings being different between the American and British, aesthetically the British books hold up better as the binding being what it is, means that an American book placed face down on the table will, unless a weight is placed upon it, have the cover curve up most unpleasingly. Yet again the American copy is easier to read, no longer do you need to constantly be holding the pages open to keep your place, it does so quite happily on its own.
I am unhappy to say that I still have yet to discover the reasons behind the choice of binding, whether it is an economic choice or a stylistic one. There is one observance that I feel is amusing if for no other reason than it calls to mind The Great Gatsby, where an old man notes that Gatsby’s own library has just enough of an illusion in it, namely that the books on his shelf are real, but that the pages of those books are uncut. In this modern instance, if you entered the personal library of someone in Britain, you would be able to tell, providing they are not stocked exclusively with hard covers, which books where read and unread by the creasing of the spine. Whereas go into a similar library in America and you will find that because of the construction of the books, not a single one has that tell-tale creasing, making it a complete mystery if any books in the library have been read.