‘S.’ By J.J. Abrams Upsets Librarians

‘S.’ By J.J. Abrams Upsets Librarians

Of any group of people, I would have thought librarians to be the most imperturbable, but it appears they can get their knickers in a twist just like everyone else. According to The Hollywood Reporter, librarians are so “enraged” by the new bestselling mystery by director J.J. Abrams, S. — it made Amazon’s top 10 in the first week — they’re cancelling orders for it.

But one group unimpressed by the literary theater are librarians, who have been complaining to one another on message boards that the loose material is easy to misplace and reporting they have canceled orders — 50 copies at Cleveland's Cuyahoga County libraries alone. Many are irked that an elaborate Hollywood-style marketing campaign, complete with stylized trailers and a strict embargo, left them clueless about the contents of the relatively pricey book.

I haven’t seen the book yet, but I’m intrigued by the images and reports of it being “chockablock with maps, postcards and marginalia, all stuffed into a well-wrought re-creation of an old library book”. Fantastic! But I guess it could cause problems for librarians, if it’s as complicated as it looks.

Says Lesley Knieriem, a librarian in Rogers, Ark., who canceled her order, "I bought it sans review on the strength of the author name and online buzz, and boy am I sorry."

I don’t think I will be — do you? It does amuse me that a book could "enrage" librarians, but if you’re a librarian, would you be willing to take a risk that the book might survive intact? Or is it all just a bad idea?

There's a very interesting interview with J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst about S. conducted by Neil Gaimain for the BBC.

Dean Fetzer

News by Dean Fetzer

Dean Fetzer is originally from a small town in eastern Colorado, but has lived in London, England, for the past 21 years. After a career in graphic design, he started a pub review website in the late 90’s; He left that in 2011 to concentrate on his thriller writing, as well as offering publishing services for authors, poets and artists. When not writing - or in the pub - he can be found in the theatre, live music venues and travelling.

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ljlloyd's picture
ljlloyd November 12, 2013 - 9:43am

Well, thank you irratable librarians for bringing this book into the news. I hadn't heard of it yet. Now, I'm interested.

leah_beth's picture
leah_beth from New Jersey - now in Charleston, SC is reading five different books at once. November 12, 2013 - 9:57am

Ha! This makes me laugh a lot. Thing is...my husband got the book the day it came out, and the librarians make an excellent point. Almost every page has some kind of insert...post cards, pictures, receipts, tickets. It's insanely beautiful and rich, but the thing is....there's NO way a library could keep track of all that stuff. And since each item is associated wtih a particular page...can you imagine the mess?

That said, I don't think it's cause to get anyone's panties in a bunch...but people do so enjoy having their panties in a bunch, don't they?

Laura Lee's picture
Laura Lee November 12, 2013 - 10:10am

"Engraged" has to be a word thought up by a publicist to make a news story out of a simple case of librarians making the practical realization that it will be too difficult for them to circulate that book and ensure that all of the pieces come back. Canceling orders is not the same thing as being "enraged." Abrams has a good marketing team.

Joshua Chaplinsky's picture
Joshua Chaplinsky from New York is reading a lot more during the quarantine November 12, 2013 - 10:21am

Not really an Abrams guy, but this does sound pretty cool.

Dino Parenti's picture
Dino Parenti from Los Angeles is reading Everything He Gets His Hands On November 12, 2013 - 12:35pm

I bought it last week not knowing there was an avalanche of loose shit inside. Thankfully I didn't drop any of it, but I realize now this isn't one I'll be taking to the park. I'm eager to read it though.

Dino Parenti's picture
Dino Parenti from Los Angeles is reading Everything He Gets His Hands On November 12, 2013 - 12:36pm

By the way, where is this book $21? I haven't seen it for anything less than $35.

Bill Peschel's picture
Bill Peschel from Hershey, Pa. November 12, 2013 - 1:41pm

Here's why they're enraged:

"Many are irked that an elaborate Hollywood-style marketing campaign, complete with stylized trailers and a strict embargo, left them clueless about the contents of the relatively pricey book."

So Abrams' publicists "neglected" to inform librarians that the heavily promoted book that readers will want also contains a lot of stuff that will fall out and get lost and will be impossible to replace except by buying fresh copies.

If I was the librarian at Cleveland's Cuyahoga County libraries and I was about to spend $1,000 scarce dollars on books I can't circulate, I'd send Abrams a one-way ticket on Oceana Airlines, too.

(And Dino, the book's $21 at Bezo's Farm.)

Ryan Peverly's picture
Ryan Peverly from Ohio is reading The AEgypt Cycle by John Crowley November 12, 2013 - 6:21pm

Cannot wait to review this...

Benjamin Joseph's picture
Benjamin Joseph from Southern U.S. is reading Knockemstiff November 13, 2013 - 6:11am

At first I wanted to know what Abrams wrote that ticked off so many libertarians. Then I was all oh, wait...

postpomo's picture
postpomo from Canada is reading words words words November 13, 2013 - 2:20pm

Griffin & Sabine by Nick Bantock has the same problem, but at least the postcards and stuff have their own sleeves. The problem is that they don't always make it back to the library shelves.

Stephanie Bonjack's picture
Stephanie Bonjack from Boulder, CO is reading Portuguese Irregular Verbs by Alexander McCall Smith November 13, 2013 - 4:22pm

Oh my. A few comments:

Since when is a $35 book considered "relatively pricey" in library land? Most of the titles I order for my library are in the $80-$120 range. I'd consider $35 a steal.

I like that the Hollywood reporter sought out the most ridiculous-sounding person in my profession for the direct quote: "and boy am I sorry." Really?? Who talks that way about library materials? I purchased a book for my patrons written by a highly successful Hollywood director and boy am I sorry?

It's true that a book accompanied by lots of loose-leaf items poses a challenge. You pretty much have to assume that some things will get lost. Collecting everything in a separate envelope that you also check out with the book is the easiest way to deal with it, but that will obviously change the relationship between the materials and the book. That's life, not a reason to cancel your order.

ReferenceDesk's picture
ReferenceDesk from NYC is reading A Man Without A Country by Kurt Vonnegut Jr. November 14, 2013 - 8:25am

As a librarian, I can tell you that books like this are a serious headache. I wouldn't cancel any orders, but it would be great if they released a library edition with the ephemera printed differently, or something along those lines.