Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Book trailers

I rarely watch TV commercials anymore, thanks to my DVR. I find previews more annoying than enticing in a movie theater. My mouse is primed to click CLOSE on online ads the moment they pop up. So you'd think, also given my resistance to vooks and blooks, I'd deride book trailers. But it's not that simple.

Troy Patterson, in a Slate article late last year, discussed several book trailers (like Jonathan Safran Foer's short web video for Eating Animals, below) and contended that "such clips can reveal the hopes and fantasies of readers, writers, and publishers alike".

Patterson criticizes the "Hollywood glamour" in some of these video projects that distracts from the literary merit of a given work, but in general takes a resignedly accepting stance towards the new media. I agree with his evaluation. I view book trailers as adapting to modern publishing, as the print ads of 2010- and whoever took issue with The New Yorker's sidebar promotion of new books, for example? In fact, many of the trailers, rapidly becoming stickier throughout publishing, are artistically sophisticated. One example is Jamieson Fry's piece for T.C. Boyle's The Women:

In a technological climate pushing physical books to the margins- The Millions cited in January that Laredo, Texas, population 250,000, is now literally bookstore-less- any effort to get books into readers' hands is commendable. Granted, book trailers can promote eBooks just as much as bound books, but for readers hesitant to convert to the Kindle just yet these marketing campaigns will fuel a purchase. Like Patterson, I think the trailers can be hokey, contrived, artificial. But so, too, can they be aesthetically pleasing, cinematically impressive, and, most importantly, commercially successful.

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