A Book Collector’s Dilemma – What Should I Do?

Years ago I bought Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh. On seeing that it was to be part one of a trilogy I resolved to not read it until the trilogy had been completed and published. That time has come and the Ibis Trilogy will feature on my reading list for 2017. But there is a problem.

I like to think of myself as not just an obsessive reader, but a book collector as well. Book and cover designs matter to me. I don’t read e-books and I think it is great that the arrival of e-books is forcing publishers to be more considered and creative in their designs. I’m not stubborn about it, I think I traverse a spectrum. For books that I love, or at least have high expectations for, I may be very picky on which design I like. If not, I may be more easy going and I happily buy good quality second-hand books. I’m less fussy about non-fiction covers, more fussy about what’s inside them which is also true for Penguin’s black-cover-white-band classics. If I know a book has an interesting cover I will probably seek out that version of it and I may occasionally be guilty of taking an interest in a book more for its cover than for its blurb!

It is fair to say I have high expectations for the Ibis Trilogy and I would like to have the trilogy with pretty, complementary cover designs. I can’t find a picture of the exact cover design for my copy of Sea of Poppies online but it is similar to the following:


Very Nice. But when the second novel of the trilogy, River of Smoke, was published, it came in a different design. This picture (below) does not do it justice; it is very pretty, but completely different from my copy of the first book which was republished in a design complementing the second (beneath below).



I bought River of Smoke with this new design thinking, ‘well, if the they follow up with the third novel in a similar design, I may need to consider repurchasing the first if I want a complete set’. I should have known better, because the third has come out looking like this:


At first I thought ‘ok, I guess I will have a mixed-set of books, oh well’. But I kept checking to see if a design complementing either of the books I already own is coming out. Instead, they have republished the first two with a design complementing the third:

Poppies3Smoke2Oh dear. Now what do I do? I think they look great, but will I really repurchase the first two just to have a complete set?

I hate it when this happens. The same thing happened over the course of Margaret Attwood’s Maddaddam trilogy. I have that series with each book in a different design, but to be honest, I am not too fussed as I don’t have the same expectations for that series. The same will probably happen to me with Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall series. It did not happen, though, when I bought Naguib Mahfouz’s Cairo Trilogy. I guess it’s different when the series is already complete and has been published before; publishers are then more careful to deliver a collectable set to readers. And yet, sci-fi, fantasy and crime novel series seem to be published with more care.

To be fair, there are two other cover design sets for the Ibis Trilogy that have remained consistent but who could have predicted that from the start? One is mostly for the hardcover books, is not terribly uniform and is now harder to find. The other is uninspired, for example:


I’m still unsure what to do. I could have a mix-matched set and try to find a way to not be constantly bothered by it. Or I could suffer the hassle and expense and buy a complete set. I do have some other unread, as-good-as-new, books that I would like to pass on. Perhaps I should get the complete set and put the two I already have with some others up on e-bay?

PS – all images procured from Book Depository.


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