As a result of market research, which has brought us so much of value over the years, Weidenfeld and Nicolson have come up with 'Compact Editions'. Tag line: Great Books in Half the Time. According to their market research (quoted in a small note Saturday's Book's section of the Guardian) many readers are put off by the 'elitist' image of classics and by their 'daunting length and small print'.
The Guardian reports:
The first six titles - Anna Karenina, Vanity Fair, David Copperfield, The Mill on the Floss, Moby-Dick and Wives and Daughters - are to be released in May and will doubtless be snapped up by students eager to cut down their reading time.
Indeed. Alan Bissett will be delighted to learn that the cabal of priest-like academics that populate university English departments is busy renouncing its elitist stance in favour of churning out potential Compact Editions readers:
Some weeks ago a friend who teaches English Literature at a one of the new universities told me (despairing) that her department had decided to take To The Lighthouse off the syllabus for 3rd year undergraduates because it was too difficult.
There will be English graduates who have not read certain books because they are too difficult, and literature teachers who think they have done their job. And supply and demand being what it is, now there is a publisher who will provide for them.