Greg Zimmerman essentially wondered whether or not the publisher of the book you're reading affects whether or not you'll read it. It's a thoughtful, interesting post in which he concludes that there's one such publisher for him (McSweeney's), and later in the comments (after numerous readers named their own publishing favorites), that most readers have the one. Still, the ultimate conclusion seemed to be that readers don't actually pay too much attention to the publisher.
But I disagree. And I also agree.
Greg rightly raises the idea that readers can't name who published their favorite book of the year. This is true in the U.S. or Britain, where there are hundreds of publishers and publisher imprints to keep track of. It's true that most readers don't consciously pay attention to publishers. A reader won't reject a publisher because they're the same guys that published that piece of crap book last year. We're not aware enough for that. But to suggest that aside from one favored publisher we don't pay attention... I say: nonsense.
This game can be played with just about any publisher. The fact is that no matter what we tell ourselves, we recognize publisher brands. We typically know exactly who published a book as we hold it, turn its trademark pages, and bend its distinct cover. One only need look at how each reader has that favorite. And then another favorite. And then another.
Greg is right: most of us probably can't name the publisher of our favorite book from last year (actually, I can. Vintage: The Master and Margarita), but that doesn't mean we don't subconsciously care. I'll be more interested in anything NYRB or Open Letter publishes because I've had good experiences with them in the past. I know I love Oxford World Classics editions translations and annotations, even if their aesthetics aren't amazing. Penguin Classics can be a hit or a miss, but I do like Penguin's young adult imprints. Does this mean I'll buy every book by the publisher? Absolutely not. Do I take into account these things when debating whether or not to buy a book? Probably a lot more than I think.
A few more examples of easy-to-distinguish publishing houses:
|Oxford World's Classics (old editions)|