Books and Code · A Miscellany

The Riverside Chaucer


What follows is a review of this book itself, not its contents. Chaucer rules; this book sucks. Here’s why:

Let me state at the outset that I am not an anti-capitalist. Quite the contrary. I think free markets are awesome, unfairly denigrated, and usually blamed for things that are actually the result of unfree markets. This book is a classic case.

This book is a chore in every sense: to buy, to carry, to read, to cite. No consumer would choose this book of their own free will. For the cost, you could buy Chaucer’s works as a multi-volume set instead (think Norton Critical Editions). This solution would be more pleasurable to read and less likely to give you a hernia. It is also a pain to cite from Riverside when you want to delineate various works, critical introductions, etc. “But Dave,” you say, “its a one-volume authoritative edition!” So. What possible reason is there for forcing everything between two covers? Price? Since when do colleges care about the cost of textbooks? Convenience? What about this book is convenient? No, this book screams “I don’t give a crap about the reader. You’re gonna buy this big-ass book and you’re gonna like it. You will never read this book after college anyway so who cares. This form is convenient and functional for the institutions and our convenience matters more than yours.”

If consumers [students] had any say in the textbook market, this garbage would not exist. It is only because of the ridiculous hegemony of our system of higher learning that such affronts to good taste exist. Design by committee blows.