August 2010 | L. D. Mitchell

How to Collect Books by Buying Movies

One of the reasons that my wife and I get along so well is that we both suffer from some of the same afflictions. Both of us have seriously collected books for decades. We both love simple, honest food. And we both love film, especially quirky, independent films.

And thereby hangs a tale. For we have found that simply by purchasing DVDs of many of our favorite films, we also have enlarged our respective book collections.

How so? Well, at first accidentally, then deliberately, by buying a fair number of the films which interest us from a single film distributor, The Criterion Collection.
Founded in 1984, The Criterion Collection often is credited with the idea of distributing films as a "film school in a box." Not only does it strive to release films that are state-of-the-art in terms of film quality, but each release typically contains all kinds of extras: trailers (often in multiple languages), commentaries, "making-of" documentaries, alternate endings, deleted scenes, and … wait for it books!

We're not talking Victorian triple-deckers here. Usually what's included is a small paperback. The subject matter ranges from essays about the film at hand (or its director) to reprints of fiction upon which particular films are based. For example: Criterion's release of Stephen Frears' The Hit includes, among many other extras, a paperback essay by film critic Graham Fuller. Criterion's release of acclaimed director Robert Altman's film Short Cuts includes a paperback reprint (depicted here) of all nine Raymond Carver short stories (and one poem) upon which the film is based.

Of course, Criterion is not the only distributor who includes books and other extras nowadays, as anyone call tell you who has ever bothered to compare the relative merits of films released in multiple versions: DVD-only, Special Edition, Enhanced Edition, Extra Enhanced Edition, Extra Special Enhanced Edition, Extra Special Super Duper Absolutely Incredible Blow-Your-Socks-Off Enhanced Edition … and so on.

(You also can augment your book collection by buying video games. The Enhanced Edition of the multiple-award-winning game, The Witcher, for example, includes a paperback English-language translation of an excerpt from The Last Wish, Polish writer Andrzej Sapkowski's short-story cycle upon which the game is based. It will be interesting to see how publications such as the Carver and Sapkowski reprints we've discussed here are treated in future bibliographies. …)