'Compact Editions,' or classix lite

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To howls of indignation from literary purists, a leading publishing house is slimming down some of the world’s greatest novels.

Tolstoy, Dickens and Thackeray would not have agreed with the view that 40 per cent of Anna Karenina, David Copperfield and Vanity Fair are mere “padding”, but Orion Books believes that modern readers will welcome the shorter versions.

The first six Compact Editions, billed as great reads “in half the time”, will go on sale next month, with plans for 50 to 100 more to follow...

A rival classics publisher, quoted in The Bookseller magazine, accused Orion of dumbing down. “It’s patronising to consumers. One of the striking things about a huge number of the classics is how readable and approachable they are. Just making them shorter doesn’t make them more palatable.”...

In the 1940s and 1950s Gilberton sold more than 200 million Classics Illustrated, comic-book versions of works including Ivanhoe, Moby Dick and Don Quixote. From the 1950s, Reader’s Digest Condensed Books, now called Select Editions, have combined several edited novels in one volume.

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