If you grew up in the United States, there’s a good chance you once read the mass market copy of To Kill a Mockingbird. Older readers will remember a purple cover with an illustration of a night scene, while younger ones may remember silhouetted cover art. But soon, copies like that will be a thing of the past: Harper Lee’s estate has put an end to the cheaper mass market edition.
It’s a tough break for readers and school districts, which will now have to opt for larger trade paperbacks that retail for nearly twice the price of the $8.99 edition. It’s also just one of the many things Lee’s confidant and attorney Tonja Carter, who has already drawn fire for allegedly putting her own interests before her friend’s, is being scrutinized for.
In the past, observers have raised suspicions about Carter’s discovery of the Go Set a Watchman manuscript, as well as the decision to publish it, which seemed out of line with Harper Lee’s past wishes. Now some are saying that the decision to end the mass market edition of To Kill a Mockingbird is a cash grab for Carter, who now controls Lee’s estate. Claims that Harper Lee herself would not have approved of the move will have to remain purely speculative, as Carter’s attorneys successfully convinced an Alabama judge to seal Lee’s will.
For their part, Lee’s publishers said in an email that the change was made “per the author’s wishes” – though elsewhere the change was credited to “the author’s estate.” Whoever demanded the change certainly upset the folks at Hachette, who didn’t pull any punches in their email to the New Republic. Hachette’s spokesperson went right to the school issue, writing:
“The disappearance of the iconic mass-market edition is very disappointing to us, especially as we understand this could force a difficult situation for schools and teachers with tight budgets who cannot afford the larger, higher priced paperback edition that will remain in the market.”
Claudia Durst Johnson, a friend of Harper Lee’s, was even more blunt when speaking to The New York Times. Lee’s estate is “[making] money at the expense of school children’s access to this classic,” she said.
What do you think about the change?