Browsing idly in WH Smiths on Friday a couple of new books caught my eye. One was by Vivian Cook, called Accomodating Broccoli In The Cemetary. This unpleasantly unwieldy title turns out to be a book about spelling, subtitled “Why can’t anyone spell anymore?”.

The publishing world is fad-driven like everything else. But for some reason its fads annoy me more. Maybe my expectations of books are higher than my expectations of, say, the pop biz, where if a band hits big then of course a half-ton of identikit ones will surely follow: I take that as part of the landscape and it never bothers me. Maybe it’s the time the cycle takes – in films a surprise hit may take a few years for other people to copy, so it’s harder to become sick of things.

Vivian Cook’s book does not come with a blurb saying “If you loved Eats, Shoots And Leaves you’ll just adore this!”. It hardly needs to: plainly there is no way it would be in WH Smiths’ Top 10 without Lynne Truss’ pedants’ charter breaking this particular path. I also just know that it’s the start of a flood – just think how many Miscellany books are on the shelves now. In a business where the margins are presumably pretty stinking every successful title will generate a mass of imitators – further along the Smiths’ shelves was the latest in the flourishing women-like-kinky-sex!!! subgenre, this time about a teenage BSDM enthusiast. It at least put “Move over Catherine M!” on its cover.

My irritation over this kind of marketing is rather self-defeating: it can work in the readers’ favour. Longitude was a bit of fluff whose popularity was bizarre, but it did break open an entire new popular history genre. It allowed people whose good social history work would have been footnoted to death in unread journals to actually write a bit and tell a few stories: many of the post-Longitude cash-ins were considerably better than their genre-mother. Similarly Lynne Truss may allow a few linguists to earn an honest bob – the write-up of the Cook book suggests it casts its net intriguingly wide. But I won’t be reading it: my quixotic stand against copycat books is not going to be weakened by mere quality.