There's a sin in this syntax:
Here's the problem: "Paperbacks" is the subject of the first phrase, which means the possessive "yours" in the second phrase must refer back to it. "Without breaking your paperbacks" surely isn't what the copywriter intends, although that's the only conclusion, grammatically, we can draw.
"Without breaking your back" would make sense, but there's no "back" in the sentence. Asking the reader to extract "back" (singular part of the human anatomy) from "paperbacks" (plural inaminate objects) is unreasonable and unfair.
Or are we being asked to extract "paper"?
Bottom line: If I have to work this hard to decipher a single sentence of ad copy, how hard will I have to work at mastering the Sony Reader itself?
P.S. Yes, there's a footnote after "350 paperbacks." The fine print reads: "Based on average un-illustrated eBook file size of 1.1 megabytes. Actual file sizes vary by digital book title."
P.P.S. This ad is part of a new Sony Electronics campaign featuring celebrities with whom I'm supposed to be on a first-name basis but don't even recognize. I finally figured out that "Peyton" is Peyton Manning, the football player, and "Justin" is Justin Timberlake, the singer. I have no idea who the bookends (so to speak) are or why I should care about any of these people's endorsement of an e-reader.
I rather liked the whimsy of not breaking my back over carrying so many paperbacks; however, I didn't like the use of "over" instead of "more than," nor the use of the possessive (paperbacks') when the correct usage is simply the plural noun.
Posted by: twitter.com/NextMoon | December 16, 2009 at 11:11 AM
I think an agent from Amazon infiltrated Sony's ad agency. Perpetrating unintelligible, irrelevant ad copy on the consumer is a great way to ensure the Kindle's market share dominance.
Posted by: Mag | December 16, 2009 at 11:22 AM
My guess: Like most ads these days, this one was written by and for people in their twenties (no matter what the client's actual target demographic was).
Posted by: twitter.com/hush6 | December 16, 2009 at 11:35 AM
... and is that an apostrophe after paperbacks?
Posted by: cb | December 16, 2009 at 03:52 PM
@CB and @NextMoon: Not an apostrophe: a footnote. See my P.S. on the post.
Posted by: Nancy Friedman | December 16, 2009 at 03:54 PM
I think the bookends are Amy Sedaris and William Shatner, but I'm not sure about Shatner.
Also, you've completely misread the sentence. What the ad is saying is that people who read books are weak and have brittle, papery backs. There's no way a literate person can carry so many paperbacks without breaking his/her own paperback.
Posted by: plainwater | December 17, 2009 at 05:42 AM
What if it said:
"Carry over 350 paper backs without breaking yours."
Though I agree with the syntax point.. it's not illegitimate to rely on known syntactic processing abilities of native language speakers, like being able to pick out parts of words from their original syntactic context for the purpose of grabbing at multiple meanings.
Posted by: Aneel | December 17, 2009 at 07:55 AM
I think the ad did exactly what an ad is supposed to do: get you to pay attention. I suspect whoever wrote this ad copy knew it was grammatically iffy -- and that understanding it would therefore require the reader to do a double-take. As a result, you remembered the ad. You even gave it free space on your blog.
Posted by: Glen | December 17, 2009 at 10:38 AM
It's funny. I smiled.
Sure, it's iffy syntactically. But pragmatically it's understandable.
It's not as bad as a lot of what's out there, because it's cute. It's an ad. It did what it set out to do.
Posted by: The Ridger | December 17, 2009 at 10:49 AM