hardcover vs paperback

Just over one and a half years ago, I wrote a post about reading quirks. One of the things I talked about was my preference for paperback novels over hardcover ones. But since I’ve been reading this simply elegant hardcover copy of Tender is the Night (and also since reading a hardcover copy of What I talk about when I talk about running), I’m finding that this could very well be changing.

Side note: I’ve just realised that I’ve been reading this for almost two months, which feels like a long time considering I finished David Copperfield, which is almost three times the size, over about three months. But no matter. It’s not that I’m not enjoying it – much the opposite, actually – I just keep rereading parts of it so that I can savour it more.

Well, if we go back to the start, when I started reading novels as a kid, we’ll see that most, if not all of the books I read were paperback. Of course, this is because most of the books I read were from libraries, and libraries don’t tend to keep hardcover copies of novels. Now and then, my parents would buy a novel for me, and these were always paperback too.

Strangely enough, when it comes to picture books / children’s books, I prefer hardcover, and probably always have. But I think hardcover picture books are more commonplace than non-hardcover ones (?) I don’t know – I don’t spend much time in that part of libraries or book shops anymore.

In my post in 2014, I’d cited “practicality” as one of the reasons why I preferred paperback, but, really, it’s not at all harder to carry around and read a hardcover novel. Perhaps it came down to familiarity, and sticking with what I knew worked. Perhaps, deeper down, it’s that same old fear of the unknown or unfamiliar – a fear of changing something that didn’t need to be improved.

Too much?

Well, like I said, the vast majority of novels in most book stores and libraries are all paperback, so I suppose paperback sort of won by default of its ubiquity and accessibility. However, this might ultimately work against it because I think this has also created an element of exclusivity in having a hardcover edition.

Besides all that, though, I feel like there is something reassuring and comforting about the solidity of a hard cover. There’s just something pleasing about knowing that the pages are securely bound within a solid shell, protected from physical mishandling (not that I’d ever intentionally mishandle a book, even if I didn’t like it).

But I think, also, that I’m just biased because the hardcover team is really just being carried by the two star players mentioned in the first paragraph. I mean, I’ve got so much sentimental attachment to both of them (even though I only own one of them), and I think their respective entrances into my life have just been very well timed – beneficiaries of circumstance, if you will.

I’m still going to read plenty of paperback novels – probably still primarily paperback novels (after all, I need to get through all these books that I’ve bought but not read yet, plus all the books I’m going to buy) – but I certainly won’t hesitate to pick up a hardcover one either. In fact, presented with a choice, I might be more inclined to buy a hardcover edition than a paperback one…

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2 thoughts on “hardcover vs paperback

  1. I like hardcovers when I can get them and afford them and if I buy a classic to add to the family library I try to make it a hardcover, but you just can’t beat the lower price of paperbacks. Oh, and there are books in the public domain and therefore free or very low cost that I will read on an e-reader until I can afford to buy the hardcover.

    If we’re talking just about the feeling, well, I guess it depends on the book. I’m reading a really nice book of familiar essays right now in hardcover that has such a beautiful feel – even the dust jacket and end papers are gorgeous. It’s like drinking tea out of a real china cup instead of a mug.

    But yes, I like paperbacks to shove in the bag or carry in the car or take to the beach or snuggle with in bed so I don’t feel guilty for damaging it.

    • I like your teacup analogy. It’s amazing what a difference it makes. I suppose the experience of reading a book involves a lot more than just reading words on a page.

      I’m still hesitant to move to e-readers (for all the usual reasons) but if/when I do, I’m sure I’d follow a similar process of reading it on the e-reader, then buying a hardcopy as a keepsake (even if I never read the physical book myself). And I used to think that reading was not an expensive hobby!

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