I’ve previously written about my preference for reading print books over digital books, but it occurs to me that I also prefer paperback books over hardcover books. First, there is the matter of price. Paperbacks are less expensive, which means I can buy more paperbacks, which means I have more to read. Not that I’ll ever be able to read all the books in my collection, but more is better, right? Secondly, they take up less space. And, with as many books as I have, space is a precious commodity on my bookshelves. (Yes, I tend to hold onto my books even after reading them. I guess I’m something of a hoarder in that regard, though I consider myself a neat hoarder–everything in its proper place!)
I particularly like the new premium mass market paperbacks that come out. They are slightly taller than your standard paperback, but for some reason just feel better in my hands. The print is usually at a nicer point size and the leading is airy enough that the pages don’t feel overwhelming. A 500-page book in this format isn’t as daunting as a 500-page book in standard paperback. (Don’t believe me? Compare a Robert E. Jordan Wheel of Time novel to a Clive Cussler novel. You’ll see what I mean.) The downside, of course, is in the book’s durability. I take care when reading my books to not bend the covers or mar the spine. I like to keep my books in a like new condition when possible. I absolutely do not dog ear any pages or use rubber bands to mark my place. I also try not to eat anything while I’m reading and take care to watch where I set my book down.
Call me anal or obsessive compulsive, but that’s just the way it is with me. I’m proud of my book collection and I want to keep each book looking nice. Whenever I’m browsing the used books at McCay’s in Nashville, I’ll pass over anything that looks like it’s been run over by a bunch of grubby hands.
The exception to the rule is when you can’t find any other version of the book, period. Then, condition of the paperback doesn’t matter as much. For instance, I’m more than happy to have my collection of beat up, well-read Ellery Queen paperbacks than not have them at all. (Why, oh why, won’t they reprint these!?)
Another downside of paperbacks is the wait you must endure to read the latest bestsellers. For instance, I’d love to read The Golem of Hollywood by Jonathan Kellerman right now, but I’ve vowed to wait until it is released in paperback first. (The good news is I only have to wait until July 28!) Fortunately, I have plenty of books to read in the meantime. Of course, you can get cheap hardcovers from time to time, and I have. Just look in the bargain bins. Books-A-Million often offers bargain hardcovers online for under $5. You can also pick up a lot of recent bestsellers that way. But still, there’s that whole bulkiness-space issue I talked about.
The only hardcover books that I purposely purchase are coffee table type books. I have a good collection of nonfiction books of that variety, I specifically like some of the books from DK Publishing, such as Universe, Earth, Prehistoric Life, Animal, Human, History, Battle, Battle At Sea, The Civil War, Commanders, Ship, Train, Car, Flight and Science. The books are incredibly illustrated and just a joy to look at. I have numerous books on the Civil War, as well, including the entire Time-Life series.
I also have a vast collection of hardcover and trade paperback-sized writing books on my nonfiction shelves. I used to buy these on a regular basis from Writer’s Digest Books. I’ll still purchase a new writing book from time to time, but I’m happy with my collection overall. My writing books encompass everything from character building to outlining to short story writing to scriptwriting and more. And, I have boxes of Writer’s Digest magazines to read and re-read as well.
Trade paperback books are also beginning to make their way into my collection. These are slightly wider and taller than standard paperbacks, though with soft covers. I have the entire Penguin reissues of Ian Fleming’s James Bond books and a host of Sherlock Holmes novels from Titan Books in this format. (They’ve also issued all of the James Gardner James Bond books in this format now and I’m working on adding them to my collection.) I’m currently collecting the reissues of Sax Rohmer’s Fu Manchu and Doc Savage’s New Adventures. And, I hope to get all of The Saint books someday, but there are so many of them it may take forever. The Hardcase Crime series of books began as standard paperbacks but are now issued as trade paperbacks. A lot of these books are just not available in standard paperback versions, so the trade formats are the next best thing. There are numerous other authors who, for whatever reason, seem to be exclusively published in trade paperback: Chuck Palahniuk, Joseph Nesbo and Joe Hill come to mind.
Which type of book is your favorite? Hardcovers, paperbacks or digital?