Paperbacks edge out hardcovers for readability, collectability

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!)

Most of the paperbacks in my collection are in the standard size, but a growing number are in the premium size, which I actually like better.

Most of the paperbacks in my collection are in the standard size, but a growing number are in the premium size, which I actually like better.

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.

IMG_20150612_120338948 (640x401)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!?) Hollywood (197x346)

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.

Just a sampling of the DK coffeetable books in my collection. These books are absolutely gorgeous to look at.

Just a sampling of the DK coffeetable books in my collection. These books are absolutely gorgeous to look at.

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.

A tiny sampling of writing how-to books in my library.

A tiny sampling of writing how-to books in my library.

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.

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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?

Library holds adventures waiting to be discovered

I’m addicted to the written word. Always have been. But oddly enough, I haven’t checked out a book from my local library in at least a couple of decades.

I don’t have to, you see. I’m very fortunate to have collected a lifetime of books to read (actually more than a lifetime of books). I’ve got books in just about every category: horror, mystery, science fiction, fantasy, classics, TV tie-ins, thrillers. I’ve got a library of nonfiction books to peruse any time the feeling strikes. I’ve got boxes upon boxes of magazines (Time, Discover, National Geographic, Sports Illustrated, Wired, Fangoria, Hit Parader, Circus, Metal Edge, Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, Popular Mechanics, Popular Science, TV Guide). I’ve got comic books.

My horror collection.

My horror collection.

I’m never at a loss to find something to read, and for some reason I still buy new books every month.

I’m not sure why books have always meant so much to me, but I’m glad for it. Every time I read something special happens. I get carried away to another place. I get caught up in the words and sentences on the page. The characters come alive.

I remember reading book after book as a child. I consumed everything: Ellery Queen, Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, Conan, for starters. The list expanded as I grew older, but the classic detectives and pulp heroes like Conan remain my favorites.

Corny, I know. Geek. Yup. Nerd. Yup.

Hey, I’m that guy in “Time Enough At Last,” that old Twilight Zone episode starring Burgess Meredith in which he’s the last survivor on earth with all the time in the world to read all the books he wants. (I only hope I never break my glasses!)

So, given my avoidance of the library in all this time, what am I doing serving on my local library board?

That’s a question I asked myself last evening as I sat in on my first board meeting.

The answers, however, are easy.

For starters, I wanted to do something for my community. (The only other board that had an opening at the time I applied was the storm water board, and that just didn’t sound all that appealing.)

But, more importantly, if I can do anything to help promote reading and literacy among children, teens and adults throughout the community, the library board seems like the perfect place to do so.

As a child, I spent hours in the library at school reading everything from The Hardy Boys to Perry Mason. The library was an escape. A haven. An adventure. Maybe by serving on the library board, I can help spark that feeling of magic in others.

In today’s busy world, it’s neat to know that a place like your library is still there. It’s a place for quiet study or research, or a place to get lost in the pages of a book.

It’s even more fascinating to see that the library has changed so much, and continues to change and grow. During our library board meeting, our library director talked about a new ebook program that will significantly expand the library’s digital collection of books for patrons. (Did I mention I also have a growing list of ebooks in my Kindle and tablet to read?)

What’s more, she talked about plans to expand the library’s teen center.

Even though I have ample books to read, I feel like I’ve been missing out on an old friend. I know I will be visiting my library a lot more often now. There are adventures there waiting to be discovered, and rediscovered.

Anyone care to join me?