Friday, April 8

Paperbacks v.s. Hardbacks

When I go to a store, I am always stunned by the amount of hardback books that I see on the shelf. In New Zealand, we don’t really do hardback books unless a book is a new release. Even then, it can still be paperback. Books seem so big in the USA. I catch myself wondering: Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

Everyone has their preferences when it comes to book buying and that includes whether a book is in paperback or hardback form. Both have their pros and cons.

Paperbacks: The Disadvantages

Paperbacks can fall apart. No, really, it happens. It's devastating. That's how I lost my first copy of Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones. I got a new copy. It was in paperback but a newer edition. It's something to remember that paperbacks are not all the same, so the quality can alternate. However, if you really love a book, paperbacks can be a little flimsier. When I look at my copies of the Harry Potter books, I can see that The Philosopher’s Stone is a little more delicate than The Prisoner of Azkaban, despite owning the two books for the same period of time. Azkaban is a hardback and thus sturdier.

Paperbacks: The Advantages

They take up less room – much less room! They also weigh a lot less. So, if you are carrying it around in a bag, or even shipping it to a friend, a paperback is a lot easier to handle than a hardback book. They're also gentler to handle. If you are stretching up on your shelves and one falls and hits you on the head, it will not damage you as badly as a hardback. Paperback books are also cheaper than hardbacks. Win!

Hardbacks: The Disadvantages

They're bulky and if the book is a big one, they appear to be mega-fat. Fat books are intimidating because even if every single page is brilliant, the potential reader will not know this and may flee from the commitment of reading so many pages.

Hardback books are also a lot easier to chew on. I don't mean to imply that you literally sink your teeth into your literature but some other mammals do. Namely cats, although I suppose dogs, rabbits and guinea pigs are also a possibility. My copy of The Half-Blood Prince has teeth marks in the corner from where my cat, Severus, tried to devour it. I also once checked out a copy of Beastly by Alex Flinn from the library to discover that some unknown little beast had gnawed on the corners.

Hardbacks: The Advantages

They're fancy. No, really, they often gleam and shine in ways that paperbacks cannot. That have a certain majesty to them and they stand proud on your shelves. They are very easy to read as they sit nicely in your lap and have a decent-sized print. Also, you never have to worry about creasing the spine of your book.

In the end, I don't think either can win out. It really does come down to preference and circumstance. There are some books I own that I am glad that I have in hardback and others that I like having in paperback, especially when they are little ones. I don't know why but it just depends.

When I am in a bookstore I hear, "I prefer hardback books" or "I don’t like hardbacks." Whatever the preference, I always hear that subtext of, "I like books," which is all that really matters.

What about you? Do you have a preference? Hardbacks or paperbacks?


Trisha said...

Sometimes hardbacks are fancier, prettier...but mostly I'm happy with a paperback :)

boredmormon said...

I like paper backs. I read in all sorts of strange places, carrying hardbacks around is just not worth the effort.

They say hardbacks are longer lasting. That might be true of the book itself, but you don't want to know how many dustjackets I have inadventantly ruined

Lauren B said...

I enjoy reading hardbacks but, unfortunately, I also have to take finances into consideration and paper books cost a lot less. This is particularly significant given that I read most books only once and then give them to the second hand bookstore.