By Maggie James
I buy a lot of ebooks, and when I purchase a physical copy of a novel, it's usually the paperback version. Why? Partly force of habit, but also because they're cheap and take up less room on my bookshelves than hardbacks. My love of browsing charity shops has led me to buy some hardback novels recently, however, and I admit they provide a different level of reading experience. Something about the weight and solidarity of them is very attractive.
Hardbacks are proving surprisingly resilient in this digital age. For the publishers, they generate more profit than paperbacks, and for readers they provide a premium quality reading experience. Often the cover artwork is superior to that of the paperback version and some come with bookmarks and embossed jackets. They are also durable, making them popular with libraries and collectors. I'd certainly prefer a hardback copy should I ever be seeking an autograph! Stephen King, I'm heading your way with my copy of Rose Madder...
For people who have favourite best-selling authors, it can make sense to purchase the hardback editions. There's no waiting around for the paperback version, and if you want something beautiful for your bookshelves, hardbacks fit the bill.
The dust jackets stir up some debate, however. Some people love them, others hate them - me, I'm ambivalent on the subject - but they do provide handy page markers when folded inside. They have their good and bad points - they help keep the book clean, yet have a tendency to look tattered quickly.
People who prefer paperbacks cite the cheaper prices and greater portability, both of which are valid considerations. They're also more suited to impulse buys; I suspect few people buy hardback novels from as yet unread authors.
Horses for courses, as they say. Now I've rediscovered hardbacks, I'll continue to buy my fiction in a mix of formats. What about you? Do you have a preference one way or another? Leave a comment and let me know!
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