There’s nothing prettier than a hardback. They often have special, gorgeous covers and shows the world that you bought it as soon as it was published. As presents, they show that thought and care has gone into the purchase. However, I can’t help but feel the current release system for new books would serve the public better if it were reversed. Usually, hardbacks are released first and then the paperback is released months later. Hardbacks tend have a smaller print run compared to their paperback counterpart, but as their prices are higher, publishers make more money per unit than they do with the paperback. Hardbacks make good review copies, excellent library editions as they are more durable and are appealing to literary collectors, yet are they practical or even preferable to the common reader?
Okay, this may seem like a purely personal, aesthetic issue but bear with me. Size affects more than you might think. Imagine enduring a long commute or a lonely lunch hour without a book. Not appealing? No. So, you pick up your latest purchase and pop it in your bag. Not many people have the space to fit in a large hardback. You may have been waiting ages for this release, desperate to read it in all your spare time, but you can’t. It’s just too bulky. A paperback however, usually finds its way into spare room within a handbag or rucksack. A paperback is also more versatile, you can easily hold it in one hand whilst eating/checking tube/train/bus times/grabbing a coffee, etc in the other. In summer, it’s always nice to go to a local park, or plan a walk to a cosy pub a few miles down the road but there’s no way you’d want to be burdened with a heavy, sharp pointed hardback. You’re getting my gist.
My other pet peeve with the hardback is there is no uniform size. Some hardbacks are bigger than others which makes building a bookcase a nightmare. You may reach for your nearest hardback to use as a measuring point only to find you have others that are taller and now don’t fit in. Doh!
So you’ve just discovered a new series that you LOVE. From the first page of the first book you were addicted. What’s that? It’s not finished? The author is still releasing sequels? Yay! Or is it…? As you may have already read, my boyfriend bought me Dissolution by C J Sansom for Christmas and I loved it. I was even happier when I released that the sixth book in the series was released at the end of 2014. I’ve eagerly read books 1 to 3 and at the rate I’m going I’ll have finished 4 and 5 in about 2 weeks. However, I’m trying to slow down as I do not want to buy the sixth book in hardback. As you can see they look all pretty in paperback and a hardback next to it would bug me. So I have to wait until May when Lamentation will be released in paperback. By which point I may have discovered a new series (I’m currently eyeing up SJ Parris’ Elizabethan crime series) or forgotten where the last one ended. Which is a shame. I know this risk comes with reading series as often you will read all the available books before the author has finished writing the next but it’s extra annoying to have to wait an extra 6 months or so after it’s been released just so you can take it with you/match the others. I know this is a personal thing but it does really get to me. I hate that I have so many series ruined by the different sizes of the sequels. I’m dreading the release of the new Game of Thrones (whenever that may be!) as I love, love, love the cover style of all my paperbacks but I also love the series and I know I’ll want to read it as soon as it comes out… But I think my desire for continuity will win and I’ll have to wait for the paperback…
There is no denying a hardback makes a good present. They’re also great for cookbooks, gardening books and obviously for information texts likes dictionaries/atlases and children’s science books. But those aren’t normally the types you want to carry around. They’re fab for stand alone novels or texts and if you’re bothered about mixing hard and paperbacks on a shelf you could have a whole shelf dedicated to those special stand alone ones. Although it annoys me that half my Harry Potter collection is paperback and the other is in hard, I will always remember that the Fourth book was given to me as a present and it was the one that got me into the franchise in the first place. I still remember going to bed and my mum reading me chapters on the Triwizard Tournament and being desperate to get the rest. And that’s the power of the hardback. It can give you memories.
I believe that in an ideal situation paperbacks should be released first. They’re cheaper and so would appeal to a much larger audience, as well as to those like me who think about travelling potential and shelving space (hehe). Then the hardback should be released. Something special, something worth waiting for, filling that special space on your desk/table/bookcase or as a gift to that special person.
Overall, hardbacks are great, they might catch the eye of the new reader and entice them into fantastic worlds with captivating stories, they make gorgeous presents, and it’s always nice to have a beautiful hardback edition of your favourite classic, but for day to day life and for those who adore a good series, it is far more practical to release the paperback first. Unfortunately, at the end of the day, money talks.