The Hardback Dilemma

hardback bookThere are very few books out there I will buy in hardback. Hardbacks have several severe disadvantages, mainly:

  • They are big, and don’t fit into my handbag.
  • They are heavy, and I don’t like to carry them in my handbag or have my arms tire when I hold them for a longer time.
  • They take up more space on my shelves than they need to.
  • They are expensive.

(Actually, all of these objections apply to trade paperbacks, too. Guess what my opinion of trade paperbacks is ;-)).

And yet … with some authors I just can’t resist the temptation to buy and read their latest book the very second it’s out. In some cases, this is right in the middle of a series, and then it looks silly on the shelves when a row of neat paperbacks is suddenly dwarfed by a hardback giant (I sort my books by author.) In some cases, I return to paperback issues when an author has disappointed me a bit, or when I’ve lost the fanatic urge to read everything by her ASAP (see above). In this case, my shelf looks like this: Six paperbacks, three hardbacks, then another five paperbacks. It looks untidy, and worse, it wastes shelf space.

So who are the authors I’m reading in hardback? There’s Terry Pratchett, whom I’ve been buying in hardback since 1997 (the turning point was Jingo – I just adore anything with Sam Vimes in it), and Diana Wynne Jones, since 2000. Megan Whalen Turner’s Thief series is a must in hardback, as are Meg Cabot’s YA novels in trade paperback.

With mysteries, I mostly resist hardbacks. I bought two of Lindsay Davis’ Falco mysteries in hardback, but have returned to paperback editions since. And I got the first Adelia Aguilar novel by Ariana Franklin in hardback – mostly because I came across it in a bookshop in Cambridge, England – but buy the other volumes in paperback now. I love these series, but I’m fine with reading the books a year later. I will be sorely tempted when the latest book by Julia Spencer-Fleming comes out, however!

As for romance proper, the main author that comes to mind for me is Lauren Willig, and with her I only caved in this year. I am still resisting Mary Balogh (probably made easier because I have most of her backlist, which is a lot of books). I just might have to buy the sequel to The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook in trade paperback format next year, though. Just sayin’.

Fortunately, and I am not entirely tongue-in-cheek here, the publishers of other favorite authors of mine have not yet realized they might make some more money from me by choosing the hardback format.

What about eBooks? I freely admit to being stingy here. There is no way (yet) I will buy an eBook for the price of a hardback. Even eBooks priced like trade paperbacks are an absolute exception for me so far, and I don’t see this changing in the near future.

What are your buying habits regarding hardbacks and trade paperbacks? Which authors do you buy in these formats? And how do you feel about hardback and trade prices for eBooks?

– Rike Horstmann

22 thoughts on “The Hardback Dilemma

  1. I got your page searching for hardback books.topic The Hardback Dilemma « All About Romance’s News & Commentary Blog was interesting.Please Keep posting on hardback books.

  2. Victoria S and Jebe,

    I’m with you. I love holding a hardback book in my hands. I don’t have to worry about creases in the spine. Hardbacks usually have acid free paper that won’t turn brown and disintegrate in twenty years. They are expensive.

    Mostly, I buy paperbacks because they are available. I hold them very carefully so as not to crease the spines. Unlike my hardbacks, I take a chance reading them while soaking in the tub. In fifteen years I only dropped one. I fell asleep. It wasn’t a riveting book.

    I do listen to a lot of audio books on my iPod and some as mp3′s or CD’s. I listen to books mostly in the car. When I was teaching, I commuted at least four hours a day and could listen to an audio book in about three days. Now, it takes longer.

    Reading a paperback usually takes me a couple of days. I reread books all the time. I reread my own favorites and often books discussed on review websites and blogs to refresh my memory and understand about what people are talking.

    I don’t anticipate getting an e-reader anytime soon even though so many people really like them and how little space they take. I love looking at my library shelves. On a recent blog, someone spoke about her shelf of Christmas anthologies she looks to every year. So, I went through mine and extracted eight to read or partially read in the next month. I love being able to do that.

    As Cicero said, “A room without books is like a body without a soul.”
    I love having them in nearly every room in the house. :-)

  3. I like the feel and hold of reading a hardback book, it’s very old school reading to me, I love it. I most certainly don’t like the price of a hardback, though, and that’s what keeps me from snatching up hardbacks right and left.

    Rike, you sounded like you were describing my bookshelf exactly! For example, I have three Moning paperbacks and one hardback followed by three C.S. Harris paperbacks and two hardbacks.

    It’s funny this topic came up b/c I was recently contemplating prospective hardback releases. I’m seriously on the fence over SEP’s latest since I didn’t care for the last one and I don’t know Ted Beaudine from Adam b/c I didn’t read those other books that have him as a character. And Moning’s last Fever entry is coming so long after the last one that I can’t drum up enough enthusiasm to shell out big bucks for a hardback. The hardback dilemma for me is more about price for quality than space, though.

  4. farmwifetwo…I neglected to mention I have the 1st two in hardcover also. Nora Roberts website had started putting them out, and then quit after the first two….but I’m still looking.

    R Smith…nope, makes perfect sense to me. But than again, I’m kind of a book nut too, so maybe my opinion shouldn’t count for too much. Happy reading!!

  5. Victoria, go and check Amazon or another book seller. I have the first 2 In Death’s in h/c. I haven’t bought any other’s since so I don’t know if they all are. I got them at Chapters…. a few years back now.

  6. Marianne… like the other’s I think ebooks are a personal choice. But I have a kobo and a week ago had day surgery. I held the machine in my left hand, manipulated the buttons with the same hand b/c the right one had the IV in it. I did this for about an hour waiting to go into surgery. There’s no weight to it. The kobo does not allow note taking etc so you’d have to use a computer or paper to do it.

    I always download a copy of my books to my computer and they are backed up on a flash drive. They can remove them from my machine/app when I sync to the app, but I’ll still have my own copy and can reload it via Adobe/Calibre or read it using these programs on the computer. Which I believe is also how they remove library books, but I haven’t tried to use it that way yet so I’m not certain.

  7. I bought the pb of Mercedes Lackey’s The Fairy Godmother. Loved it so much I bought the rest of the series in HB as soon as they came out. I also bought each one as an ebook when the price dropped so I would have an easy to read copy wherever I go. Then I came across The Fairy Godmother in HB on a bargain table. I bought that so all the ones on my shelf would match. So I now have 3 copies of the same book. Do ya’ll think I need help? :)

  8. Well, I can see I’m gonna be the minority opinion in this discussion. I LOVE books. Books are truly my only indulgence ( I will give up shoe or clothes shopping for a book–really :-) It makes me nuts that J.D. Robb’s “In Death” books are not in hardcover until “Remember When”. I have authors who I still buy automatically as soon as they are published. My Kindle is my secondary reader, because I really love the act of holding a book and turning pages. There are so many things I love about a book, that I don’t care if a hardcover fits into my purse or not. I have dragged books all over the world, and never had any problems or issues. I can say though, that a Kindle will make travel easier, as I can take ALL the books I think I may want to read, instead of a separate bag for books (and with airlines charging for everything, I am glad about that). Since coming to AAR website, I have discovered UBS and now have another way to get older copies of books by authors I like. My fave UBS recently got me all 4 of Jo Goodman’s “Compass Club” books.

    I do, periodically purge my bookshelves, and since I’m usually giving the books to a relative or the local library, I feel no guilt over that. I have found that my only dilemma between the hardcover/paperback/e-book debate comes when I find a new author. If it’s a book I really love, than my issue is, do I buy the hardcover/paperback even though I have the book on my Kindle? Again, that LOVES books thing comes out in me. I don’t do library because I forget to take them back, and the whole fine thing is embarrassing.

    I’m just glad I live in an age where I can debate over what book format I want, and being a book-nut can choose all of ‘em if I want WooHoo!!!

  9. My preferred method of reading is my Kindle and I’m disappointed when a book isn’t available in e-format.

    MarianneM, I agree with Lynne that you are misinformed about the Kindle. I would never attempt to talk anybody into an eReader who isn’t open to it, but a Kindle does not weigh more than a paperback. To go even further, I like the fact that it is held in one hand, unlike a book that requires two. I find it more comfortable. We all well remember the Orwell incident, but Amazon was caught between a rock and a hard place. The book was illegally sold by a publisher who didn’t have the right to it, so refunding money and removing it was the only way to go. What was unconscionable was the publisher selling the book, not Amazon righting the wrong.

  10. Marianne, you’re a little misinformed about the Kindle, probably because Amazon knows it will make far more money selling the books than it will selling the device itself.
    You can read the books you bought yourself on your Kindle, by dragging and dropping from your computer, or by using Calibre to do it. The Kindle will actually read a wide range of formats, all except locked books (ADE and locked pdf etc) and epub.
    The Kindle is so cheap it’s worth considering, even if you don’t want to buy your books from Amazon. Great screen.
    And I don’t get the bit about Kindles weighing more than paperbacks. Is that what you meant? I have around 200 books on my Kindle, and it still weighs less than 9 ounces. Not hard to lift and lighter than a single paperback.
    Not that I haven’t got shelves groaning with books. Lack of space was one reason I went for an ereader.

  11. I tend to buy paperbacks exclusively, except for my private pantheon of first-rate romance authors, whose books I will be reading over and over for years — the years that are left to me.

    The paperbacks are easier on my arthritic hands and I can tuck them in my purse for lengthy waits at doctors, etc.

    As for ebooks like Kindle, I really don’t like them for multiple reasons, most of which other folks have mentioned. They cost a lot initially, they weigh a lot more than paperbacks and after you buy the books they claim to sell you, they can take back those books which you have already paid for if they decide to later. If you doubt this, cast your minds back to a couple of years ago, when Amazon got into a copyright dispute with the publishers of George Orwell’s books, decided that they couldn’t win the war, and reached into the Kindles of customers who had already bought the Orwell books and simply snatched them back. One young man was using the Kindle copies to write a term paper and they snatched his notes away too.

    This is unconscionable. In my world, you buy goods, the seller completes the transaction and then you own the goods, whatever they are, outright and forever. No one gets the chance to change their minds arbitrarily. There’s a very real privacy issue here. The buyer owns whatever it is, and it is no one’s darn business what the buyer does subsequently with the goods.

    The only analogy that leaps to mind is the old joke about the brothel madam who memorably stated, “Such a business! You got It, you sell It and you still got It.”

    So, for these, and other reasons, I don’t plan to ever buy an eBook.

    MarianneM

    • MarianneM: The only analogy that leaps to mind is the old joke about the brothel madam who memorably stated, “Such a business! You got It, you sell It and you still got It.”

      I love it, Marrianne. Good hearing from you; it’s been a while.

  12. My reasons for not buying hardbacks are like yours, too much money and too much space. I only buy hardbacks of books I know multiple people in my family will read. That generally means books by Jim Butcher, Patricia Briggs, Diana Wynn Jones, etc. I will occasionally buy trade paperbacks if I can’t get a book in mass market, but generally only buy them with a good coupon. ;-) I do use the library a great deal, and sometimes go to used book stores, but I still buy 2 to 4 paperbacks a month from retail stores (Border’s, Amazon, etc.).

    I have a kindle and buy books for that if I can’t find them in the library, or if they are only available in ebook format. Since I actually prefer paper books, I won’t pay hb prices, or even trade prices for ebooks. I did recently buy The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook for the kindle because my husband was reading the library copy but was put-off by the cover. ;-) (He loved the book, btw, and is recommening it to his sci-fi/reading reading friends at work.)

    I’ve enjoyed the free book authors/publishers sometimes offer for the kindle. I can say that the ploy has worked more than once by getting me hook on a series (Lara Adrian’s and Alexandra Ivy’s to name two). I then go on to buy either the kindle or pb editions of the rest of the series. The main reasons I buy books for kindle: Can’t find a copy anywhere else (out of print or only available as ebook), it’s the cheapest way to buy, or the cover is too embarrassing for me to deal with in paperback.

  13. About the “shelf problem,” I guess I’m more into the contents of my bookshelves than their physical appearance. In my youth, I was a public library denizen; so, I became used to shelves filled with books of varying sizes. As I teacher, my classroom bookshelves also lacked symmetry; texts, workbooks, readers are never uniform in size. My home bookshelves reflect those of the libraries and the classrooms.

    I prefer to read mass market paperbacks because they are easier to hold in my carpal tunnel syndrome wrist-braced hands. I haven’t finished Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix yet; the tome is just too unwieldy. [Also, I can't stomach that sadistic Dark Arts teacher, who tortures Harry.] However, I do buy Jayne Ann Krentz/Amanda Quick, JD Robb, CS Harris, and Margaret Maron hardbacks as soon as they are released; I can’t wait for their mass market releases.

    I don’t have an ereader, yet. I’m waiting for all the one that will let me download books from any source with no formatting complications, for the prices to be equitable for readers and ebooks, and for all the current snags to be cleared.

    Kay

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  15. It’s a one word answer for me regarding hard backs or paperbacks and that’s LIBRARY! I can find most books there and order them up. Solves the space problem and the money problem. If after reading one I just have to have my own copy then I wait until the paper back is out and purchase it at a UBS if I can which I usually can. I just no longer can afford the luxury of cost and space to have my home overwhelmed with keeper books when I only reread about 1% of them. And the Kindle’s etc. just make it way too easy for me to spend money needlessly. (Hmm..do you think that’s why they invented them?) And I never feel irritated with the publishers and authors over the cover prices.

  16. No hardbacks for me since I got a Kindle when it first came out. The real problem for me with hardbacks is that can’t carry them in my purse! Consequently, when I was reading a HB, I was simultaneously reading a paperback that could fit in my purse. Sometimes I got the plots confused when I switched back and forth between the books. Fortunately, the Kindle solved all that.

    Is there anyone I would buy in hardback these days? No. If it’s not in Kindle, then I wait until it is. (I’ve noticed that if I email an author asking why his/her book isn’t offered in Kindle, not only do I get an answer but the book usually appears available pretty soon after the email. I guess authors talk to their publicists/publishers about this.)

  17. I only buy books in hardback that I know I’ll read again. So my copies of Lord of the Rings, Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond and Niccolo series are there. But most others I buy in paperback, or ebook.

  18. I bought JD Robb in “e” since it was $14 instead of the $30+ new in hc. I have to have them as soon as they come out. Even JAK I will no longer buy in hc. I seem to have hit my “that’s ridiculous and yanno I can borrow it from the library for free” spot in spending this past year.

    Still buy odds and ends when I have gift cards (airmiles :) ) and hqn’s from Zellers of course. But the kobo lately has been for hqn back lists like Justine Davis and Cindy Dees.

    My book spending has come down a lot over the last year… publishers haven’t noticed and I’m not paying $10 for an “e” pb when it’s that price in print.

  19. I know just what you mean. I read a lot of books, and hardbacks/trade paperbacks are just so expensive. I resist buying them, whatever the genre, but I do have a few authors I will cave for. Recently, I’m having no problem buying Kaki Warner’s romance trilogy in trade paperback(multiple times even – because I’ve been gifting it!) or Tana French’s mysteries in hardback, and I do not doubt that I will be pre-ordering Julia Spencer-Fleming’s new book no matter what the format.

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