Thursday, September 24, 2009

I hate hardcovers (and I don't care who knows it)

The following is a re-post from my monthly day on the Second Wind Publishing blog. There are some great musings on writing and other topics there from all the Second Wind authors so browse around a little bit while you're there. Enjoy!

Giving the Hardcover a Hard time
by Eric Beetner

What is the appeal of the hardcover novel? I just don’t get it. On the eve of having my name on a book out in the world I am glad to not have it be a hardcover. I want people to read it and therefore I want people to afford it.
Let’s run down the pros and cons: Hardcovers probably last longer if you don’t care for your books all that well. Last time I visited my Father’s house, though, he still has paperbacks on his shelf that predate me so I guess they’re doing okay.
Um...I’m out of pros on the hardback.
Cons: They’re expensive. They’re heavy. They have those annoying dust jackets on them that do nothing at all about dust and just get in the way, fall off, get torn (much easier than a soft cover book) and increase the printing costs. Did I mention they’re expensive? You can’t put it in your pocket. They weigh down a carry-on for the plane.
Wait - one more pro for hardcovers: they are much better for squishing bugs.
I am partial to trade paperbacks which are a little larger and don’t usually pass the pocket test depending on what pants you’re wearing, but the pros on soft covers: Smaller and therefore easier to tote around, stash away and you can fit more on a bookshelf saving the yearly purge of books that results in a Sophie’s Choice scenario of what to keep and what to give away. (never throw books away!) To me they feel more intimate. They aren’t as high falutin’ so I have less of a problem with dog-earing pages or cracking the spine a little. Wear and tear looks good on a paperback like an old pair of jeans.
And they’re cheaper. That’s the big one.
In this economy, and even before, hardcover books are too expensive. You can give me the keepsake, read-em-twice argument until you’re blue in the face but I say $25 is too much for a book. When movies crossed the ten dollar mark there was outrage. We’ve since come to accept ten bucks and more but imagine being charged $25 for a ticket? There would be riots in the streets.
And don’t get me started on children’s books. The vast majority of kids books seem to be hardcover and cost $12, $15, $20! And this is for a book with maybe 30 pages and 200 words. My 3-year-old daughter’s first interaction with a new book is to rip off the dust jacket and say, “I don’t want this.” Underneath? An exact duplicate image. Why do a jacket at all?
Molly has easily over 200 books. She has infinite patience for listening to them and is so excited for the day she can read them herself. Cheaper, more accessible books would mean she could maintain this love of the written word for her whole life. I hate to think of the day when she gets priced out of a love for books.
So given a choice, I will wait for the soft cover. Really I just wish everything would go straight there. I’d buy a lot more books. Would you? Am I nuts? Are there hardcover purists out there still sitting in the drawing room while listening to their turntables and watching their laserdiscs who think this is heresy?
You weigh in. You won’t change my mind though. The hardcover is a dinosaur whose time has past.


Paul Brazill said...

Laser discs! I bought my 1st DVD player last year and have never owned a CD player or MPpod or whataver they are, yes, i like hardbacks.

Sheila Deeth said...

I did notice hardback kids books survived longer. The paperbacks tended to get very dogeared and torn. But for me, I'd buy, or even wait for, the paperback any day. (Sad when I've waited a year and it comes out in trade, and it's still the wrong size for the set.)

Dana King said...

I posted my comment to this post over at the Second Wind blog. Thanks for the referral. That's a great blog. I added it to my aggregator already, and read several posts back.

Laura® said...

I completely agree. Hardcovers can suck it. Especially since no one wants to pay more for 'em when they're used, despite the fact that they're in better condition. (I'm currently trying to sell a ton of books in preparation for a move, and the paperbacks are going fast at $5 a piece, but the hardcovers at $10? No freaking dice.) Screw hardcovers. Let us do away with these dinosaurs with a T-Rex RRRRRRRRRAAAAAAAARGH!!!!!!