Are You Team Hardback or Team Paperback?

Are You Team Hardback or Team Paperback?

Are you Team Hardback or Team Paperback? 

It's a pretty straightforward question, though my answer would vary depending on at what point in my life you asked me. 

For nearly all of my adolescence I was a die-hard paperback fan. Partly because I had enough textbooks in my backpack already and didn't want to add additional weight, and partly because I didn't have my own money and thus had to constantly ask my family to buy me books (something I surely don't miss!). Since paperbacks tend to be cheaper, they were more likely to buy those for me. 

Once I got in college and had a job, my habits shifted a little. I still preferred paperbacks for their lightness and portability, but since I now had agency to buy my own books I wasn't going to pass on a book I really wanted just because it hadn't come out in paperback yet.

If at the bookstore and given the choice between both formats I'd most likely choose paperback. But I no longer scorned hardbacks as unnecessarily expensive and wasteful of my limited resources. 

These days I've been leaning more toward hardbacks. Now that I'm out of college and working full time, my book buying budget is a bit larger, so buying a new release I really want that only comes in hardcover doesn't make me cringe into my wallet as much as it used to.

And now that I'm living on my own and not constantly moving between dorms (or back to my parents' house) I find myself caring about the durability of my library (hardbacks really do last longer if you protect the dust jackets from damage) and its aesthetic qualities. 

I think my newfound appreciation for hardcovers has also come from owning a record player. Just before my partner and I moved to Ohio, my dad gave us a record player, which I was thrilled about because I had learned from listening to friends' records that music really does sound better on vinyl. That's not just some hipster-esque old wives' tale. 

Having a record player, of course, requires you to purchase vinyl records. Sure, you could probably get the same music on iTunes, occasionally for about the same price, and it wouldn't take up space and wouldn't have a chance of getting broken or scratched and would be delivered instantly. Call me old-fashioned, but there's something magical about the tactile act of picking out a .33, putting it on the player, setting the needle, and hearing the sound erupt. 

Just like I could get pretty much any book I wanted in ebook form, but after working on the computer all day and writing in my free time (including for this blog), the last thing I want to do is look at another screen. While reading ebooks is absolutely valid and is a wonderful option for many people, sales are down so I know I'm not alone. 

I have many of the same feelings perusing a record store that I do when perusing a bookstore. Just as we're seeing a resurgence of interest in vinyl, I think we'll see more people wanting nice hardcovers. Hardback books are essentially the vinyl of the book world. For so long there's been a focus on making books as cheaply as possible (Penguin Books was founded on that very idea in 1935 and Dover Thrift Editions has been around since the 1990s) and I think that while there's absolutely a place for that and always will be, sometimes having a hardback of a book you love is a treasure. 

Of course, my preference for hardcovers comes from a place of privilege because I know they're more expensive and simply not an option for everyone. They weren't always available to me, so that's something I understand. It is interesting how, almost imperceptively even to me, my preferences shifted in accordance with my buying power. 

I was curious to know how others felt about Team Hardback and Team Paperback, so I reached out in the Off the Beaten Shelf Facebook group (and if you're not in there we'd love to have you!). The options were Team Hardback and Team Hardback, then I ended up adding Ebook, Audiobook, and Anything I Can Read based on requests in the comments. People could vote in multiple categories. Here's what the informal survey said:

11 people said Team Anything I Can Read
9 people said Team Paperback
4 people said Team Ebook
4 people said Team Hardback
1 person said Team Audiobook

Everyone had different reasonings for their choices, much like I do myself. Here were some of the comments:

From someone who's a college professor: "Paperback IF available because of price and because if I'm ordering books to teach I want the most affordable option."

Another person said, "I will READ anything. But I only buy hardbacks."

Someone else said, "I love to read on my Kindle because it's so light making it easy to hold and travel with - and because of the light in my case (so I can continue to read while my husband sleeps). But, if I end up loving the book, I'll buy a paper or hardback copy for my shelves."

One other person said, "Paperbacks first, then I'll buy the hardback if I think it's important enough to have a durable copy. Personally, I like small (replaceable) paperbacks because they fit in my back pocket and I can carry them everywhere I go - without having to worry about battery life."

And yet another said, "While (properly bound) hardbacks are great because they stand up to abuse and I can loan them out and get them back in good condition, paperbacks are great. I like them when the book is small enough that it won't be floppy (hardbacks are really best for huge tomes, if you're going to have a physical book). I like the smell of new books and really old books. I love the way poetry books are often not hard bound, but still have spiffy thick textured paper and an interesting durable cover. I even love reading a book that's been loved so hard that I can use the front as my bookmark or have to get tape to rebind it (more common now that I am sharing my library with teenage boys). I like reading a device because it's portable and light, and I have too much clutter in my life. If I had to choose to only read one kind of book forever though, I'd go with hardbound, simply because it lasts longer and feels so good to read."

What about you? What format do you prefer to read your books? Share in the comments! 

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