Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Will the hardback disappear forever?

This follows on from the post about Gillian Baxter's reappearance in hardback. I am a dedicated Radio 4 listener, and recently heard a piece about the publishers Picador, who are going to release paperback versions of their books simultaneously with the hardbacks. As, apparently, most buyers want paperbacks, this is cause enough. (I can't find the programme on the BBC site, but here's the general thing in The Guardian.) I suppose there's an argument for this: the content of the book won't presumably change and if you read an author's golden words in paperback they're no different to their golden words in hardback.

But it's the book as an object that means so much, I think (this apparently means I am a book fetishist). The best hardbacks are objects of beauty: decorated endpapers, beautiful dustjackets and clean crisp pages which stay clean and crisp. I've put two very different versions of Monica Edwards' Cobber's Dream here. I know which I'd rather have.

Though having said that, I am very fond of the earlier Puffin paperbacks and have several series I've collected deliberately in that edition: Joan Aiken's Wolves of Willoughby Chase, Peter Dickinson's Changes and Barbara Willard's Mantlemass.

I do find though that the modern paperback is generally such an unattractive object, whose cheap rough paper browns at the edges within a year. Hey ho. Am I just a dinosaur?

5 comments:

haffyfan said...

I think there must be lots of us dinosaurs out there then!!! I think people want pb's because they are cheaper and easier to read in bed!

I much prefer HB's as I love the DW's often more than the books and they can be rebound etc if required, but the example you use is a HB I don't like, preffering the photo paper back as the HB horse looks like a 5 year old has drawn it. The CBC version is not much better either (in my opinion).

winnie said...

I do like a hardback books, but they are not always better quality than a p/b. I'm thinking here of the Collins Library series, the covers were good but the paper quality wasn't so hot. Also if you are short of shelf space paperbacks are a better option, you can fit more of them on to a shelf. And paperbacks are cheaper, so I can buy more of those. Maybe I'm just a quantity over quality sort of person. I suppose I'm not so concerned with the outside of a book as the story within.

Vanessa said...

I love hardbacks because they look so nice on the shelf but most of my reading for relaxation is done in bed and paperbacks are easier to manage.

From a publisher's point of view, good quality hardbacks in the sort of size print runs that I can justify are prohibitively expensive and it is difficult to get the quality that we'd like - look at the cheap and nasty hb bindings on the latest Harry Potter for example! Of course, if more people bought our books then we could rethink.... in your hands people!

I'm pleased that Evans are reissuing some ofthe Gillian Baxters in hardback and do hope that they're good quality ones and not like the 1980s reprints of Monica Edwards (publisher's name escapes me)

Jane said...

Haffyfan - I love the CD cover (though completely agree with the CBC version).

Winnie - you're right. Modern hardbacks can be pretty poor too. My problem is I like quantity as well as quality!

Vanessa - Goodchild did the Monica Edwards. I know what you mean about the expense of hardbacks. I love the Folio editions, but find them pricey. As a student I used to spend my grant money on them, as there was a second hand bookshop in Sheffield (it's still there, but I've forgotten its name) that had several shelves of Folios.

pullein-thompson-archive said...

I prefer hardbacks too. Eventually I want to replace most of my P-T books with the hardback edition (save the signed copies, and the ones where the first edition is a paperback).