This is good for my burgeoning collection of first editions, but not so great for ease of reading. Then again, it’s always nice to be able to mark your page with the dust jacket of a hardcover. As you can see, I’m pretty conflicted, so I’m going to make a list of the pros and cons of each. If you have any to add, let me know in the comments!
Paperback* Pros and Cons
PRO: Small, light, and portable. More so than hardcovers, at least. If I can’t fit a book in my purse, that’s a strike against it (or at least that particular edition). I like that the pages are thinner and easy to flip, and when they get older they have this charming “old book” smell.
PRO: Smaller, more compact text. Maybe this is just me, and surely I won’t feel this way as I get older, but the trend toward 1.5-spaced paragraphs in books bugs me. I want to see a page look like this:
Not like this:
It’s sort of distracting for me if there’s too much space between each line. It also seems like such a waste of paper. This is something that bothers me about some trade paperbacks, too.
PRO: No slipcovers to rip/damage. Is there anything worse than a damaged slipcover?
CON: Still easy to damage. It’s easy to shove a paperback in your purse or backpack and go, sure, but that also means it’s easier to damage them that way. Bent covers, smushed pages—ugh, the worst. And they don’t have heavy covers to flatten the crumpled pages back into shape, so you have to pile other heavy books on top of it.
PRO: Cheap. Even if you do destroy your paperbacks, at least you have the cold comfort of knowing that you (probably) didn’t pay over $10 for it.
Hardcover Pros and Cons
PRO: They’re preeeetty. It’s no secret that hardcovers are often much prettier than their paperback cousins. Hardcovers are made to be displayed, whether in the bookstore to convince you to buy them or in your home so you can show off your collection.
CON: Large and sometimes awkward to read. Personally, I like to read in positions that aren’t really conducive to heavy hardcovers—I’m often holding the book over my head in one way or another. They also aren’t the easiest to travel with. I will say, though, that if I’m reading while I’m doing something else (i.e. eating, most likely) I like hardcovers because most of the time they’ll lie open on the table and I don’t have to exert any effort to keep reading. So their size and weight is sort of both a pro and a con here.
PRO: Potentially valuable. No one collects “first edition paperbacks.” (At least, no one I know of.) And why would you? A book is published first in hardcover if the author is big enough, and if they’re not, then why would you be keeping their first editions anyway? The exception, obviously, is if you have original paperbacks from before an author was big enough to merit a hardcover publication. They also use higher-quality paper and binding than paperbacks do, so they’re harder to damage.
CON: Dust jackets/slipcovers. Why oh why must dust jackets be a thing? They are probably my number one annoyance with hardcovers. They make the book slip around in your grip; they’re easy to damage; really, they’re so much more trouble than they’re worth. The only good thing about them is that you can use the flaps to mark your place, but half the time even that results in bending or otherwise abusing the slipcover. I long for the good old days when books’ covers were actually imprinted on the cover rather than on a piece of paper that covers the cover.
How about you? Do you prefer hardcovers or paperbacks? Did I miss any pros and cons for either one?
*”Paperback” refers to “mass market paperback,” in almost all cases, unless I specify trade paperback.