Risky Regencies

Hardbacks, Paperbacks, Anybacks?

It seems to me that most dedicated readers are passionate not only about books, but about books — so let’s talk books!!!

So…how do you prefer yours?

Do you prefer the way hardcovers stay open in your lap?

Do you like the lightweight portability of mass-market paperbacks?

Do trade paperbacks (that is, the larger paperbacks) seem to you the perfect compromise?

Do you ever smell the paper of your books?

Pet the covers?

Line up all the books on your shelf perfectly evenly?

And while we’re on the subject, how do you read?

Do you break the spine of your paperbacks, to make them stay open? Or do you prefer a near-pristine book?

If you’re in the pristine book category, have you ever read a library copy of a book you already own, so you could keep your own copy undamaged? 😉 (I confess that I have!)

And do you like to eat while you read?

Drink tea? Coffee? Hot chocolate?

Lie in a hammock? Relax by the fire? Sit on a sunny park bench?

All answers welcome!

Cara, who has smelled many a book in her time…

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13 years ago

I like books so much that I may have to move out soon to make room for all of them.

I’m not all that picky, but for maximum comfort I would read a hardback open on my lap while I’m propped up in bed. Preferably with a cup of tea next to me. 🙂 But if need be I can equally well read an ebook on my PDA while standing on a train platform at night.

I really enjoyed reading The Book on the Bookshelf by Henry Petroski, who details how books, the shelves that hold them, and the libraries that hold them have evolved through history. And I also enjoyed The Smithsonian Book of Books, which also talks a lot about the history and design of books as physical objects.


Louisa Cornell
13 years ago

I LOVE books! My house is overrun with them. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. I would love to have all hardbacks as they are so much more durable, but that is not always financially possible. I am currently in the process of collecting all of Stephen King’s books in hardback. Thanks to my Mom’s propensity to prowl thrift stores I have almost all of them and at really great prices!

I love the smell and feel of REAL books. I do go by and pat my books on the shelf as I walk by. Especially my old books and first editions.

I try very hard NOT to deface my books in any way. I DO use bookmarks! I will read almost anywhere! Propped up in bed with a cup of tea is my favorite too, Todd. If I do eat or drink while I eat I always have plenty of napkins on hand.

Oh, and any book that I have personally autographed to me I always buy a second copy to read. The autographed copies have their own shelves and they stay there.

13 years ago

I’m surrounded by books – on the shelves, on top of the tv, the desk, many a box around me. . . I prefer paperbacks because they are nice and compact. I really don’t read a whole lot of people who come out in hardcovers, but if I can, I’ll wait for the pbs – although that’s mostly for the price. 🙂 I do not wait for Lauren Willig though, (at least thus far I’ve been quite lucky in getting the hardcovers!) and I was going to wait with A Wallflower Christmas, but opportunity presented itself and I got it.

So, I read plenty of paperbacks — and I can’t stand cracked spines. Hate it, and I don’t do it. 🙂 Can’t stand seeing pictures of it either! LOL 🙂

Me, I do eat while reading, but easy to get to stuff like crackers or cookies. But as a whole, I guess in the end, not a whole lot. . . not a big multitasker. LOL 🙂

Oh, and always use a bookmark — I only ever dogear if I’m elsewhere and I’m desperate and have nothing else. But that doesn’t happen much at all. 🙂


Elena Greene
13 years ago

I love books in any shape or form. With new books, I don’t care too much about format and I can’t afford to be obsessive about keeping them pristine, since much of my reading time is during breakfast and lunch or while cooking (though I don’t keep them right at the stove, generally–could be a bit dangerous!)

The books I am more obsessive about are old books. I blogged about that a while ago. I love old fashioned covers and illustrations, yellowed paper and the musty smell. I might have a cup of tea while I’m reading them but I’m much more careful than with newer books.

13 years ago

Let me see… I have floor to ceiling and wall to wall bookcases in the living room; the closet under the stairs hast three bookcases, double stacked. I have three bookcases in my bedroom, two in my son’s bedroom and two in my daughter’s bedroom.

I have plans to build another bookcase for my bedroom and another one for my son’s bedroom in the next couple of weeks, so we can get some of the double stack books to display…

And my mother is sending me two more bookcases (from the late nineteen century, carved wood, lovely workmanship). Given the many boxes and piles of books hidden in every nook and cranny here, those won’t stay empty longer than it takes to put them in place.

Yeah, you could say I love books.

I read anywhere and everywhere, and for that reason MM are the most convenient, but for looks, hardbacks can’t be beat.

(I confess that I don’t much like trade pbs–but that’s probably ’cause I just started reading them and am not quite used to them)

Diane Gaston
13 years ago

I like hardcovers for the durability and they just seem prettier to me, but I find trade paperbacks annoying. They seem to exist as a way to charge higher prices and all the convenience of size of a paperback is missing. I heard somewhere that the cost to print a hardback book is only something outrageous like 50 cents more that a mass market paperbacks.

do you ever smell the paper of your books Mostly the very old books I buy and then to see if they smell musty.

Pet the covers no, but I have hugged a book.

Line up all the books on your shelf perfectly evenly ha ha ha ha ha – you should have asked “Do you double shelve and then stack the extra books on top?” or “Do you have stacks of books on the floor?” or both.

I never break the spines of my books or dog-ear the pages, not even if I don’t have a bookmark handy. I’m not trying to keep them pristine, though, and I have never read a library book to keep my own book pristine. Not that I’m saying you are nuts or anything…I’m just saying.

I like to read in bed, eat when I read, drink tea/coffee/hot chocolate. I like to read almost anywhere, but I don’t have a hammock.

Diane Gaston
13 years ago

And my mother is sending me two more bookcases (from the late nineteen century, carved wood, lovely workmanship).

azteclady….sigh! These sound just beautiful!

Linda Banche
13 years ago

When I’m trying out a new author, I get the library copy. That way, if I hate the book, and it has happened, I just return it. It’s also happened that I read the first five pages of the library copy and ran out and bought that book and every other book by that author.

After I like an author, I buy all her(I only buy romances) books. For price, I prefer the mass-market paperbacks, but I will buy a trade if that’s the only way to get it.

I read my books lying on the couch in the living room. Can’t eat in that position. Besides, I don’t want to, I want to concentrate on the book. And I never break the spines.

Susan Wilbanks
13 years ago

I really don’t have a format preference. Hardcovers are pretty, but mass market and trade paperbacks are more portable, and most of my reading time is on the bus or at lunch.

I don’t smell my books…but I do love walking into the stacks of a university library and just inhaling that old book smell. The aroma of knowledge… 🙂

I do need more bookshelves. All of ours are basic Ikea Billy, birch veneer. Every time we go back for more, I wistfully admire some of the more elaborate designs, but so far my husband has appealed to my innate frugality in order to satisfy HIS innate need for all the shelves in the house to match…

13 years ago

I am not picky with what type of book I read. I like the trade paper backs. I drink Sprite O and I do like to snack when I am reading. I set in a recliner couch while I am reading.

Elena Greene
13 years ago

I used to dogear books as a child but my favorites started losing their ears. So I have since reformed.

If I can’t find a bookmark, I will memorize the page number. Funny how I can do that, when I have the most terrible time remembering Social Security numbers, PIN numbers and phone numbers and such. 🙂

13 years ago

I went to the library yesterday. Am I the only person whose stomach does a little flip of excitement walking up to the library doors? It’s an architecturally humble library, nothing special, but it is the county’s central branch, and thus has the most books. I love to explore the stacks and think it’s sad that so many libraries are going to the automated system. 🙁

13 years ago

I own only a few hardcover books, special books to me, and several autographed. Mostly, I prefer paperback because of cost. I can buy more books.

I prefer new books because the smell of old books makes me sneeze. However, I’ve found that putting book in a plastic bag with a couple of cloves takes care of the smell. In fact, the books smell delicious. LOL!

Diane said:
Line up all the books on your shelf perfectly evenly ha ha ha ha ha – you should have asked “Do you double shelve and then stack the extra books on top?” or “Do you have stacks of books on the floor?” or both.
Me, too!!

Never break the spine! I hate lending out my books for fear of how they’ll come back. Though I have a friend who is able to read a book and leave it looking unread.

I find it a bit difficult to eat and read. Eating interrupts my concentration. I have had food go stone cold while I read.

I have a comfy executive chair in my home office, so I can put my feet up, or I curl up on my bed.

Cara King
13 years ago

Louisa, I know what you mean! I like to get my very favorite authors in hardback, if I can. In fact, for reading, I almost always prefer hardbacks — larger print, easier to keep the book open, more durable spines, etc…

And you are very wise to buy a second copy of an autographed book! Todd and I were just discussing the sad disappearance of one of his autographed books…

Lois, I hate cracked spines, too. They look awful, and I figure it’s only a matter of time until pages start falling out… It’s sort of a personal challenge for me whenever I read a very thick paperback to try to get through with no spine creases! 🙂

Azteclady, you’re a book collector after my own heart. What good is a room if it isn’t used for bookshelves, after all?


Linda Banche
13 years ago

Oh, Jane, you’re not the only one. I LOVE libraries. I’d take out all the books if I could. As it is, I always take out a pile.

Cara King
13 years ago

Diane, I myself like trade paperbacks because I get the larger print and the easier-to-handle book, without the price of a hardback.

Then again, I read a lot of YA, and their prices are lower than adult fiction prices! So you can generally get a YA trade paperback for $10 or something…

I’m not trying to keep them pristine, though, and I have never read a library book to keep my own book pristine. Not that I’m saying you are nuts or anything…I’m just saying.

Oh, yeah, you’re saying, Diane, you’re just saying. I hear ya. 😉

When I’m trying out a new author, I get the library copy.

Oh, I do that, too, Linda! I read so much that my book costs are really high, so it’s the most sensible way to try new authors for me. (Though I also buy new authors right off sometimes — it just depends.)


13 years ago

“As it is, I always take out a pile.”

Tis true! And I always end up supporting the library with late fees. Never fails. I don’t mistreat library books, but I’m infamous for reading my own in the tub. Friends like to borrow my books because they like to read in the tub, too. Wrinkles add character, right ladies? 🙂

I sent most of my books out into the world this year. I knew people who needed cheering up. I even gave away my keepers. Nature abhors a vacuum and there will be more coming in. It’s already started…

Cara King
13 years ago

All of ours are basic Ikea Billy, birch veneer.

Susan, we have a few Billy bookcases, though in white — but most of ours were even cheaper — Kmart! and not just Kmart, but on sale at Kmart. Way cheap.

Plus I inherited some paperback shelves from a friend who moved, which are fabulous!

I set in a recliner couch while I am reading.

Oh, I need me one of them, Virginia! I often lie on the bed, though, which is also nice.

Elena, I tried for years to remember the page number, but I never managed to. So once I grew up and learned that dog-earing wasn’t a great idea, I started using bookmarks.

Of course, I own about fifty bookmarks, but when I actually have to keep my place in a book, chances are I’ll use a shopping list or scrap of paper or strip of kleenex or something. 😉

Jane George, my heart used to rise with excitement when I approached the library doors…but the doors of my current library are large and heavy, so perhaps nowadays my heart surges with fear of being squished…


Megan Frampton
13 years ago

I love the look of hardbacks, but they’re not practical–I love the ease of a PB, and I try not to crack the spines, but sometimes forget.

And I always have a bookmark, an obsession that has been well-documented.

Cara King
13 years ago

Ooh, thanks for the clove suggestion, Ladyhawk!


Amanda McCabe
13 years ago

I like hardbacks for research books, especially ones I use often! But I agree with Diane on trade paperbacks–I like mass market size, so easy to stick in my purse or hold in the bathtub. Trade is too big, yet does not have the sturdiness of hardback and costs a lot more! Sigh.

I’m quite envious of everyone’s bookshelves! I don’t have nearly enough and the books are just piled around. Anyone want to help me build some? 🙂

Louisa Cornell
13 years ago

I am getting new bookcases through sad circumstances. Our little local bookstore closed (many of you met Tammy in San Francisco – she closed the Book Basket) When she got ready to close she asked me if I wanted some of the lovely bookcases in the store. They are stored in her mother’s garage right now, but once I get my writing studio painted they are moving in!! Floor to ceiling wall to wall bookcases that match!! So I am in the process of entering my books on Library Thing so I can put them on the shelves in order.

13 years ago

I don’t dog-ear books, but I do magazines. I tend to read magazines on the bus, and bookmarks aren’t practical. And magazines are ephemeral anyway.

I read a book by Marilyn Vos Savant years ago in which she basically said that if you didn’t write in the margins of your books you were mentally hobbling yourself. (Not her words–my recollection.) So I wrote in the margins of that book that I thought that was a stupid thing to say. But other than that, I rarely write in books, either (except my name).


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