Monday, September 14, 2009

The New Hardcovers

Remember when you would browse bookstores at Christmastime and linger longingly over the limited edition hardcover editions of new release books by your favourite authors? I do. There is a luxury inherent to the hardcover book that is revealed in the feel of a glossy slipcover which hides underneath it a matte cloth finish, the cover etched into it in gold type.

I particularly loved the uneven pages of roughcut editions. Authenticity always seems implicit in such deliberately unfinished work.

They are disappearing, though, the hardcovers. Have you noticed? They are being replaced by softcovers of a larger size.

This change snuck up on me. I didn’t realise, at first, that the giant-sized paperback was a replacement for the hardcover edition. I bought a number of them, and received others as gifts, and became increasingly perturbed: they don’t fit in my handbag.

The joy of a paperback lies in the ease with which you can carry it. I always have a book with me. You never know when you will be stuck somewhere, deserted unexpectedly. On buses, in queues, during lunch – you will often find me tucked away, nose in a book.

What good then, is the book you cannot carry? A hardcover was special, I used to save them for holiday reading, those luxurious times when I could stretch out on a beach or a windowseat for hours at a time, reading like a cat curled in the sunshine.

But these giant paperbacks do not have the same quality of luxury residing within the pages. They are just abnormally large paperbacks, problematic also because they do not fit on the shelves in my bookcase and they are not easily read in bed with the one-handed grip I have perfected over years.

Booksellers beware: these new hardcovers do not sell books. I regard them warily and walk past, waiting instead for the release of the traditional paperback version in a year’s time.

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