It's a crime! (Or a mystery…)

After “The hard truth about hardbacks” now for a softer, more kindly reflection

Oh dear, Henrietta Clancy at the Guardian Books Blog has no time for hardbacks.  She considers them to be "lovely presents", but with an impracticality that makes them "more of a curse than a blessing".  She believes "…the most common reasoning behind purchasing a hardback (assuming that the paperback is available and this is an option) is the belief that ‘it makes a nice gift’".  They are too big to carry in a handbag; have inflexible spines; are too "space-hogging" on the tube; have pointless dust jackets; and are only really any good as flower presses.  Phew!

Yes they do make lovely presents and books can be things of beauty in their own right, with the dust jackets often having a major part to play in that.  The dust jacket is also an essential marketing tool for a book; an eye catching good one that conveys the theme of the book will entice readers.  Some of us actually prefer reading hardbacks; they are more solid and enduring than paperbacks and can still look unread after one reading, if you’re careful.  Paperbacks, on the other hand, end up looking like fans in 3D, with curly creased spines, used and abused, and battered.

Thankfully, we don’t all have to use the tube.  A reader and a hardback will find perfectly adequate space on an intercity train.  As long as it’s not on a Friday evening out of Paddington, where there’s a Wales vs New Zealand match on in Cardiff the following day.  But a real hardback lover wouldn’t pull the book out then anyway, there are far too many open cans of lager looming in the dubiously safe hands of those getting very merry.  Under those circumstances, the hardback will stay in the handbag.  Yes, that’s right – in the handbag.  Handbags come in all shapes and sizes, some well equipped to take a hardback.  I have a wonderful black one that takes a hardback, a purse, a brush, a mobile, a notebook or two, a glasses case or two, and a lot of other small sundries hidden at the bottom.  It can also hide things quite easily, leading to friend nicknaming it "The Black Hole" at the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival last year.

So let’s have a crimefic beauty parade.  Here are some hardbacks that I consider to be objects of beauty in their own right:

Amsterdamchrisewan 98reasonsforbeing_3 Jamiesitaly_4 Alittlewhitedeath_2

5 comments on “After “The hard truth about hardbacks” now for a softer, more kindly reflection

  1. Anne Brooke
    June 17, 2007

    Must admit I don’t really like hardbacks – they just irritate me, and I grumble when publishers force me to buy them because they just won’t do a paperback!!! Loudly too. MNW books spring to mind here … As you can tell, I’m something of a softback tart indeed!

  2. Maxine
    June 17, 2007

    Hardbacks are harder to read in bed, I find, but I agree they are a more enduring investment. Many is the beloved paperback I have given a daughter to read, only to find that its glue has vanished and its yellowed pages drop out due to the intervening years.

  3. Purpleworms
    June 17, 2007

    I’m hard on the books I love and need a book with a tough exterior and an inside that would melt dimonds! I love mystery fiction and am so glad to find this web site. paperbacks are great for travel and the beach and the tub (I’ve dropped more than a couple while reading) but for boks I want to caress and reread – there is nothing like a hard cover!

  4. Peter
    June 21, 2007

    But a hardback without its dust jacket can be forlorn and anonymous! And big hardbacks from the blockbuster authors strike me as lumbering artifacts rather than something that invites the intimacy of reading.
    The trade paperback, cheaper than a hardback, but more durable and attractive than many mass-market paperback books, can be an attractive alternative, though prices in that department can be unnervingly high, too.
    Detectives Beyond Borders
    “Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home”

  5. cfr
    June 28, 2007

    Thanks for your kind comment Purpleworms; I hope you return soon.
    Not sure where I stand on trade PBs, Peter. Easier on the eye for someone of my age who had her first pair of reading glasses earlier this year, but a bit disappointing that they end up “fanned out”, a bit like the normal PBs.

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This entry was posted on June 16, 2007 by in Uncategorized.