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: