Ever since I started seriously building my home library in 2010, I’ve been torn about one thing: whether to buy paperbacks or hardcovers.
I’ve never really been able to decide, so my library is about a 50/50 mix of both. Here are the pros and cons as I see them.
- They’re sturdier and last longer. I want my books to last at least a lifetime. This is the #1 reason I love hardcovers.
- They have more gravitas. A shelf of hardcovers exudes a certain vibe. Maybe it’s because hardcovers are more expensive or maybe it’s just because they’re bigger and take up more space. Either way, I think hardcovers scream, “SERIOUS READER.”
- They’re pricey. Serious reader or not, if I bought only hardcovers, I would only be able to afford about 75% the number of books I actually buy each year.
- Dust jackets are pretty but also a pain. I don’t like to read with the dust jacket on, so its value is purely aesthetic. It looks nice on the shelf but paperbacks look nice all the time.
- They’re clunky. I don’t have an e-reader, so when I travel, hardcovers are a pain in the butt.
- They’re cheap. I feel like I can make notes in the margins, underline, and highlight without feeling too guilty. Plus, less money per book = more books per year.
- They’re small and light. I can fit at least one paperback in my purse, no problem.
- They take up less space. If you’re pressed for shelf space like I am, paperbacks will help you make the most of the space you do have.
- They wear out quickly. Spines crack, pages turn yellow and start falling out. I take good care of my books but many of my paperbacks will be in tatters by the time I kick the bucket. This is really the only serious con I see for paperbacks.
Most of the hardcovers in my library are review copies I’ve received for free or books that were only available in hardcover when I bought them. I do buy the hardcover version of special books that I plan to reread again and again. There are some books I own both the hardcover and paperback versions of but that’s only because I received extra review copies.
Do you buy mostly hardcovers, mostly paperbacks, or a mix of both? What do you like and dislike about each format?