Friday, 15 July 2011

A love letter to the hardback

It's been some 4 years since I took the plunge and bought a hardback. I feel it needs justification before I go and do something like that; hardbacks are expensive, for one thing, and if I'm patient I can get the same content in a more easily-accessible format inside the year anyway. Plus, these days I have a Kindle - that gives me both cheapness and a more comfortable reading format for virtually any book.

Despite this, however, I felt the need to buy A Dance With Dragons on Tuesday, the day of its release. It's a hefty volume. At 1,016 pages - in hardback, to boot - it weighs in at almost two kilograms. It's also the best part of three inches thick. It's unwieldy, ungainly, difficult to get particularly comfortable with. Unlike the Harry Potter hardbacks its two-dimensional cover size isn't that of a paperback. In short, it's a beast of a book.

But it's a magnificent one. There's just a certain quality about hardback books. Whilst it's always gratifying to see a fresh paperback waiting to be read, hardbacks have that extra something which marks them out. You can't bend their spines, hold them open by resting them upside down, rip the cover off (sacrilege though that it, people do do it). They're books for show as much as for reading.

With the dust-covers, they look good. The granddaddies of books which will later morph into something more friendly. Without those dust-covers, they look magnificent. Gold lettering stands out proudly on the spine, lending an air of old-fashioned quality. The covers may be cardboard rather than leather, but they still have that rough texture marking quality. And they have their own smell. Like paperbacks, they retain that odour of freshly printed paper which grows sweetly stale as the pages age, but they also have another smell about them, something like that of cut wood.

There's a romance to hardbacks. Whilst I can't justify buying every book I want when it comes out in hardback, sometimes it's nice to buy one just to remind myself of the majesty of books. Perhaps it's harder to love books with an aura of magnificence, but it is easier to get sucked into their thrall in the first place. I will probably get The Winds of Winter in hardback when it comes out (sometime in 2017, based on GRRM's current rate of productivity), as well as one or two others.

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