Friday, April 13, 2012

Paperbacks vs. Hardcovers


When I was young, I loved paperbacks to distraction and despised hardcovers.  In my late middle age, in fact, it was a terrible moment when I realized that I preferred hardcovers.  I couldn't say then why I assigned a moral judgment to this shift.  I assumed it was due to my dwindling eyesight.

My son Sean is emphatically a partisan of paperbacks.  "I like to hold them!" he exclaims.  In him I see my youth, and wonder.

And there it was, a not-understood phenomenon.

Until just now.  I was tidying my room and I grabbed up two paperbacks I needed for research -- the I Ching and Pu Songling's Strange Tales from Make-Do Studio.  Holding them in my hand, I could feel the density of information inside the two books, and the power that could be derived from them.  It felt like holding a hand grenade.

And that's the difference.  A hardcover is, essentially, a construction manual for whatever intellectual concern you're engaged in.  But a paperback is a revolutionary weapon.  That's why paperback lovers tend to be younger and hardcover lovers tend to be older.  The young are natural revolutionaries.  The old want to leave behind something constructive.

Nowadays, I'm into building things that will endure. So I prefer hardcovers.

Ah, but there are moments still when the inner anarchist comes out.



Frank Böhmert said...

A paberback you can stuff in your back pocket and then you go out and do something, out there in the world, under the open sky. That's what we do when we are young.

For a hardcover you need some kind of bag or very book-friendly weather. That's for planing, and planing is what we do when we get older.

Michael Swanwick said...

True words, Frank.