I tend to avoid the news as much as possible because, inevitably, I get angry or upset – one or the other, it doesn’t matter, both are negative emotions and I prefer not to inflict them on myself if I can possibly help it. Today, however, I followed a link to an article at The Sydney Morning Herald and read, to my dismay, that Picador have made the monumentous decision not to produce hardbacks for book launches any more!
As the eighth-largest publisher in the UK market, this sets a terrible precedence for other big publishers to follow suit and this is something that makes me very sad. Yes, hardbacks can be clunky, unwieldy, difficult to handle and expensive, but they are durable and look beautiful on the shelf. I’ll freely admit that I love a good paperback as much as the next person – they’re light, cheap and they fit into my handbag to cart around with me when I’m on the go, but paperbacks have always seemed so much more, well, disposable. I do sell on many of my books (if I didn’t, I’d have no room to move in my small flat and my husband would divorce me for filling every nook and cranny with nothing but novels!), but most of the ones that pass on to new owners are paperbacks – I tend to keep my hardbacks. One of the main reasons I do that is because when I buy a book by an author I know I love and that I’ll want to read again, I get it in hardback. Paperbacks are my cheap, try-out-someone / something-new-without-too-much-risk option and they’re usually second-hand (albeit copies that are in excellent condition).
If hardbacks do die out, it will be a very sad day for bibliophiles around the world. We’d have to find a modern-day Don McLean to write a song about The Day The Hardback Died, and we’d weep every time someone sang the full-length version at a karaoke bar. We would tell tales to our grandchildren of days gone by when books (yes, dear, those words that you download onto your little screen gizmo) would come in hard covers (no, dear, not a machine) that bound the pages together (yes, dear, with glue, or stitching in the more expensive ones – some of them were bound in leather you know! No, I’m not making it up!) and we’d sit in front of the fire (that was when we had a fire in the house, darlings, not everyone had radiators then) and feel the comforting heft of a hardback in our hands.
Ah! Those were the golden days!