This post was prompted by a timely email promoting the Folio Society, an email with Jared Shurin and my own struggle with books as objects to own.
The email was pretty straightforward PR email promoting their illustrated editions, which led me to looking at The Master and Margarita:
I’ve got an ebook and a different translation and I really enjoyed it. Did I like it enough to buy a paper-based copy? And did I like it even more to own a deluxe version? And do I really need to have copy on my shelf when it’s already in the cloud and I can re-download it at any point?
As an illustration, I own a proof of a book that Jared of Pornokitsch loves and I’m going to send it to him, not because I didn’t like the book, but because he’s going to love owning the proof and having it on the shelves. I’m replacing it with a hardback.
Another illustration, my SF Masterworks Challenge was partly prompted by seeing a small collection of yellow spines on my shelves and feeling quite proud of saying, at some point in the future, that I’d read them all.
I’m doing the same with Gladys Mitchell. I like seeing the red Vintage Classic spines on the shelves. And I like blocks of specific authors like Terry Pratchett, Fred Vargas, Neal Asher (who is a jumble of editions) sitting there.
Then I have those books that are signed by some of my favourite authors, though I only find those special if they knew they were signing it for me (no shelf-stocked ones for me). I’m also very honoured to have several amazing proofs on my shelf of books, which I love and make me smile when I see them.
I’m a big ebook reader. I’ve bought the ebook editions of several of the physical books I own just give myself an easy reading life. But I still keep the physical editions of those that I’ve liked.
Saying that though I’m very good at giving away books that I’ve read that don’t mean anything to me. I guess I’d like to still have The Hobbit and the rest of LOTR on my shelves but I’m not going to re-read them any time soon and LOTR especially isn’t going to make me smile by looking at it, though I’d smile at The Hobbit as I loved re-reading that one.
I got rid of my Patricia Cornwell and James Patterson books along with lots of others when I moved and don’t miss them in the slightest.
However, I’m glad that I’ve kept authors like Mark Chadbourn, Storm Constantine, Dave Duncan, Poppy Z Brite, who meant something to me at different points in my reading and personal life.
And oddly when I’m buying books at the minute I’m debating whether I want it as an ebook or a physical one. Is it something to look at after I’ve bought it? Or would I be happy for it to sit in the cloud?
Plus, I’m going back to enjoying seeing the progress of a book as I read it, you don’t quite get that feel with an ebook, though my new Paperwhite has a ‘time left in chapter’ counter, which does give that feeling of just one more chapter as it’s only x minutes long, though feeling the thinness of a book towards then end if still hard to beat.
Then there are books that I’m never going to buy/enjoy as ebooks. Cooking books and books of poetry are two types of books that just can’t work in electronic form.
I’ve said before that the market is going to mess with the established order of hardback followed six to twelves months later by the paperback. We already have hardback and ebooks being released at the same time. Fifty Shades of Grey went from being ebook only to having a paperback then a special edition hardback. All editions aimed at different types of readers.
And that’s mainly the point. There are different editions for different people. Sadly hardbacks are getting rarer because the lack of library ordering, who were their major purchaser. So I think that we are still for a while going to get a choice of editions.
Though I can see a future for special edition hardbacks and ebooks and less paperbacks.
Sorry, that was a bit of a ramble, but I’m really not sure how I feel.
What about you? Do you see books as objects to own and have you paid that little bit extra for those special editions?