I feel a little behind on this one as I missed Paperback Day, an annual appreciation of the paperback book, but I feel like there’s still something I wanted to say about it. As someone who is the child of readers and who grew up a reader there is something utterly wonderful and convenient about paperback books. While I appreciate hardcovers, I look at those more as the fancy cousin.
I want a hardcover for the books I want to collect.
I want a paperback for the book I want to read.
That’s really the magic of the form, is their portability. MOST of them you could take anywhere and read anywhere. Any free moment or empty moment you could just pull a book out and be instantly transported somewhere else. It was portable freedom in many ways. There was also an affordability to it. These were the books for the masses – the mass market – and as such they were priced to sell. These weren’t hardy books, initially, and were made cheaply in every way the word means, but they were still books. Yes, there were tawdry and scandalous dirty novels, but too there were classics, and there were nonfiction books. Paperbacks were out there for everything you could think of. It was in paperbacks that stories of the unknown, and the unknowable were held, and where some of our legends got their starts. When a friend and I put out a book of bigfoot stories we wanted to make sure that 1. The paperback was shaped so you could take it on the road with you and 2. That it was priced to sell.
We wanted to rekindle the old days of our youth where you could run into a drugstore, hit a book rack, and grab an inexpensive book to read.
I discovered Kathe Koja’s fiction that way.
And that was how I read King’s Green Mile, when it came out weekly in paperback during the course of its release.
Paperback books were where I met Clive Barker, Stephen King, Kathe Koja, Dan Simmons, H.P. Lovecraft, Ray Bradbury, H.G. Wells, Mark Twain, and so, so many others.
There’s something so visceral and satisfying about reading a paperback, folding that front, or back, cover over, and just diving in wherever you are. You don’t get that with an e-book. It doesn’t connect you to the story like holding a book does.
It’s all perception, but it’s there, and it’s real.
All of my books come out as paperbacks and I stick to the same ideal as my friend and I had with our joint venture – portable and inexpensive. I try to do that as much as I am able, at least. I don’t control that completely, but I try.
Sure, I’d love to see my work in hardcover but there really is something special about a paperback that I still love, to this day. I like the idea that the worlds I create could be enjoyed easily anywhere, and hope that that is the case.
Truly, reading is all that really matters. That you are reading. That you keep reading. We need that sustenance. We need to feed the dream factory within. We need to read and keep reading because it’s how we learn about one another and the world. The stories, and the facts, unite us. You can cast anyone you want in the fictions, and can relive the fact. For me though, I will always love paperbacks and the way that those books serve as the engines that transport us to places near and far, and which we can stuff in a back pocket and take with us wherever we are going.
Hey, I WRITE books too –