When I began building my library, I could not have predicted the advent of e-books. I have many friends and contemporaries who now regularly consume books on their smartphones or e-readers. I acknowledge the environmental impact of producing physical paper books, but I just can’t get behind e-books. I’ve purchased one in my life (Dave Eggers’s The Circle), and read about twenty pages or so before giving up and buying a paperback copy. I simply enjoy the feel of a physical book in my hands, and I have strong olfactory memories of the smell of the glue and paper in physical books, and I love perusing the shelves at bookshops and libraries. So, despite that e-readers are becoming more and more sophisticated in their mimicry of what it’s like to read a physical book, I’m still solidly in the camp of collecting and reading physical books exclusively.
Secondly, throughout most of my history as a reader, I have much preferred paperback to hardcover books. The reason for this is simply that I find hardcover books to be generally more unwieldy than paperbacks. I enjoy holding an open book in front of me with one hand, and hardcovers are often too hefty for this. Also, a lot of my reading is done in bed before falling asleep each night, and I find hardcover books much more difficult to position in front of me when prostrate. So the vast majority of my collection is paperback books, and I do worry about the fact that paperbacks—particularly trade paperbacks—are made of cheaper paper and cheaper glue and will therefore not last as long. In some ways, this preference does strike me as silly, but there it is nonetheless. One good example of this silliness is the fact that, in 2006, when Vikram Chandra’s Sacred Games was published, I rushed out to purchase a copy, the hardcover, a fat 928-page tome, because I was so excited about reading it, after having absolutely loved his first book, Red Earth and Pouring Rain. But then, when I was picking my next book to read, I found the heft of the thing too daunting, and I read some paperback instead. This continued for years, until I finally broke down and bought a paperback copy of the Sacred Games, which I promptly, at long last, read. It was amazing, and remains one of my favorites to this day, but how silly that I owned a copy and wanted to read it so badly for years, but didn’t simply because it was a hardcover.