shakespeareOn The Bookseller, Martin Latham posts a brief complaint about the production quality of hardcover books these days. Today’s mass-market hardcover books, he notes, tend to be cheaply and poorly made, and will by and large not age into beautiful antiques such as a 1623 Shakespeare folio Latham describes.

Latham talks up a £30 (US$46) book on maps that includes removable fold-out maps bundled in pockets, and a few other beautiful books. Of course, e-book fan that I am, I can’t see myself buying any of those, and wonder just how many people in today’s recession, price-sensitive economy would be interested either.

But on the other hand, if e-books decrease consumer demand for hardcovers, perhaps mass market hardcovers will dwindle and the ones that remain will be more on the order of the objects d’art Latham seems to want. If people are interested in buying a physical artifact in an electronic world, they’ll certainly want the best one they can find.

(There do seem to be a couple of search and replace errors in the article. In the second and third paragraphs Latham refers to “e-book readers” but it would make more sense from context to say paper book readers in those places instead.)


  1. I buy a lot of hardcovers, on average 6-10 a month. These are books that I want to keep and I want to share with others. These are books that I think will have some value (reading wise, not dollar wise) to future generations of my family. Ninety percent of my hardcover purchases are nonfiction. Occasionally I may buy a hardcover along with its ebook version, just for the ease of reading on my Sony 950.

    In contrast, 100% of the ebooks I “buy” (“buy” because 95% are free), with the exception of the rare hardcover-ebook tandem purchase, are books that I will read once and then consign to a hard drive or other storage media or simply delete entirely. Regardless, they will never be read again by me and likely by no one else.

    I know all of the advantages of ebooks. I love reading on my Sony 950 and every day check for new books to “buy” at Smashwords. But for me, ebooks lack the quality construction and layout of hardcovers in virtually every sense except for ease of reading a 1,000-page book, portability, and price (as long as I stay away from the agency ebooks).

    I’d much rather have a hardcopy replica of, for example, the Jefferson Bible than an ebook version. eBooks are sterile; they have no life and little beauty, although that may change in the future. eBooks serve a purpose, but they lack esthetic appeal.

  2. While it sounds nice, I would not buy such a book. Really don’t need it, love my eBooks, and see this as the kind of move die-hard fans of printed books will make to keep them alive. Economically it just does’ t make sense.

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