I’ve been thinking about e-books & e-readers lately. The pros & cons. I’m not even a little bit tempted by an e-reader in my everyday life but I do think it would be useful in some circumstances. I can see myself using one if I travelled a lot. There might be room in the suitcase for a few more essentials like shoes if the first consideration of packing wasn’t which books to take & how many? Travel guides would be much more practical on an e-reader if it was of a size to pop in a bag & carry with you all the time. I know the ability to increase the font size is a great benefit to many people.
But, the greatest loss to me would be losing the physical book. The author of an article I read somewhere recently was almost lyrical in his praise of the physical book. I love to fully examine new books. If they’re non-fiction, I look at the pictures, read the Introduction & the Bibliography, check the Index to see how much I’ll find about authors or subjects I’m especially interested in. All this before the book is either read immediately or shelved for another day.
Then, when I was rearranging my tbr shelves the other day, I found myself looking at the different covers of classics from OUP & Penguin from different eras of cover design. You can see four different styles of Penguin Classics above. This is something else I’d miss if I no longer had the physical book, if it was just loaded onto an e-reader. The books on our shelves also say a lot about who we are. Sometimes it’s a way to show off, sometimes it’s a way to give an impression of the person you wish you were. I’ve been told that the walls of bookshelves & hundreds of books in my house will make it very difficult to sell. Too many books put off prospective buyers. To me, too few books would make a house unliveable.
Looking at the classic covers on my tbr shelves set me off collecting books from all my bookshelves. I found lots of favourites so I thought I’d share them. This is the latest version of the Penguin Modern Classics, replacing the older version with the silver or green spines. I love these. The paper is so white & crisp. Much as I love Penguins, I love Oxford University Press Classics even more.
This is the oldest version I have from the early 1980s. I love the font of these books (it’s a bit hard to see in the photo) & the way they lie so beautifully in the hand without needing to crease or break the spine to read comfortably.
My favourite OUP covers are these from the 1990s.Again, the books themselves are easy to read, the font is readable & the paper is a lovely cream.
Then, OUP changed to the design used for Mrs Dalloway here, my least favourite. I always found these books quite stiffly bound & the font a little small.
The latest version of the OUP Classics is just beautiful. I love them almost as much as the 90s version. I’ve found myself buying new copies of books I already own just because the OUP cover is so lovely. I also like reading different Introductions & Notes for classic novels so I do have some excuse for having more than one copy.
I had a lovely time trawling the shelves for all these books, admiring the covers & remembering how much I enjoyed reading the contents. I haven’t even mentioned other publishers whose books are prized for the beauty of the object as well as the contents – Virago, Persephone, Hesperus. While publishers continue to produce such gorgeous objects, I’ll continue to resist the convenience of the e-reader.