Tuesday, February 25, 2014

On the Physical Quality of Books

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Y'all know I'm a bonafide #coverho, and one of my favorite collections is the Penguin English Library. But I'm not here today to talk about the beautiful patterned artwork, I want to talk about how much you can ABUSE these books!

As I've gotten older and more set in my readerly ways, I have come to appreciate the physical quality construction of books more than ever. While a pretty cover will draw me in every time, it's really of no use if the book falls apart after a page flip or two. Not the case with these Penguin English Library books AT ALL. They are beautifully designed and just as beautifully and carefully made. They can take whatever you throw at them. Quite literally.

Since I just posted yesterday about wrapping up The Woman in White, let's use it as an example. I read the book for approximately six weeks. I took it EVERYWHERE. To work most days, to lunch, to dinners. To the break room, NOT to the bathroom. But pretty much everywhere else.

When I started reading, I was slightly worried about how such a thick, chunky paperback would survive my reading habits since it's not unusual for spines to crack grotesquely or pages to dislodge themselves from binding. But this book held up like a champ! At 700 pages, it was inevitable that I would break the spine just for the sake of comfort, but because it's a well made book, whenever I close it the spine seems to heal itself. It's slightly creased, you can feel it when you run your finger over it, but it still looks beautiful and it doesn't flop open to the middle.

This series also has that velvety, coated feeling to the cover. I was concerned that this would pick up extra grease from lotiony fingerprints and whatnot, but while the white portions on the back got slightly discolored in the book's travels, overall, it still looks great!

This book has been tossed, bent, dog-eared, dropped, creased, and generally abused, and I'm so pleased with how well its held up. It makes me feel really good about taking the extra time to order these gems from the BookDepository. They aren't any more expensive than other classics--and in many cases, they're cheaper--so it's a solid investment. I love a pretty book, but I also love DIGGING IN to my books. I don't want to worry that I'm going to destroy them. Luckily, these seem indestructible.

Are there any publishers whose book quality you love? Tell me! #nomnom #bookcookiemonster






39 comments:

  1. I've found this with PEL editions too - I have a couple that have been thoroughly abused but they're still basically pristine. It definitely makes me want to buy more of them. That, and their general beauty!

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    1. Definitely! I was so impressed, and I really thought I was just being a #coverho. But I got some great quality books! Wooo!

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  2. I still haven't bought a Penguin English Library book yet but I've been meaning to. The covers are simply gorgeous and it's great to hear that the quality is excellent, too. I remember being a fan of Everyman's library. They're hardcover books and the pages are acid-free. I love the smooth feel of the pages and I love how a ribbon is included to mark what page you're on.

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    1. They're so lovely. I'm completely addicted. I loved the Everyman's Library as well. The library I used to work in had a huge collection of them, and I always enjoyed checking them out.

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  3. Well, sounds like I need to get on these! I have to say that I'm pretty ginger with my books, not really intentionally . . . I just don't tend to transport them with me much these days. I used to read daily during my lunch breaks, but now I mostly eat at my desk -- and when I'm out, I tend to have my Kindle with me. So I have nothing of value to contribute to this, haha, other than to say: yay for sturdy books!

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    1. I flip flop back and forth. I almost always have my tablet with me because Greyson "reads" and plays games on it on the drive back and forth to school some days (30 mins each way). I still usually transport a physical book, too, if I have one going. If it don't, it takes me ages to finish anything. Yay for sturdy books!

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  4. I mostly agree with you except for one thing that has happened to me - the rubbery cover (which is just like a stick on clear contact paper thingy) has started to peel off at the corners. Have you had this happen?

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    1. Oh noes! That sounds terrible, Brooke. I haven't had that happen yet, but The Woman in White is the one I've manhandled the most.

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  5. Still plotting how I'm going to get my hands this series of books. I think I need a part time job just to get my book buying fix.

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    1. I'll just pencil you in for at least one of these for every holiday. They're cheaper than most American classics!

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  6. I do love a well made book but don't know of any specific publishers that publish them.

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    1. I'm trying to think of a company other than Penguin. I have one Oxford World Classics edition that's pretty bad ass. Other Press does some beautiful, well-made books as well.

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  7. I love this post! It sounds horrifying now, with so many people loving their books in pristine condition, but when I was younger, I purposely broke the spines of books. I loved to really get INTO them, just like you said. I used to do it for comfort, but also to show that they were loved and read and thoroughly enjoyed. Then I got older and started being more careful not to.. and now, I just go with the flow. Durable books are wonderful! And the texture of those English Library editions are so lovely! I second this post, 200% :).

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    1. Thank you, Chels!!! I don't try to maintain pristine books now as much as I did for a while. I truly believe that a well-loved book is more desirable than a pristine one...as long as I did the loving. I definitely "dug in" to The Woman in White, and I loved it!

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  8. I'm not familiar with these, but I'm drawn to books visually too. Wish I had space for vintage book love.

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    1. I know! I make room for these. I just can't resist.

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  9. I love the B&N leather-bound editions. Admittedly I don't schlep them around to use and abuse them - but they have held up admirably and are beautiful decoration for an unbeatable price. (Lawd. I sound like an ad.)

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    1. They are gorgeous. I don't own any of them, but I lust over them EVERY time I'm in B&N.

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    2. Since I'm almost primarily an ebook reader these days I use the need to purchase them as a reason to go into a brick and mortar bookstore. :)

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  10. You're right about the quality of the PEL editions, but this actually annoys me a bit. I'm an obsessive spine cracker, and it takes extra effort to crack these spines!

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    1. That is an excellent point! Seen from the flip-side. lol

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  11. Aren't books with the new velvety covers the best? I love when a book comes in the mail and it has that texture, I can't help but get all touchy feely!

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    1. They are! Was so excited when Tale for the Time Being arrived and it's the same finish.

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  12. I just posted about covers over on my blog, for different reasons, but your post certainly fits in with the theme of them! lol http://susanflynn.blogspot.ca/2014/02/emily-of-new-moon-trilogy-book-covers.html

    I have wondered how these particular editions you are using would hold up, so I am delighted that they do so well with what we readers put them through. Penguin as a whole have always made really good reader-abuse friendly books, I've found. Remember the old paperbacks, with the black spines and yellow trim around the classical painting on the book cover? Those books were practically indestructible. I loved how I could open them wide, bend the covers, and no pages would ever fall out. Unlike you and some of the other commentators, I was a bookseller once, and once a binding on a book is broken, the quality of the book and resale value plummet. And, I could personally never hurt a book like that - it always felt to me like I was hurting the book. They seemed real to me in some sense...isn't it interesting how differently we all approach reading and the things we expect of a good book's bindings?

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    1. I love your post about Emily of New Moon! I had a few of those black versions with the classic paintings, and they really could take a wallop, too! Love love love Penguin. I don't intentionally crack spines because I'm always afraid pages will begin to flake out, but sometimes I can't help it. Like with The Woman in White, it was SO miserable to hold and not break it.

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  13. I have a copy of Go Ask Alice that is in three sections as the spine ripped in two places due to wear and tear, so I completely appreciate a well constructed book.

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  14. I am lol'ing at Book Cookie Monster :) Hmmmm I never thought to notice if I liked the construction of one book publisher over another...but yes, flimsy paperbacks are not my favorites. I love books with beautiful covers but they don't work for me if they're too flimsy, OR too chunky.

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    1. Good point! I tend to shy away from books that are TOO chunky. Then I just opt for a Nook copy. I couldn't resist this Woman in White PEL, though. It's a gorgeous exception.

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  15. Oh man, I'm a terrible book abuser! Another reason why I'm mostly digital these days- I can't rip virtual pages! (I love your hashtags!)

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    1. Haha! Good point! I do love my e-books, but I get a hankering for real paper. Especially when it's a classic.

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  16. I can't think of a particular publisher that seems to hold up better than others. Near indestructibility is one of the things I like about hardcovers (one of the few things)

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    1. Yeah, I'm not a big hardcover fan. Unless I find a used copy of something I'm just absolutely desperate to have, I'll always pass up the hardcover. They do hold up great, though.

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  17. I love pretty books! I keep my books in pretty good condition, and I don't do much flinging them around. I'm alive to the point you make about enjoying "digging in" to them, but I just can't make myself do it to my books. :p

    Regardless, a high-quality book is great to have. It breaks my heart when a book falls apart prematurely.

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    1. Most of mine stay pretty pristine, but after six weeks of lugging this one around, I just had to accept that "well loved" is ok too. I feel that way about a lot of my books from grad school. It's nice to look back and think about how much I thought over those books and marked them up. It's is own form of love.

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  18. I am so with you! I have a few of these Penguin books and they are just so wonderful!. I love the thick shiny paperback covers and the fact that they combine beauty and practicality.

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    1. Yes, yes, yes! I can't get enough of them! Proof: I have three of the Penguin Great Food books waiting on my porch for when I get home today. lol

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  19. I love a well-made book. When I received a copy of A Million Heavens by John Brandon, I was practically drooling. The version I received was published by McSweeney's Rectangulars and it is a beauty!

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  20. You already know I love this post! Thanks for linking up with Spread the Love! ;)

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