Writing about books, Michael Skapinker is celebrating the qualities of the hardback over the paperback - the qualities that make it longer-lasting. He rues the way that 'the years, sunlight and central heating are taking their toll' on the paperbacks he bought many years ago; he resolves to be, from now on, one of the dwindling band of hardback buyers. Skapinker quotes a veteran bookseller who tells him 'hardbacks, without exception, will look better than paperbacks in 30 years' time'.
In one way I have no quarrel with any of this. You can love books in every manifestation, and that takes in the durable old hardback and the shiniest new paperback, both. But I also think that Skapinker may be missing an aspect of the issue in the preference he's settled on. It isn't only because paperbacks are 'lighter... easier to take to the beach and... cheaper' that most people go for them. It's also that many of us think of our relationship to our books over a time span of less than 30 years. That's not being shortsighted. It reflects the much readier availability of books. As someone in a position to look at my shelves and point to books I've actually owned for more than 30 years, I also know that wanting to re-read one or other of them I sometimes don't want to read it in a decades-old edition. One can take a more free and easy attitude to the ownership of books, treating the rather dull and yellowed thing on your shelf as - what it is - just one physical representative of the work in question. You get yourself another copy.