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DarlingRhadamanthus's avatar

Is a book just its "contents" to you? Or are the aesthetics of a book also a factor?

Asked by DarlingRhadamanthus (11201 points ) May 20th, 2011

When you buy a book to read, do you buy it simply for the contents and then give it away or sell it…or do you often buy a book also for its aesthetic pleasure?

Example…you want to read a copy of David Copperfield. Do you just go and get a copy at the library/bookstore or do you try to find a really used old Penguin copy and/or an older copy that might have an embossed art nouveau cover? Or do you just not care about the look/feel of a book and Kindle it or Nook it?

Do you buy books merely to read their contents and it doesn’t matter what they look like on the outside? Or does the actual touch and look of the book have an impact on your reading pleasure?

I often find myself scouring bookshops for old interesting copies of books that I know I could find easily as a mass market pulp on Amazon…simply because I want the feel of a worn book and/or because I like the look of the older copy. I will even (usually) pay more for it if it is a book that I know I will want to perhaps keep. If it’s just a reference book, no, I wouldn’t do that…but for something special, yes, I will buy a nicer copy.

I find that holding and touching a worn paperback book adds to my reading experience as does holding an old and beautifully bound copy. If you were to put a brand new copy of Gone With The Wind on a table and a copy that was worn and tattered and ask me to pick one to keep…I would choose the latter. I like old books that someone enjoyed before me. (Crazy? Well, probably.)

How do you feel about the aesthetics of a book? Does it matter to you? Do you just buy a copy to simply read it or does the look and feel of a book come into play for you?

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18 Answers

everephebe's avatar

For me, the aesthetics are also a factor.
But really it should be a perfect marriage of content and cover.

Ajulutsikael's avatar

When I buy a book I like the feel of the book and the smell of it. I prefer not to get it on Kindle unless it’s not out in the US yet. I love the look and feel of an actual book. I really don’t care if it’s used or new and is fancy or not.

Aster's avatar

I usually buy used hardbacks on Amazon . I keep most of them and hate the looks of a paperback.

lillycoyote's avatar

Both for me. A mass market paperback it generally just for reading, if it’s just an airplane book I don’t much car but a beautifully made, a beautifully illustrated and bound book can be a work of art too. I also collect pop-up books and similar types of books and those are really all about the esthetics and the engineering actually too and in addition to content. There can be a real art and craft to bookmaking.

aprilsimnel's avatar

It has to be a really bad or really good cover job/type of paper/typeface/binding for me to even notice. I’m mostly about the contents of a book.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

It really is the content.As for books that I have read and liked,I will usually end up buying a nice hardcover edition.I treasure my books :))

tranquilsea's avatar

I look for good copies of books but their covers are rarely an issue for me.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

@DarlingRhadamanthus : I, too, like the feel of a well-worn book. I like the idea of the shared experience. I have a about 200 books, and I think of them as my babies. I’ve hauled them all over the world. I have some very interesting old editions in both hardback and paperback. I also have a few new books that are remarkable.

I have a copy of Nox by Anne Carson. Take a look at the link and scroll through the pictures. It’s less like a typical book as we know it and more like a scroll.

Plucky's avatar

When I buy new books, I buy the best copy I can find in the rack (the condition of the book). If it’s an author I enjoy/collect ..then I buy the hardcover, if that option exists. If the book is an antique/collector item, then I find the condition and cover are very important. If the book is just a regular used one, the only thing that really matters to me is that there are no stains on it (like food or who knows what else). I enjoy old books as well :)

Like others, I prefer to read and hold an actual book (not a digital version). But, the world is changing…and I’m sure books will be completely obsolete at some point.

jaiyan's avatar

Cover art often attracts my attention, if it has an interesting appearance that catches my eye, then I’ll often read the blurb to see if I like it.
I can spend ages in the second hand book section of a shop, there’s just something nice about a worn book.

stardust's avatar

Primarily, it’s the content. If it’s a favourite, the cover is also important. I’m a fan of hardback books for my modestly growing library.

Symbeline's avatar

The content is primary to me, but the aesthetics are also very important. I won’t search too hard if I really want to read something, I’ll grab the first version I see, as long as the content is the original.
However I have to say, for example, I love the older Stephen King books with the funky covers, as opposed to the re released versions that are all just shades and fluorescent colours. I’ve ended up with several copies of one book for that sole reason, if I happen to find an older one.
I also enjoy checking used book stores to see what I can find. I’ve often been very amazed and delighted. Like one time I found these old ass books that are collections of ghost and vampire stories writ as early as 1816. While these books were published in the fifties or sixties, it’s awesome that I can find them in this day and age, with the hard covers, yellow pages and everything. Some of them were in bad shape…but still readable. Gettin off track though…

So no, I won’t go out of my way for aesthetics, but I’ll certainly grab it if I chance upon it. I wonder if it’s possible these days to find a The Lord of the Rings book without a cover that’s just a screenshot from the movies lol.

drdoombot's avatar

I grew up mostly reading mass market paperbacks, so even though I like the feeling of holding a book, I suppose the aesthetics of it aren’t that important. It would definitely explain how easily I transitioned into reading mostly ebooks.

blueiiznh's avatar

contents are the core. I however have an appreciation for older classic first editions and for some reason there is a bit deeper feeling for me when I read the same words, but from an original first print.
weird i know, but i love books and old classics and there is a connection for me with it.

ddude1116's avatar

I buy books based on size and price, mostly. Usually, once I find the book, I search for the oldest coughcheapestcough, since Half-Price Books is my go-to bookshop, then search for the best looking of the group, or the best cover. I like the size of the older mass-market paperbacks and the feel of the paper better.

Last time I bought a book purely on its cover I was extremely disappointed, so I only do that when I’m at the public library. But my personal library has amassed into a consistently falling tower of books in my room, in addition to the massive amount of bookshelves.

DarlingRhadamanthus's avatar

@ddude1116….I didn’t mean buy a book because the cover is pretty. (Well, okay some antiquarian books, I admit, I do that sometimes.) What I did mean was that given a choice between buying a reprint of a book (I’m not talking about “hot off the press mass market paperbacks”) or a hardcover that is pleasing or a used book…would you do that rather than just get any old book? I know what you mean about paper…I don’t like the feel of new paperback book paper…my favorite paperback paper has to be the paper used on Penguins and Puffin books.

@blueiiznh…I absolutely resonate with what you wrote. Thanks.
@Symbeline…Yes…you can find a copy of “Lord of the Rings” without photos of the movie…but can be a bit more. Here’s a paperback set in a slipcase link You were absolutely right…it took a while to even find a paperback set without the photos! lol
@drdoombot…I think ebooks are great for reference books and when you need info quickly, so they do have their place, too.
@stardust…Hardcovers are lovely…especially when they have some nice graphics. Lots of the novels of the 30’s 40’s had great graphic covers.
@jaiyan…I’m sure I have bumped into you in some secondhand bookshop somewhere as I have been in most of them! lol Totally with you on this one!
@PluckyDog…I am keeping fingers crossed that the book will not go the way of the 8 track tape <sigh> yes, I’m kidding I love books too much to have them be rubbished completely.
@hawaii_jake…Well, you know what I thought of what you wrote. Stunning, stunning book that took my breath away. Thank you for this superb comment that just introduced me to a gorgeous book (Please check out @hawaii_jake ‘s link.)
@tranquilsea…You are probably in the majority. Thanks for sharing your view.
@lucillelucillelucille….Lucille——leeeee! Yep, books are definitely treasures.
@aprilsimnel…You and @tranquilsea are both in accord. And most people do concur with your views, I think. It’s just these bibliophiles that are a bit mad that stir up the pot! lol
@lillycoyote…Pop-ups! Some of them are so fantastic. Look at this ornate one link What a great hobby, lillyc. Some people think pop-ups are a recent invention, but they have been around for almost two centuries or thereabouts.
@aster…Hardcovers seem to be the book of choice among the serious collector…good choice, too.
@Ajulutsikael…Yes…the look and feel, not necessarily price or simply because “it’s supposed to be collectible so I better get that.” It’s how it strikes your fancy on feel/look, I think. And smell? Gosh, an old leather book with gilt edged pages…sweet fragrance to me.
@everephebe…I agree.

Lurve coming for some great answers…thanks for sharing your views! Great discussion, Jellies…......

lillycoyote's avatar

@DarlingRhadamanthus Can you post that link again? I think you meant to link me to a pop-up book but it’s the Lord of the Rings set you posted for @Symbeline

DarlingRhadamanthus's avatar

@lillycoyote…Ooooooops! :( Sorry about that, Lilly. This is a contemporary pop-up but there are so many amazing vintage ones, too.

Here is the link

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