Hardcover, paperback, e-book or audio. How to choose.

If every version of a book was offered on the same shelf, which would you choose? I’ll confess to having this option occasionally.

book covers
Song of Achilles, multiple covers


My shelves are filled with favorite must-read-right-away titles. I can spot the point in a series where I discovered the author and started buying the latest ones right away, accumulating them slowly year after year, while the back list is filled in with paperbacks. (I’m eyeing the Martha Grimes row right now.)

However, hardcovers while traveling? No, too weighty. I recently finished a new book, which I greatly enjoyed and which I won’t name here for reasons about to become obvious. The problem? I couldn’t read it for very long at a time because the binding was so tight I had to work to keep it open enough to see the tail end of words on the left hand page. (I sent a note to the publisher, and lo and behold, they looked into it and the printer had cut a quarter inch off the binding. Well, that won’t happen again!)


Yes, I’ll have purchased a hardcover in a flurry of excitement when a favorite author’s latest book is available. Yet I may pick up a paperback copy later – to take on trips when I need a dose of the familiar. Sometimes, if it reaches the stage of (for me) a classic, I add it to my Kindle. Yes, LONESOME DOVE and SHOGUN, I see you there. All three editions.


I love my e-reader. I was given a Kindle the first year they came on the market, so over the years I’ve accumulated over over 500 books in my electronic library. One day, I may have to see exactly how many are duplicates of favorite printed versions. A lot, I suspect. I also wonder how many I purchased for Kindle then never read. After all, it is an invisible TBR stack. As a writer I love sending my work in progress to my Kindle, where I can read it like a ‘real book.’


This past week I needed something to listen to while spreading mulch in the garden. A mindless task if ever there was one. Currently, I have CIRCE on my nightstand. Madeline Miller’s follow up to her amazing SONG OF ACHILLES. Tempting to keep going and listen to it while I work outdoors. Instead, I borrowed the audio version of THE SONG OF ACHILLES from my local library. I have a hardcover, and read it years ago, but listening to the narrator has meant an entirely new experience. This may be particularly true because it is written in first person, and there is an immediacy to Patroclus’s words as he tells their story (the narrator has a great voice, which doesn’t hurt).

I often listen to books I’ve read. Sometimes I opt for the re-reading on audio since I’m usually listening while actively doing something else, including driving. If my mind focuses for a bit on the other activity I can rejoin the story in progress and fill in from memory. I have listened to every version of Agatha Christie this way, even those shortened aids to learning English as a second language versions!

I’m curious which books you choose to read (or listen to) a certain way, and why. Share your thoughts on Facebook and Twitter!

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