I care about the shape of books. I don’t have the attention span for ebooks or audiobooks. I wish I did, but I just don’t. I can’t focus when I’m listening to someone read out loud either, so it’s not just ebooks. But I can’t stare at a screen for long without wanting to look something up or scroll around some random website.
One thing I really like about physical books is that I’m completely disconnected. No camera looking at me, no internet temptations. I hate when books are only available as an ebook (like Karrine Steffans’s How to Make Love to a Martian) because I want to hold a book while I read. That’s one of the reasons I like Ta-Nehisi Coates’s We Were Eight Years In Power so much. Reading his articles offline and in print felt better.
But even with print books, they are not all physically the same when it comes to the shape of books. It goes beyond hardcover vs. paperback (obviously paperback is better). I picked up Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi a few weeks ago and loved it. The writing is clear, the topic is interesting. But the book is so big that it was a task holding it, especially if I was eating or something. I caught myself a few times wishing that the book was in like four volumes so that it would be easier to hold.
Small font is another slightly annoying thing. Some books are worth it no matter what, but when a book is written in small font I do have to stop and think about it. My copy of Out by Natsuo Kirino has tiny font like that. The pages seem so long because the font is like size 10. It might even be 8. When I’m just getting into the book I’m always like aw man this is going to take forever to get through–look at this font! But that story is so good that once I get into the story, I forget how many words are crammed onto each page.
I never liked those uneven page edges. It’s not cute, and it makes it just a little bit harder to turn the page. I guess it’s rustic or something, but it’s not for me.
The best physically shaped book that I’ve read lately is My Soul Looks Back by Jessica B. Harris. The pages are the same size, the font is good. The page-color contrast is cool. It was easy to hold and easy prose to read.
This probably sounds like I’m being picky. But when you’re holding a book for hours at a time, it’s natural to start thinking about what’s in your hands. I would never just give up on a good book because of its shape, but I will fake-complain about it.