The Heirarchy of Books

Steven Colbert has a new book.  He introduced it while I was watching The Colbert Report last night.  When I saw it, I thought to myself, "I totally want to buy that.  In hardback."

In hardback.  It mattered that I bought it in hardback.  And then I realized, I've assigned a heirarchy to my book collection based on the book's cover.*

I believe books say a lot about their owners.  I believe you can gain a little insight into someone's personality by browsing their bookshelves.  Not only do the titles tell you a little bit about them, but sometimes the form in which they own the book says something, too.  Was it a family heirloom?  Was it a cheap thrift store find?  Was it an unscathed, perfectly clean hardback?  The character of the book can say almost as much as the content.

In my mind, owning a book in hardback is how I show my ultimate love for that book.  I own the last three Harry Potter books in hardback but the first four are in paperback... and it kills me that they're in paperback!  I'd like to have all seven in hardback someday soon.  I'll always keep the paperbacks for sentimental reasons but I won't feel the collection is truly complete until all seven are in hardback.

In my weird little world, the full heirarchy looks like this:

Hardback - Numero uno.  I am proud to own this book.

Hardback or softback - I have no preference as long as it's reasonably priced.

Paperback only - like a cheap-o $4 mystery novel at the airport.

Check it out from the library or borrow from a friend - I want to read it but not enough to spend $ on it or take up space in the apartment with it.

Antique books have a special charm all their own so they can be anywhere in the heirarchy.

The funny thing is, I haven't figured out where e-books fit in all this.  How important is it to have e-books?  And what does it say about me that I don't really have any?

To be honest, I'm kinda skeptical of the whole thing.  I want to hold a book.  I want to flip the page, and maybe dog-ear it to remember something for later.  I want to take it out at a park, then set it down in my lap in between chapters as I soak in the sun.  It's not really the same with an e-book.  I can't get a paper cut from an e-book.  So, are they below library books?  Or above?  Or do I not care whether it's paperback or e-book?  

Do you have a heirarchy in your book collection?  Where would e-books be for you?

*I fully realize this is the nerdiest post I've ever written.  Sometimes you gotta let your inner nerd shine.


  1. no hierarchy here! and i also don't have any ebooks because i don't have a kindle or ipad. and i think if i did i would still buy books.

  2. Hardbacks feel special but I've only paid full price for a hardback once. The rest are all the $6 or under from Barnes & Noble. I do feel like they are extra important looking though. I have ebooks and they don't count for me. I dream of having the above pictured bookshelves in my home someday :)

  3. I love this and I loved working on creating a library of past reads of my own when we lived in Canada. Unfortunately, when we began our journey of moving abroad it became quite clear that I just couldn't continue. We spent 6 months commuting between Houston and our home in Canada and I read A LOT during those months. When it was time to come home, my suitcase was overweight with books. When we found out we were moving to Africa to a country that has no English ties along with no post and no option of buying English books, ebooks were my only option. I've come to terms with it now - it is what it is - and I'm just thankful for the opportunity and ability to keep expanding my library whether it be physical or not.

  4. I personally hate e-books. For me, there's nothing like the smell of a new book, the magic of actually turning the pages. And yes, I realize that was a very nerdy thing to say! But I'm a book-worm. Too bad these I've only had time to read things related to college.

    I don't have a hierarchy. To me, every book is good one! Even the cheap newsstand romance novels.

  5. holy cow, I feel like you stole these words from my brain - we just organized our bookshelves/unpacked nine boxes of books and I was enamored with the organization/feel of how it all went.

    I do have ebooks, but I definitely won't buy certain books as ebooks because I want to "own" them... does that make any sense??

  6. I love this. And your book assessment. I just started reading e-books and frankly they aren't as exciting. I mean the book content is the same, but there's something special about the weight of a book, you know? Also I need Colbert's new book!

  7. You don't sound nerdy at all to me, just like someones who loves books very much, as I do. I don't really have a hierarchy for books, just happy whenever I get a new one, what would life be without them?

    And no e-books for me, I want to feel, smell, touch, take, hold my book as they were always intended to be :-)

  8. I really like this nerd post! For me, there's really no hierarchy. I'll read in any format available. One thing that I do like about e-books (even though most of mine are hard copies) is that the dictionary function is incredibly easy to use

  9. I hear you on the e-book thing...it just seems all sorts of wrong. I view reading a book as holding a tangible object. And you are so right about what books say about their owners...i find it just as much fun to look through other people's bookshelves as I do their photos hanging on the walls :) XO brynn p.s. hardback is reserved for the special books for me, too.

  10. I LOVE books. Not just reading and the stories, but the physical item that is a book. I collect old books and would NEVER sells or throw away a book (that is blasphemy). I want a library someday (a girl can dream). I resisted the e-book thing for a long time because it wasnt a book. However, i finally gave in because of a TV commercial (yes it worked on me) and i have a nook. i love it. i still buy and read mostly "real" books, but hte e-book is GREAT for traveling. If you go away for a week you dont hvae to carry 3 books! here is the link to the awesome commercial that got me hooked.


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  12. While reading this, I got nervous if you were about to start bashing e-books. It's very hard to fit them into the hierarchy of things. However, Kindles allow you to carry thousands of books with you all the time. Which is very nice when you're traveling all the time. It's the worst feeling to get stuck in an airport for several hours and finish whatever book you brought with you.

  13. While I don't have a hierarchy in my own personal library (I tend to actually really prefer paperback no matter what), I do agree with the eBook thing. I like holding books. I really wish they would give an e-copy with every hardback copy people purchased. Then both my Kindle and my bookshelves would be satisfied. ;)



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