Do you prefer hardcover, softcover, or electronic books? What are the benefits of your preference?
Why not both (or all 3?)
I really love the feel of a sturdy, hardcover RPG. It’s a wonderful, tactile experience from when the book is brand new all the way until it’s been worn down and time and play. I still have my original AD&D 2nd Edition Player’s Handbook from when I was 8-years-old. It’s falling apart, dog-eared, and neigh unusable at this point. Yet every time I pull it out and flip through it’s pages I can remember all the great games it served me through. On the other hand, I have a Collector’s Edition Vampire: The Masquerade with a leatherette cover that I never used for gaming, but kept on my shelf because it looked so cool. It’s in great condition still, even though it’s a box in the basement now.
Softcovers are great for their portability, (literal) flexibility, and cost. There’s also the fact that some RPGs just don’t come in hardcover. My copy of Dungeon World is softcover, and a great size to keep on my nightstand or in my bag when I travel. Back when I co-founded Tremorworks softcover was the only way we could get Sean Boyle’s HDL System books published. The cost was just too high to print hardcover.
My least favorite of the three would be digital. I just have a hard time reading RPGs in a digital format without my head hurting or losing focus. RPGs on the Kindle look and read great, but the hardware is just too slow, and the interface too clunky, to really be useful. Digital RPGs do have one great advantage over physical books, and that’s search. It’s really easy to search a book, or multiple books, and get exactly what you’re looking for quickly.
There’s a place in every gamer’s shelf for all three formats, though I dream of the day where we can have affordable, full-color, 8.5x11 eReaders with amazing speed and controls.