April 27, 2012

Book 101 - Paperback vs Hardback

We all have our preferences when it comes to what kind of book editions we'd rather lay our hands on. Some love hardback editions, others go straight for paperbacks. Reasons are numerous. Maybe you like the sturdier version of a book or possibly the cover art on the paperback is more to your taste. Either way, this is really just a matter of your personal taste.

One of the most obvious differences between a hardcover or softcover book is, you may have already guessed, the cover! A
hardcover is a book bound with rigid protective covers, typically of cardboard covered with cloth, heavy paper, or sometimes leather. They may have flexible sewn spines although in recent times hardcover books may also have glued spines. Hardcover books are usually more expensive then their paperback counterparts, but they are usually of a more durable quality too.

Copyright by Joe Abercrombie

A paperback is characterized by a thick paper or paperboard cover and often held together with glue rather than stitches or staples. Today we have two major forms of paperbacks - mass-market paperbacks and trade paperbacks.
A mass-market paperback is a small format, commonly released after the hardback edition, and in addition to bookshops, it can often be found in non-traditional bookselling locations such as airports or supermarkets too.
A trade paperback has a larger format than the mass-market one. If it is a softcover edition of a previous hardcover edition, the text pages are normally identical to the text pages in the hardcover edition and the book is also the same size as the hardcover edition. The quality of the paper is usually higher than that of a mass-market paperback.

Trade paperbacks are typically priced less than hardcover books and higher than mass-market paperbacks. Interesting tidbit - virtually all ARCs sent for promotional and review purposes are issued in trade paperback format. As I've only received finished copies for review so far I can't tell if this is true, but if anyone knows more about this please let me know!

If you think the hardcover comes first in publishing new books, guess again. These days many titles have their first editions in paperback and never receive a hardcover printing. Paperback editions of books are often the preferred choice when a publisher decides to release a book in a low-cost format, especially with new authors or when a book is not expected to be a major seller where the publisher is reluctant to make a large investment.

Personally I love the look of hardcovers, but not the price. And when it comes to paperbacks, I've honestly never given the difference between mass-market and trade format much thought. To me it's the content that counts, but admittedly, having a series with one book "standing out" because it's the wrong format isn't making me all that happy either.

What are your preferences? Hardback or paperback? Mass-market or trade? Or are your buying decisions guided by different aspects such as book covers or price?


  1. Great post! I tend to use my Kindle and my public library for most books that I read. I take whatever my library gives me (usually paperback) and if I end up loving the book then I will buy a hardcover copy (if it's available) for my own personal collection. They tend to look nicer on a shelf and they are more durable to the elements. Also, there's nothing like the sound of cracking open a hardcover book for the first time. Who knew that such a simple, little sound could bring so many people such comfort?

  2. I always go with a hardcover, despite the huge price, when the book is by one of my favorite writers. In this case, I cannot wait months and months for just a few euros less. In other cases, when I am interested in discovering the story or a new author, I go with the cheapest version because I am not a millionaire :))

  3. Trade paperbacks all the way. That's part of why I adore ARCs: they're trade paperbacks. I mean, they're free, which is cool, too, but it's also largely about the format.

    Hardback is heavy, ungainly and obnoxious. Why obnoxious? DUST JACKETS ARE THE WORST. I think I might like hardbacks more if we went back to the olden days and didn't put dust jackets on the books. I can't stand reading a book with a dust jacket on it, unless it's from the library and taped in place. I always take them off. Sometimes they get damaged while I'm reading the book. Ugh!

    Most people do the same thing, as in remove the dust jacket before reading. If everyone hates them, why do they still exist?

    I will say this for hardbacks though: they're less easy to damage.

  4. I don't care. I mainly buy used books or swap used books and buy/get whatever is available at a reasonable price in reasonable condition.
    When I buy new books I go for paperback as hardback is difficult to handle (my First man in Rome 900 page tome is hardback and a pain in the a**).

    1. I feel your pain! Even reading those tomes for the Tea & Books Reading Challenge in paperback format is a pain *rolls eyes*.

  5. I prefer hard covers because they look better in the bookcase.

  6. I agree with you about mixing hardcovers and paperbacks in a series! I can't stand that on my own shelves, haha. I tend to prefer paperbacks in general partly because they're cheaper and partly because I don't have to deal with a book jacket.

    I don't like to leave the jacket on when I'm reading a hardcover, because I don't want it getting messed up, but I don't like reading a naked book either, lol, because then I feel like I'm reading books at a model home or something. XD

  7. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this topic!
    I found it interesting that some of you mentioned those dust jackets to which I admittedly haven't given much thought yet. Personally I do not take them off, then again I don't read all that many hardbacks and if I do I handle them so very carefully (actually I do this with all my books, unless they are used then they will take a beating from me too).

  8. Hardcover all the way!! I actually think they're easier to handle than paperbacks. They sit nicely in my lap and stay open much more easily than paperbacks. Paperbacks I always have to hold open but sometimes hardcovers will stay open (or at least mostly open) when you lay them down.

    I also just prefer the sturdiness and feel of hardbacks. I love physical books and I love collecting and hardcovers just feel.. epic.. They feel serious. They feel like a quality book.

    I think the price (at least on Amazon) has gotten a lot better in recent years. Like $17.99 or so used to be a pretty standard price but now I usually see them at around $10. That's not too bad. Or if it's an older book, you can buy a used hardback for a decent price. Like I recently bought one for about $1 and it was in pristine condition.

    1. Used hardcovers are great! Even if the dust jacket looks the part, the book itself usually stays in good condition especially compared to paperbacks which can often look horrifying after just one read - and I hate creased spines *shudders*.

  9. Awesome post, Birgit! Thanks for enlightening me, because although I've always seen different-sized paperbacks, I never really knew the difference between trade and mass-market. So I learned something!

    Before I really got into book blogging, I was always waiting for paperbacks to come out because they are cheaper. But after book blogging, I find myself buying more hardcover books (and Kindle books of course). It's so nice to display the covers and they don't bend like paperbacks. But I still get paperbacks sometimes, whether in ARCs or because I already started buying a series in that format.

    1. Trust me, I'm learning something new through my own posts as well! Like the part about trade and mass-market formats - I had no clue before doing a little research.

      I'm sticking to paperbacks, I must admit. Every time a hardcover rolls in you can rest assured I've not bought it myself, but won it somewhere, hahaha!