Deciding whether you should purchase paperback or hardcover books is mostly a matter of preference and budget. The hardcover vs. paperback dilemma really is a personal choice to settle. However, there are several pros and cons to both hardcover and paperback books, and you should be aware of them before you dedicate yourself to either the hardcover version or paperback version of a book.
If you’re a writer and have just finished your book, you may also have to confront the hardcover vs. paperback dilemma when it comes to publishing your book. While paperback editions are typically cheaper to produce, you may want to choose a hardcover book for the dust jacket option, the durability, or the sense of status that hardcover books seem to have. It’s not an easy decision or one you should rush into without a lot of information about each option.
This article will cover the pros and cons of hardcover and paperback books. It will also explain the costs and processes associated with publishing a paperback book or a hardcover book.
Paperback vs. Hardcover
To make an informed decision about whether paperback books or hardcover books are a better purchase for you as a reader, you need to know the pros and cons of each. The choice will come down to not just what type of book is better for you, but what kind of reader you are. Keep your own reading preferences in mind while deciding to make the best individual choice.
Paperback books come in all sorts of sizes, usually a year or more after the hardcover book has been released. Paperback books are a favorite of readers who read quickly and don’t plan to reread. Paperback versions of books are also typically the preference of readers who travel.
The Paperback Cover
The paperback version of a book’s first noticeable difference is the book cover. Paperback covers are usually made of durable heavyweight card stock or a paperboard cover, and the binding is glued rather than stitched or stapled. While a paperback book is still plenty durable, it will show its wear and tear more obviously than hardback books do.
The cover art of a paperback copy is also usually different from the hardback edition of a book. It may actually vary in more than one way, as the trade paperbacks and the mass market paperbacks of the same book often have different cover art.
The paperback cover art is often still attractive but less involved and extensive than that of hardback editions. If there is a movie or film adaptation of the book, the paperback form of the book may feature a scene from the film or actors from the film (think Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise on the cover of Stephen King’s IT).
Paperback books are printed on thin paper, comparable to newspaper thickness. A softcover book has a lower quality paper, and the print is usually much smaller than that of hardback copies. This means that durability can be compromised depending upon how rough a person is with a paperback book. The pages can tear or fold more easily.
Your Reading Habits
Do you travel or commute and like to read on the airplane, train, or bus? Do you go on a lot of trips and like to keep a book with you for when you have time to relax? If this is the case, your best bet will be paperbacks. They are lighter weight than a hardcover book, they are smaller and will fit in a purse or bag, and they handle well and are easy on the hands and wrists to hold open while relaxing.
If you are a person who travels, you’ll be able to have plenty of happy reading with a paperback book.
Mass Market Paperback vs. Paperback
There are generally two types of paperback books that are released. There are the trade paperback books that come out once a year or more often after the hardback editions. And then, if the book is produced a third time, you will most likely have a mass-market edition.
A trade paperback is typically at least half the price of a hardcover book, but the mass-market edition is usually even cheaper. The only difference that is really noticeable immediately in these two versions of paperback books is that the trade paperback is generally smaller, fatter and the paper is slightly lower in quality. The cost of mass-market books is lower because they are produced at a lower cost, and they are a great cheaper alternative if you are looking to read a book quickly and then not touch the book again.
Aside from preferences you may have in the cover art or the size of the book (smaller and thicker mass market), the two paperback versions are very similar. You have to wait for a longer period of time for the mass market edition to come out, but the cost difference may make it worth the wait for the reader on the budget. Plus, the less money you spend, the more books you can buy. Generally, mass-market paperbacks are sold in unconventional places, such as airports, newsstands, and grocery stores.
Hardcover books typically come in a standard size. This is attractive and a plus for a book collector, as books of the same size look better on the shelves of a personal library. Collectors also prefer hardback books because they are the only form of first edition fiction available, whereas a paperback book is always a reprint.
Hard Bound Book
Hardcover books often come with a dust jacket decorated with high-quality art. Dust jackets provide many benefits to a collector. First of all, a dust jacket protects against some damage to the book cover itself. It also helps the book to retain value as a first edition. A first edition book without the dust jacket loses most of its value.
Board Book vs. Hardcover
There are a couple of different types of “hard” back books. There is the board book and the hardcover book. A board book is made of paperboard, and it is more durable than even the durable hardcovers you see on novels.
Board books are designed with children in mind. These books have rigid protective covers and are usually glossy books that can withstand the abuse that rambunctious infants and toddlers put their books through. These are the most durable of any other books on the market.
Hardback books have higher quality covers than paperbacks, but they are not indestructible. They are made either by cardboard that is wrapped in a protective material or wrapped in a piece of fabric or cloth, also known as case bound. Hardcovers have a premium look and come at a higher price, but they are much more durable than paperback.
Quality of Print
With rigid and durable covers and spines that are stapled or sewn, you may wonder about the print quality. Hardcover books have a much higher print quality than paperback books. They use thick paper, larger print, and the ink looks darker. This, combined with the thick cover, makes for a book that screams higher quality, and therefore, has an air of sophistication. Avid readers who are also collectors prefer the look of hardcover books on a shelf rather than that of paperback books.
If you are going to purchase a book as a gift for someone, hardcover books are the recommended version to buy. This is because it’s a book characterized by its durability, attractive cover art, and sustainability. Simply put, they make nicer-looking gifts.
However, hardcovers are at least twice the price of most trade paperbacks and can be much higher than that of mass-market paperbacks. If your budget doesn’t allow for the purchase of hardcovers, paperbacks are absolutely acceptable as gifts. After all, it’s the same story within the pages of both.
Your Reading Preferences
If you need a book the moment it’s published, then you should go with hardbacks. If you’re a collector, then the first editions are always hardbacks. Hardbacks are a great choice if you don’t mind the price and have the extra money. If you want to add to your bookshelf and care about how that bookshelf will look, then go with the hardback.
However, if you try to lie in bed and read, you will find that a hardback book just isn’t convenient. If you travel a lot and like to read, you’ll find that hardbacks don’t fit very well in a purse or briefcase.
Self Publishing: Hardcover vs. Paperback
Hardcover and paperback books will both tell your story when you self-publish. So deciding which version should go to printing may be a difficult one.
It is recommended that when you are your own publisher, you start with a hardcover if you can afford it. It is more expensive, but the printing will look more professional and handle better for promotional purposes.
Hardcover books are pricey to print. The pages are thicker; the binding is higher quality, the art is better. All of this costs extra. Self-publishers these days will tell you that the standard practices have shifted since more and more indie authors started to be published. It is now absolutely acceptable for the first released edition of a novel to be softcover.
Another option is to keep the novel out of actual print altogether and offer your work for sale digitally. As your own publisher, you will save money, your audience need only download your work and can read on the go, and you don’t have to worry about deciding if you can afford hardback.
Another option is to offer an audiobook version of your novel or literary work. Many publishers will suggest this to either accompany a print version or to replace a print version. You can even narrate yourself for relatively low costs.