Hardcover vs Paperback, Which’s Right for You?

Do you wonder which binding style is right for your book between hardcover and paperback book publishing? If you have decided to self-publishing a book, this blog will be helpful as it looks at the difference between hardcover vs. paperback books. 

The prestigious hardcover was born to protect a book’s beautiful pages and the valuable words it stored.  However, printing technological advances, economic pressures, and readers’ lifestyles saw the invention of the notorious paperback in 1935. Its lightweight, cheerful nature and affordable price gave it immediate fame in the book publishing and printing world. 

You may wonder why these two types, and not just one, when, clearly, the paperback is the winner. Well, while there are some significant differences between paperback vs. hardcover books, both formats are available because of different editions and readers’ preferences. 

What is a Paperback Book?

Paperback book is also known as softcover or perfect bound. These books’ covers are softer than hard bounds and are typically made from thick paper stock or paperboard. The books are held together with strong glue. 

A close companion to paperback book covers is magazines’, where one side of the cover contains text and the other side show an image or illustration. 

People prefer paperbacks because they are cheaper and lighter than hardcover. Compared to a $25 hardcover book, a paperback book costs only about $5 to $10.

What is a Hardcover Book?

A hardcover is a classic book cover, also known as a hardbound book. Cardboard, cloth, leather, wood, or any other stiff, durable material is used to make the book cover. The pages are reinforced by sewing them into the spine to ensure they lay flat when the book is opened. The title, subtitle, and author name are often imprinted on the cloth or leather binding, while the book comes wrapped in a dustjacket (a flap in front of the book). 

Hardcover books are considered powerful and prestigious, as well as look nice and professional. Hence, they are often used for gifting and reserved for rare books, bestsellers, or special editions. Besides, hardcover binding is durable than paperback’s easy-to-tear pages. 

While you are at this, do read the difference between self-publishing and traditional publishing and which one is better for you.

What is the Difference Between Hardcover vs Paperback

Price is one of many significant differences between both binding styles. Paper quality, ease of use, durability, design, genre, and size also determine the value of the book formats in book publishing. 

Genre: Non-Fiction and Special Editions are Printed in Hardcover

Genre is one of the most significant deciding factors for book publishing format. If you are planning to self-publish a book or print a book in the following genres, a hardcover would be an ideal choice:

  • Coffee table books
  • Picture books
  • Wedding albums
  • Art and fashion books 
  • First editions
  • Timeless classics, such as Shakespeare 
  • Business and cookbooks 
  • Poems 
  • Memoirs, autobiographies, & biographies

Subjects or genres with changing information, such as education, science, politics, technology, health, travel, etc., are generally published in paperback or eBook formats so that new releases are sold quickly. 

Moreover, to stay competitive, young artists, new authors, and romance fiction writers are self-publishing their books in paperback to attract niche readers with a lower price point. 

Great Read: 5 Free Helpful Tools You Must Use When Self-Publishing a Book

Cost to Author: Printing Cost is Expensive for Hardcovers

If you are on a tight budget, you might want to stick to paperback and eBook publishing. You’d get more books for your money this way. 

That said, if you publish your book in hardcover, the paybacks and royalties will be better because the retail cost is generally 2X to 3X higher than the difference in printing cost. Meaning hardcover books’ printing cost is 25% more than paperback, but the consumer cost is 100% more. 

Hardcover is a better book publishing option if your readers will most likely buy your book regardless of the MRP or if you have a direct sales opportunity. 

Cost to Consumer: Hardcovers are Expensive

The retail price is one of the most important deciders for self-publishing authors. After all, the story inside the book is just the same. 

Paperbacks usually are half the price of hardcover books. 

While most avid readers prefer softcovers or paperbacks because they buy books in bulk, there are many readers who prefer hardcovers for their look, style, and sturdiness. Many people choose hardcover because they like collecting bestsellers and classics. 

So, if you self-publish a book once in a year and have a huge fan following, we suggest paperback. 

If the competition in your genre is quite massive, we suggest paperback again. 

But if you are printing something exclusive, like a limited edition or a collection of wildlife photographs you shot in Kabini National Park, then a hardcover would be perfect. 

Durability: Hardcovers are More Durable 

The sturdy cover makes hardcover books more durable and professional than paperbacks. They can stand tall on their own without any support and look nicer on bookshelves. 

As the paperboard usually overlaps the inside of the pages, it increases the shelf-life of the hardbound books. Besides, the dustjackets that come with most hardcover books keep them in good condition for generations. 

On the other hand, cheerful, compact, and light paperback books are flexible, easy to bend, and easier to travel with. They also take up less space on your shelf or carrier. 

However, since the pages of paperbacks are glued together instead of sewn, they tend to come loose over time, reducing their shelf-life. 

Now it would be clear why Encyclopaedias are published in hardcover and Nancy Drew in paperback.  

Page Quality: Paperbacks are Made with Lighter Pages 

Since hardcover books are printed to last for an era, the quality of pages is far better than paperback books. If maintained well, a hardcover can last for centuries. 

So, if your goal is to self-publish a memoir, family heirloom, wedding album, photograph book, or wish to leave a legacy behind through your book, choose a hardcover format. 

Paperback vs. Hardcover; Which is Better for Book Publishing?

When it comes to choosing between hardcover vs. paperback, the choice must depend upon your book publishing goals, appeal, and timing. 

If your goal is to work with a traditional book publisher, we suggest releasing your book in hardcover format. 

As sales boosts, you can give another publisher the rights to the sales of your paperback version.  

Because in the end, we must admit that a paperback simply can’t match the charisma and appeal that hardcovers have. 

If you know that readers would want to read and buy what you have written, regardless of how you price it, a hardcover is a great choice. 

Why Timing is Important?

Traditional book publishers capitalize on hardcover book sales by releasing them exclusively to the market a couple of months before the paperback version is out.

This is a general strategy for popular titles or authors. So, readers who are keen on reading the title will have no option except for purchasing the expensive hardcover. 

Once the initial sales rush dies, the paperback version is released to the market. 

Why Appeal is Important?

The appeal of your book cover is directly linked to your audience – what they expect from your book and how they use it. 

For instance, if you self-publish a book in the paperback version for an elite reader club that prefers the sophisticated hardcover, the paperback would look cheap and unsophisticated. 

In contrast, a hardcover in a teenage world will seem expensive and unnecessary. Keeping a tab on your competitor will give you better clarity on your book publishing priority. 

Can You Self-Publish a Book in Hardcover Format? 


However, unfortunately, self-publishing a book in hardcover is a challenge as only a select few self-publishing platforms print hardcovers, and their minimum book quantity often exceeds the author’s maximum requirement. 

So only if you have access to an expert self-publishing platform must you carefully set your hardcover book publishing plan. 

While we cannot decide the best choice between hardcover vs. paperback for you, what we can do is make sure you have a variety of book publishing choices. 

Writat offers self-publishing, traditional publishing, and part self + part customized publishing services in all three book formats – hardcover, paperback, and ebook. Contact our publishing consultant to set up your self-publishing plan. Click on this link.

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