A case for hardbound books: Hardcover or paperback?

After taking a look at digital and print media, let’s discuss books. I have books in all shapes, sizes and genres; hardcover, paperback – some even printouts of e-books with brown-paper covers! They say you should never judge a book by its cover and just because a book is hardbound doesn’t stand to reason that it is better than a paperback. So what’s the difference?

Hardcover books

  • Hardcover books are also known as hardbound or hardback books. The covers are usually stiff – made from cardboard and covered with heavy-duty paper, buckram, cloth or leather. Pages are stitched down and then stuck to the spine of the book. Spines are generally are broad so that when you open the book, both covers lay down flat on the surface it’s on.
  • The aim of the hardcover is to protect the book and give it longevity. The paper used in printing is acid-free, which means the pages are more durable.
  • Hardcover editions are usually released first, followed by a paperback edition of the book after an interval. Hardbacks are slightly more expensive as higher quality material goes into their production. People who buy the ‘original’ mostly tend to be collectors and ardent admirers of a particular writer’s works.
  • So, for most intents and purposes, hardbound books are published to one day end up as a collector’s item. That is why most hardcover books have sleeves – known as dust jackets – that that slip over the covers. I have noticed some publishers have now done away with these protective covers and print the book design directly on to the cover.

Paperback books

  • Paperback, softcover or softback books have covers made of thick, card-boardish yet flexible paper. Pages are glued together and stuck to the spine. This causes them loosen up if you open the book too wide while reading, which isn’t a pretty sight. The covers crinkle easily, dog-ear involuntarily and the book bends out of shape easily. But for publishing companies, it makes sense to print paperbacks as they are cheaper and more accessible to the masses.
  • Most paperback editions are released between 6 months to a year after its hardcover counterparts to push sales. Sometimes, books are printed right off the bat as a paperback; especially new writers, or if the story is good enough to sell but isn’t expected to rocket up the best-seller charts.
  • Mass-market pocket-size paperbacks like the ones you find at airports are printed on inferior paper that yellows and becomes brittle over time.
  • Sometimes, a softcover book will be the same size, have the same pagination, font size and so on as its hardbound edition. These are ‘trade paperbacks’ or ‘tradepaper editions’ and are printed on better quality paper than mass-market ones.

Nowadays, there really isn’t any difference between hardcover and softcover books, at least not content-wise. The only difference is quality and price. I have paperbacks – some of the best books come in that form but I just prefer hardbound ones for the sense of continuity they give you, of preserving beautiful words for posterity, especially the classics.

 

 

 

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