Hardcovers versus paperbacks

I found this article on whether to go hardcover or paperback for a debut novel dead interesting. It’s a debate that doesn’t happen much in the Oz market where the vast majority of books are paperback orignal.

I prefer reading paperbacks because I find hardcovers are usually too heavy and unwieldy.1 The books I love best I like to have in hardcover (first edition, natch) but I usually have a paperback reading copy as well. Um, yes, I can be a bit compulsive about my fave books. What of it?

How many of you buy hardcovers? How many wait for the paperback? Are there some writers you’ll buy in hc and others you only get in pb?

  1. Though, I confess, I adore little hardbacks. They’re so cute! []


  1. Jon on #

    I used to buy quite a few hardcovers, but not so much anymore. I think the only authors I’ve bought in hardcover recently are John Scalzi and Neal Stephenson. And since I’m having a hard time getting into Anathem (book’s been sitting on the corner of my bed for months & I’ve read less than 100 pages so far), I possibly will not be buying his next book in HC.

  2. beth on #

    I like the feel of hardcovers, and if I can afford it, buy them. But truth be told, I am more willing to take on a new author in paperback than hardcover…so in general, most of my book purchases are paperback.

  3. Amber on #

    I am a cautious book-buyer, so if something is special enough actually to buy it will usually be something still in hardcover – otherwise I would be content with the reading copy or going to the library. Hardcovers on my shelf are Tender Morsels, The Graveyard Book, HTDYF, and some Tim Wintons. Art Slade’s newest book Jolted was a trade pb original, which helped me make the decision to buy it for my New Zealand clan and mail it around the world. (I know; carbon footprint. I promise to plant a tree.) In hardcover the postage would’ve cost more than the book. I had to embargo buying hcs while living in NZ though because they’re over fifty bucks. Hardcovers are best when they come from the library because they are properly used so they will lie flat open on your knees. It is the only way. In that sense hardcovers are better than pbs because they improve with use, like quality old boots you would keep resoling rather than throw out.

  4. Lianne on #

    I try to wait until the book is realeased in paperback but, I usually end up just getting the book anyway!

  5. Diana Peterfreund on #

    I almost never bought hardcovers until I was making enough to be able to afford them. Also, buying a YA in hardcover is usually only a few dollars more than buying a trade paperback, which often retails for $12-14, so I am far more likely to buy YA in hardcover than adult in hardcover, which tends to be $25-27. I probably buy most of my YA books in hardcover, and most of my adult in paperback, but that may also be because the YAs I like tend to come out in hardcover while the adult books I like tend to come out in trade original or mass market.

    I never wait. If i want to read a book, I buy it now. Otherwise, I’ll forget.

    I was actually quite pleased when my adult publisher switched to trade original for me, even though it was bad for my royalty rates. My secret society girl books are much more likely to be read in trade original, like other books of their genre. At $10, they are the kind of book that costs as much as a martini or a movie.

  6. cathy on #

    99% of the time I’ll wait for paperback. My hardcovers are generally birthday or hannukah presents (either for me or for whomever I’m buying a book). However, there are a couple of authors where I won’t wait: Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, Christopher Moore, Jim Butcher (Harry Dresden series) and Liz Williams (the Inspector Chen series). Of course, a fair number of the harcovers I buy are SFBC editions, so they’re close in price to TPBs

  7. Corey J Feldman on #

    If I like the author I don’t usually have the patience to wait for paperback and I enjoy the tactile experience of reading a hardcover more than paperback. This is especially true when it comes to my favorites.

  8. Hillary on #

    I usually prefer to get paperbacks if I haven’t read anything from the author before so I’m not wasting $20 on a book I don’t like. But, if the book is from one of my favorite authors, I’ll definitely buy it in paperback. I also like all my books to match, so if I buy one book by an author in paperback, all the others from that author that I purchase will also be in paperback…unless there’s an even amount so I can half and half it. I’m very picky about my books.

  9. Diana Peterfreund on #

    corey has a good point. when I look at my TBR pile, there are both hardcovers and paperbacks, but I am more likely to pick up and read the hardcovers there.

  10. Annalee Flower Horne on #

    Haven’t read TFA, but as a buyer, I can see the logic in starting new writers out in paperback. I’m more likely to take a $6-12 chance than I am to take a $15-25 chance. I do think it works best with stand-alones or short series, though. I don’t want to start buying a series in paperback only to switch to hardcover halfway through.

    Generally, I buy hardcovers when I’m buying gifts for others, or if I already know an author’s work. Especially if I read their blog, because I want to read it ahead of any potential spoilers that might appear in the blog or comments.

  11. Gillian A on #

    I’m another one who prefers paperbacks (mass market paperbacks for preference) to hardbacks. There are only a very few favourite authors that I can’t wait to buy in paperback. When I do buy these rare hardbacks, they don’t fit properly on my shelves and have to be wedged in on their side or something.

    One thing that interested me in the article was the notion that libraries only buy hard backs. Here in the UK, I’ve noticed that for some years now, more and more fiction books in libraries are in paperback. They are encased in transparent plastic wrappers to preserve them. I’m not a librarian and can’t say how widespread this practice is, but I’ve noticed it in nearly all of the libraries I use / visit.

  12. Gabrielle on #

    I actually like hardcovers because I’m one of those crazy people who obsess over the cleanliness and good condition of their books. I do it out of love, dudes! Anyway, the point is, hardcovers are harder to rip and whatnot.

    When I like an author, and therefore actually wait for their upcoming books, I’ll get them when they come out in hardcover.

    Interestingly, hardcovers don’t really exist in Quebec or in France either. Hmm.

  13. Stephanie Leary on #

    I buy hardcovers if I absolutely cannot wait to read the book, or if I think I’ll reread it often enough that I’d wear out a paperback. As far as the tactile experience goes, I really prefer the big trade paperbacks that flop open and stay that way — they’re so easy to read at the dinner table! I love the portability of pocket paperbacks, but I’ve been battling ocular migraines (!) for the last year or so and I’ve come to appreciate larger print.

  14. sylvia_rachel on #

    I have a limited book-buying budget combined with a policy of buying books to support Friends and Acquaintances Who Are Writers, so … mostly paperbacks. Also I like paperbacks best for reading purposes, because I do most of my reading while in transit from place to place, and paperbacks weigh less. (Usually.)

    Reference books I like to be in hardcover if possible, because that way they stand up better to frequent and not very gentle use.

    And cookbooks can be in any format whatsoever as long as they LIE FLAT WITHOUT MY ASSISTANCE, dagnabbit. Ahem.

  15. lisa on #

    I live in Oz and I’m pretty much 100% paperback. If I have a fav book I don’t buy it in hardback… would rather spend my book money on new books.

  16. capt. cockatiel on #

    Paperback. Hardcovers always have the dust jackets and then what am I supposed to do with that? They are just a hassle. Sometimes if I really want a book when it’s just come out I’ll get the hardcover, I guess, but otherwise… less money = better.
    Other times I wait and see if the paperback has the same art as the hardcover and then choose based on what it looks like… because sometimes the hardcovers are better… (Like I’m sorry, but I am glad I have the hardcover of An Abundance of Katherines…)
    But I do like my books to match up, pb/hc-wise if they go together. Which is why I refuse to buy Kevin Brooks’ newest books unless they’re already out in paperback…

  17. Stefanie on #

    When I’m reading a book for the first time, I try to buy it as a paperback. It’s cheaper and easier to carry around. If it becomes a favorite, then I get the hardcover for my collection. Sometimes I either sell it or give it as a gift.

    I collect sci-fi/fantasy books so if it goes well with my theme and I like it enough then I’ll keep the paperback but still get the hardcover. I only read hardcovers at home though. I accidentally damaged a hardcover book while I was traveling and been to scared to try again since.

  18. David S. on #

    Most of my novels are paperback: they’re cheaper (in Australia a LOT cheaper as our hostess is well aware I’m sure. A$45-60 for a hb novel is insane, A$30-35 for a tpb. is merely nutty, and A$18-23 for a mass mkt pb is pretty fine), take up less space in my bookcases (I rarely dispose of books so they tend to accumulate) and are easier to carry around. If it’s a new author I’ve not read before there’s no way I’d risk that money on a hb. What if I don’t like the book?

    Some exceptions – when the Oz dollar’s up against the greenback so buying hbs through Amazon (incl. postage) comes out cheaper than the tpb price locally. Man, when A$ was at US$0.90+ a few months ago it was hb. heaven!

    Then there’s e-books, I’m buying more and more of them lately – bookshelf space no longer an issue, a library on my iPod touch in my pocket, always. See a review of a book that sounds good? I’ve downloaded it inside ten minutes, no problemo (aside from the fact that not nearly enough current books are available in e-book form and they are often madly over priced). I lurve e-books!

  19. Sabrina on #

    (Buying used books aside…) I love the feel of hardcovers, and the look of them on a shelf, but for cost, space and portability, I tend to go with paperbacks. They’re easier to fit into my backpack and shoulder bags, and I can stack them on top of one another on my bookshelves. If there is a book I desperately want in hardover, I tend to ask for it as a christmas or birthday gift (usually when I am absolutely smitten with the cover, since the paperback versions tend to have a different cover).

  20. hagris on #

    I buy both hardcovers and paperbacks, but i prefer hardcovers even if they’re more expensive. I think hardcovers are better because you don’t “kill” the cover when you read the book. I mean for example I have friend who bought a paperback of Harry potter and the order of the phoenix and when the time they finished it, the cover looked like the book had been forgotten in a wash machine…
    Unfortunately for me, most of YA in France are directly published as paperbacks so I have to buy them like that and it’s very very very frustrating.
    So here’s the conclusion: I buy hardcovers in English (thanks to Amazon <3 ) and buy the same books -this time paperbacks- in French.

  21. AndrewN on #

    I usually wait for the paperback versions, I have a book budget and buying PB allows 3 times as many books. I do however buy most of the YA books in Hardback (yours and Scott’s) because I intend to, and do loan them to teens I know and they come back in better condition.

    I also buy all reference books in HB. If I don’t know if the reference book is good I’ll hunt down a used paperback.

  22. Ted Lemon on #

    I don’t mind YA paperbacks because they’re small and cheap, mostly. For instance I’ve never hesitated to buy your or Scott’s work in hardcover. I didn’t buy the latest YA de Lint book because it was selling for an adult price. I almost never buy an adult fiction hardcover anymore. The main reason is that they take up so much space, not that they cost more.

    The consequence of this is that if a book I want to read immediately is published in hardcover, I will borrow it from someone else and read it, and never buy the paperback (not out of spite – just because I don’t need it anymore). On the other hand, I buy between a half dozen and a dozen paperbacks a month. What slows me down is lack of good new fiction to buy in paperback, not lack of desire to read. So if you want to sell me a book, release it in paperback first, or release it in a small hardcover form (HTDYF was a perfect size) at a trade paperback price.

  23. Hillary! on #

    hmmm…I basically do the same that Hillary does. Bust i can’t half and half it, it’s either all paperback or all hardcover. Like I had to order all of Maureen Johnson’s books because bookstores don’t carry them in hardcover anymore, and because i bought Girl At Sea hc I had to have all her other books hc too. And I’m still waiting for my local Borders to call me about Extras, it was supposed to be out in pb on Saturday, but they haven’t called me yet.

  24. Joey on #

    For a writer whose work I really like, I prefer … galley proof or advance reading copy as soon as it’s printed. Typically, those are trade paperback, so I guess I’ll say “paperback.” LOL!

    Otherwise, it’s first edition hardcover all the way, at least for authors I already enjoy a lot or friends whose work I want to support.

    For new-to-me writers I’ll wait for the paperback, possibly even a used copy. Guess that means I’m giving them significantly less love. Oh, well, they gotta earn it!

    The main exception is if I attend a convention and am interested in what the author has to say, I’d probably get a new pb before a used one (or a new/used hc).

  25. Ashley-wa on #

    i buy both hardcover& paperback. although hardcover is usually more expensive than paperback, but if i really want a book i buy it anyways.

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