Hardbacks are not better than Paperbacks, so why do we pay more?

One of the things that really irks me about book prices is the disparity between Hardbacks and Trade Paperbacks. A Hardback is usually $49.95 and a Trade Paperback is $32.95 but this can vary for non fiction. On the surface you could justify this by saying that the hardcover is a better quality publication and will last longer than its Trade Paperback counterpart but this is no longer the case. And the Australian invention of the Trade Paperback is to blame.

The traditional model of publishing has always been Hardcover first followed a year later by a Paperback (either a A-format or B-format). In the past these two editions were more often than not published by two completely different publishers. However this publishing model has been tested over the last 20 years and now with eBooks formats have been turned on their heads.

To encourage more book sales in the Australian market the C-format Trade Paperback was invented. It was a paperback the same size as the hardback but not bound. And the key word here is ‘bound’. What made a hardcover book superior to a paperback was the fact that the pages were bound together and the book lasts longer. Which is not a big deal for a holiday read that may not ever find its way to your bookshelf but if it is your favourite book that you are going to read numerous times you want it to last. Nowadays Hardbacks that are produced in the UK and here are glued to the spine and often the Hardback and Trade Paperback are from the exact same print run (to save costs) yet the price difference for readers between the formats is nearly double.

I love collecting books. But I always make sure to order my favourite books in Hardback from the US because this is the only place now that still binds Hardbacks. If you ever want to check take a look at where the pages meet the spine. If you can see the loops of the pages the book is bound, no loops and it is a glue job (and you can probably see the glue too).

If you are going to pay more for a ‘superior’ edition of a book, make sure it is actually a superior edition first.

One thought on “Hardbacks are not better than Paperbacks, so why do we pay more?

  1. I didn’t know any of that about the binding but it is a useful thing to know. I have to admit that I am not a big fan of hard covers (I read a lot on the train to and from work so its too hard to carry around). I am usually able to wait till the paperback version is available

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