Thursday, October 16, 2014

Why Books Come Out in Hardback Before Paperback (And why digital books are impacting paperback sales but not hardback)

Economist magazine explains:
[T]itles which are expected to sell well are often still printed first in hardback. Known as “windowing”, this sales strategy is also used in the film industry, where titles are released in the cinema several months before being sold on DVD. Like cinema tickets, hardcover books generate more profit per unit than paperbacks. And just as cinephiles like to see films on the big screen, collectors enjoy the hardback's premium quality. “The Narrow Road to the Deep North” has bright red endpapers; others sport embossed covers or come with bookmarks. Hardbacks' durability means they are also popular with libraries. And they hold a certain snob value, too: literary editors traditionally don’t review paperbacks. Once hardback sales have slowed, a paperback edition is released. Printed at a higher volume than the hardback, it usually sells in greater numbers, but at lower margins. Some publishers time their hardback editions to come out just before Christmas, eyeing the gift market, before publishing the paperback edition in time for the summer holidays.

For all the doomsaying about the death of the paper book, it is proving resilient. If anything, the main threat from digital books is to paperbacks. Readers who resist the cost of hardbacks by waiting for paperback editions now have an even cheaper, lighter and more environmentally friendly version, which they don't have to wait for.


  1. I personally prefer reading a book over reading off of my device so for the same reasons that book aficionados like hard covers, soft covers will remain for a long time in my opinion.

    1. I've truly a Luddite when it comes to books. I hate reading on e-readers...I love physical books.

  2. I have a Kindle, which I enjoy because I can carry multiple books at the same time in a "package" that fits in my back pocket. Plus, ebooks are sometimes less expensive.

    However, there's really nothing like handling and reading from an actual book. The feel of the pages and the smell of the paper. I doubt I'll ever move away from reading actual paper books.

    I will add that there is a certain "snob appeal" to a hardback book. Just seems to be a bit...better than the mere paperback (and I read plenty of those too).

    Oh, and one thing you definitely cannot get from ebooks: that distinct smell that old books produce - a kind of musty, dusty smell that book aficionados love.