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Paperback vs Hardcover

The choice of paperback vs hardcover shouldn’t be decided by a coin flip. Authors pondering the decision have to factor in many details, including the cost that either or will pose to the reader. 

This seemingly simple choice requires forethought and planning, and some of the traditional answers to the paperback vs. hardcover conundrum are changing due to modern reading and purchasing habits. Which is right for your book?

What Is a Paperback Book?

Paperback books, or softcover books, were originally intended as an inexpensive way to keep printing a book after the hardcover version was already on the market for a while. These books are made with a paperboard cover, and pages held to the binding with an adhesive. So they are literally paperbacks. 

The sizes are typically 6 inches by 9 inches or 5 ½ inches by 8 ½ inches. Format paperback, or mass-market paperback, is a style usually reserved for the lowest priced books and are typically romance novels. They’ll have a smaller trim size and feature lower quality, thinner paper for the covers.

What Is a Hardcover Book?

Hardcover books, or hardbound books, have covers made by wrapping cloth around thick, heavy cardboard. These books feature a flexible spine with the pages glued or even sewn in place. 

They’ll usually come with a dust jacket over the outside that features some manner of art or graphic design. Sizes for a book of fiction are usually 6 inches by 9 inches or 8 ½ inches by 11 inches, but specialty or coffee table books are often much larger.

Comparing Paperback and Hardcover

Now that we’ve discussed the physical differences let’s talk about why you would choose one or the other. What is the hardcover readership interested in regarding their reading experience? Why might you choose to publish in paperback instead?

Printing Cost

You probably assume that hardcover books are more expensive to print, and this is true. The associated costs can be up to five times more to print in hardcover vs. paperback. 

Authors can still benefit from printing in hardcover because they can charge much more, assuming their readers will be willing to pay. For art books, coffee table books, and other types that are intended to last and lay flat when opened, hardcovers would be expected.

Cost to Consumer

Because hardcover books are more expensive and those costs are usually passed on to the readers, authors must carefully consider whether they’ll lose sales with hardcover versions. Unless your book is intended to show off high-quality artwork, you’ll probably be better off releasing a cheaper paperback. 


Think about where paperbacks are most useful. They are lighter and fit in bags more easily. Readers generally prefer paperbacks when flying or taking public transportation because of this portability. Hardcover books are meant to live on bookshelves and stay at one location. They are meant to be looked at as much as they are read.


Both paperback and hardcover books have their adherents, and you need to be in tune with your readers’ desires. If your readers are the type to be willing to pay more for a hardcover book that will take a place of honor on their shelves, then it’s worth the added cost for you to print them. 

However, if your readership typically burns through books and is more interested in the content than the wrapper, you’ll serve them better with inexpensive paperbacks. 


Since it’s more expensive to print in hardcover in every way, from manufacturing and shipping to renting retail space, printers generally have higher minimums for authors who are interested in printing in hardcover. 

Many printers won’t even print in hardcover for self-published authors. This restriction means that many authors who want to have a physical release instead of just an eBook turn to paperback printing.


Traditionally, works of fiction would make their debut as a hardcover version first, and later on, a paperback version would hit the market once the hardcover sales started to trail off. However, with the rise of self-publishing and the costs associated with it, many authors choose paperback and paperback only. 

Increasingly so, hardcover versions are retained for classic books that maintain a certain aesthetic or for books that focus on artwork rather than text. If the book contains information that can change or update rapidly, such as science, news, health, or tech, then paperback is more appropriate because new editions will need to be printed more often.

Should I Print on Paperback or Hardcover?

Weigh your options carefully! Printing in hardcover can be more of a gamble if your readership doesn’t appreciate the increased cost. You need to know your readers and understand the market. 

Keep in mind that traditionally a book goes from hardcover to paperback but not the other way around. If a publisher likes the sales of your hardcover book, they might buy the rights to print a paperback version. They won’t do the opposite. 

A Choice that Isn’t Hard: Print Bind Ship

Which will you choose? Paperback or hardcover? Hardcovers last longer, look better, and could lead to a traditional publishing deal, but it’s more expensive to not only produce but to purchase. 

On the flip side, paperbacks are cheaper to make. They are also intended to sell in high volumes, but they just aren’t as attractive or easy on the eyes, nor do they last as long. 

Whichever route you choose to go with, Print Bind Ship can get your books into the hands of customers! We take care of all of the grunt work. From printing and storing to shipping the books, all of those steps are on us. Contact us right away and let Print Bind Ship make your publishing goals happen!


People ask us questions. Here are some of the answers:

Do Readers Prefer Hardcover or Paperback?

It depends on the genre. Art and coffee table books are usually hardcover, while fiction, science, health, or tech books are leaning more towards paperback-only copies.

Why Is Hardback Cheaper than Paperback?

Paperback books are usually smaller and use less raw materials to make. Hardcover books are intended to last longer, so they use hardier, higher-quality materials.

How Long Do Paperbacks Last?

The average paperback book lasts between 10 years and 20 years. Even if they aren’t handled frequently, the glue will inevitably weaken over time, and pages will come loose naturally.