Monday, November 19, 2007

The End of Hardbacks?


I love books. I think that much is rather obvious when you read this blog. And I'm going out on a limb here, but I'd like to assume if you ARE reading this blog, you love books too! And I covet my hardbacks. All my favorite books I buy in hardback. I have all of Stephen King's books in hardback. Same with my Harry Potter's, Anne Rice, Jodi Picoult, and a few others that I plan to keep. I like the feel of them. I love the look of them. I even like the smell of them.

But I also have a bit of a money crisis at the moment. And while I do buy some books in hardback, most of the time I wait for the paperback version to be released. It's not that I like them better. Just cheaper. (Although I do prefer Trade Paperback to mass market paperbacks. Even those new bigger mass markets.)

But today, I read an article in The Guardian called "Publisher's Plan Could Spell the End of the Literary Hardback". It seems that Picador Books, an imprint of Pan MacMillan, will be launching all their new books in paperback. Some of the authors that publish with Picador are Helen Fielding, Don DeLillo and Cormac McCarthy.

"The decision to scrap the system of selling a hardback a year before releasing the paperback has created waves in the publishing world, and is seen by some as the beginning of the end of the format in literary fiction."


The reason? Why the all-mighty dollar, of course. It seems that unless there is a "guaranteed profitable hardback market", then all books that are launched will now be in paperback format, and Picador is estimating that at least 80% of books will be released this way.

"Hardback then paperback has been the model for 60 years," said Dan Franklin, the veteran publisher at Jonathan Cape. "I would be worried about the call to Cormac McCarthy to tell him he's going straight into mass-market paperback. I think he'd say no thanks."

I think a lot of authors would agree with that assessment. At least many veteran writers. To me, I think it's an honor to have your book published in hardback. I know a lot of authors start out with their books published in paperback. It's easier to hit the markets that way. For example, Jim Butcher's Dresden Files series started out in mass market paperbacks. When they became a hit, the later books were released in hardback. And now they are going back and publishing his first books in hardback. It's a sign that he is doing well.

Like I said earlier, I have money issues. That is my reason for waiting for many books to come out in paperback. I treat myself to the occasional hardback. And I love them! In this digital world we live in, many people think books are obsolete anyway. Of course, those people aren't really book people. They just don't understand the love I have for my books. And I think that is sad. To feel the cover in your hands, and how your fingers brush over the pages as you are reading. I would never trade that for an e-reader.

What about you? Do you think this would be a good thing or a bad thing? I'm curious to find out.

27 comments:

Chris said...

I think this would be horrible! I'm like you..there are certain authors that I just have to have their books in hardback. I can't imagine having to buy an Orson Scott Card or Neil Gaiman back in a mass market paperback version. Well, I should say, I can't imagine that being my only option. I think that would be a really bad move on the publishers part and they would be getting PLENTY of hate mail if they end up going forth with that decision. Be nice to us bibliophiles!!!

Matt said...

I definitely understand the appeal of hardbacks, but like you I buy almost all of my books in paperback (usually trade paperback) and will wait for a book to come out in paperback before buying. So in that aspect I actually welcome it, because then I would be able to buy books as soon as they're released. But it does seem a like books lose something if they don't go through the traditional hardcover to paperback process.

Stephanie said...

I'm with you!! The article did say they were considering a limited number of hardbacks, to be released in like a "collector's edition". That means they will be about twice the price of an average hardback.

I think it's a terrible idea. Hopefully, we aren't alone!

Stephanie said...

Matt - Oh, I do understand the appeal. I guess my biggest concern is that the publishing companies aren't really thinking about the authors....or the readers. They are concerned with making their money quicker. Just doesn't seem right.

Chris said...

Hardcovers are crazy expensive (especially here in Canada) but I prefer to buy hardcover when I find them on sale. I wonder at the environmental impact of all paperbacks as well.

Yesterday I had a related experience. I bought CDs during a closing out sale of the last Canadian music store franchise. I bet the reason is the internet and downloading. I buy a lot of my music online but like the occasional CD (I like all my Christmas music on CD

I wonder if that where we're headed with books. But the new Amazon Kindle is $400! I could buy a lot of books- hardcover or no for that!

heather (errantdreams) said...

I just can't afford to buy the books I want in hardback, and hate that just because I don't have that kind of money I'm made to wait to read a book that I want to read. I also find it much easier to take books around with me to read if they're paperback, and the lesser weight of a paperback is MUCH easier on my hands since I have tendonitis. So personally, I really wouldn't miss most hardbacks.

That said, I like hardback for specific purposes---such as cookbooks, which lie flat more easily if they're hardback. I like them for books I'll reference often, because they'll stand up better to time and use. But fiction? I've never had much of a use for hardback fiction. (I know, that'll make me a pariah in this discussion, but then I have a habit of breaking with tradition. ;)

jenclair said...

I prefer hardbacks. Even if I buy plenty of paperbacks, I want my library books in hardback version!

However, it is obvious that many people prefer paperbacks for several reasons, including portability.

iliana said...

I love hardbacks but to be honest I actually prefer to read trade paperbacks. They are just easier to handle. Not to mention being that I buy a lot of books, hardbacks are just too pricey.

But, I don't like this idea of hardly any hardbacks. Can you imagine how the authors must feel?

kookiejar said...

I think they are going to see this plan fail in the long run and change back. Hardbacks are treasures and book people know that.

Marg said...

It is pretty rare for books to come out in Hardback here. There are a few, but most books come out initially in Trade Paperback and then in mass market paperback.

Nymeth said...

This is an interesting question. I hardly ever buy hardbacks because I simply can't afford them. I do like them, though, and if I had unlimited money I would buy my favourite books in hardback for sure. But I'd probably keep a paperback copy around too, because I always have a book with me wherever I go, and hardbacks are a pain to carry.

I don't think they should stop publishing books in hardback. Maybe the solution is to reduce their numbers (but NOT double the price!) and have paperbacks available at the same time instead of a year later. It does upset me to have to wait so long for books to be available in paperback.

Amy said...

I love hardbacks for my favorites but, like you, I had to come to the realization a long time ago that I can rarely afford them. I also like paperbacks for portability.
Generally speaking, I will check a book out from the library if I can't wait for paperback and if it's all I hoped it would be then I will wait and buy it in paperback.

P.S. - my "pages" are just links to backdated posts and I'm glad you like me enough to change my page. :)

Dewey said...

I mostly read trade paperbacks because I have chronic shoulder/neck pain, and holding up a big hardcover for a long time can become painful. But I do usually buy special books, especially gifts for others in hardcover. I guess I just don't want the hardcover option taken away, don't want hardcovers to become rare. What about libraries? If a hundred people are going to check out a book in the first year or two, they need it to be a sturdy hardcover. I hope Kookiejar is right, and this will be a temporary fad.

Stephanie said...

Chris - I like Hardbacks, and other than a select few, I do try to find them on sale!! CD's are the same way. I do download a lot of music, mostly a song or two per artist. If I want the whole cd, I will buy it instead of downloading it.

Heather - Cookbooks definitely have to be hardback. They just aren't sturdy enough for me otherwise!!


Jenclair - I do like the fact that library books are hardback. The softcovers just don't hold up all that well under a lot of readings!

iliana - I usually keep a paperback in my bag, because hardbacks are just too heavy. I love the feel, but they do tend to be a bit bulky.

Kookie - I love that you said Hardbacks are treasures!! That's exactly how I feel. It's always such a treat to get one of my own!

Marg - I didn't realize that most books in Australia were softback!! Learn something new everyday!!

Nymeth - That would be great, wouldn't it? Both available at the same time! I do agree that it is crazy to ask double the price!

Amy - I do like you!! I was just laughing because you keep changing your address!!

Dewey - You are right. Paperbacks just don't stand the wear from libraries. Even some of the hardbacks I've checked out are a bit worn. It's amazing how some people treat library books so poorly sometimes!

Sam Houston said...

I absolutely hate this idea. Harbacks make up more than 90% of my personal collection and I usually don't keep the paperback versions as a permanent part of my collection unless it is too late or too expensive for me to go back and find a nice hardcover version of the book.

I almost never pay list price for hardcovers, using my Barnes & Noble discount card/credit card combination to maximize my savings. For instance, I just bought a copy of the new translation of War & Peace, list price $37 for less than $14 by parlaying several discounts.

I buy new hardbacks from used bookstores at a fraction of their list price, etc. and even the chain stores often offer hardbacks cheaper than their trade paperback edition.

I hate the idea...

Stephanie said...

Sam - I hate it too. Even when I do buy hardbacks, I use the discounts as much as possible. And places on-line like bookscloseouts has hardbacks really cheap. I think it's a horrible idea!

tanabata said...

I love the look and feel of hardbacks but I usually try to wait for the paperbacks since they're cheaper, smaller (I have no bookshelf space) and portable. I like the idea of not having to wait a year for the pb but I don't think doing away with hardbacks altogether is good either. Hmmm. I'm of 2 minds on this.

Literary Feline said...

I admit that I prefer trade paperbacks when it comes right down to it. I like the size and the look of them. I sometimes will buy hardbacks if they are at discount or are by an author who I have patience to wait to read in paperback. Oh, and I sometimes buy the book club books which aren't quite the same quality as the "regular" hardbacks.

I really don't have as strong opinion one way or the other when it comes to hardbacks. They are expensive, can be heavy to hold, and do not always make for easy toting around. They look nice on a shelf and they are sturdier, of course.

I think that it's only natural that publishers are looking at their options for turning a profit. They want to stay in business so they can continue publishing books we want to read (okay, so that's what I like to think they want--and not that it's all about the money, which it probably very well is.).

Just the same, I would hate to see hardbacks disappear--and I wouldn't want to take the joy and pleasure out of owning and reading them from anyone.

I think you make a good point about the right of passage from paperback to hardback. I remember one author writing in a newsletter how excited she was to be in hardback, but admitting she knew her fans would probably be disappointed at having to buy a more expensive book.

Anyhow, I've rambled on enough. :-)

Melody said...

Interesting questions, Stephanie. Usually I will go for paperbacks, because they are cheaper (of course!) and easier to carry. I spend a fair amount of time reading while traveling to and from work (about 45 mins to an hour) so I definitely don't want to increase my load by carrying a hardback.

However, there are times that I will buy a hardback when it happens to be my favourite authors, or when I find the book very interesting and can't stand the time waiting for the paperbacks to release probably a year later. And in this case, I read the hardback at home, hehe.

Despite this, I don't want the hardbacks to be taken off the shelves though because I think they make a nice collection. Just my 2 cents. ;)

DesLily said...

I sure can't imagine no hardback books! This past year I've had to buy most my books as hardbacks or trade paperbacks due to floaters in my one eye and a tiny blind spot in the other.. the print in them is a little larger (though i don't need "LARGE PRINT" books) and generally double spaced sentences which makes the world of difference for me to read.
But even without that problem I always bought my favorite authors in hardback, knowing I'd reread them many times. The mass paperbacks start to brown and get brittle much faster than a hardback!

As for convience (such as traveling) I think the new "digital book" thing will be good! That would be much easier to travel with than heavy books! But I will wait until you can get the books you want for those things instead of only what they offer! (having noticed already that there are few..very few.. fantasy books in their selections!)

Tink said...

Oh no! I love hardbacks, they have to stay! They are special to me and to many others as I read here.

Amy said...

Stephanie- I understand...I was just teasing too. ;)
It's hard to convey sense of humor online but I got what you meant. Sorry if I came across offended...I totally WASN'T!

Lisa said...

I rarely buy paperbacks if I can still get the book in hardback. I would absolutely hate this!!

John Mutford said...

I can understand why some people would be upset. I'm not though. I'm not a collector and also find the hardbacks too expensive. Plus paperbacks are more comfy in my hands.

Susan said...

I haven't been able to afford hard covers for years, almost all my books bought are softcover. That said, if I really like an author,then I will get the books as soon as they are published. Looking on my shelves, I see a few hardcovers, but almost all have been bought used (so cheaper)or were gifts to me. I've always thought that for the price of a hardcover I could buy 3 paperbacks (here in Canada anyway!).
I have worked in bookstores here, and it is usually fiction books that come out in hard cover as the author gets more well-known. Many non-fiction books start out as hardcovers first.
I too find hardcovers too heavy most of the time, so I prefer softcovers for weight and ease of transporting.
In terms of lasting quality, though, the hardcover lasts far longer than softcovers. So if i can find it cheap, then I grab it.
Like you, I love books. I love the feel of the paper, the opening of the book to the first page and all that promise that a book holds when I first pick it up. I love stories, and I love reading. I think books are one of our most amazing inventions! So long as they are being published, whether softcover or hardcover, the important thing is that books are being published and that the author is paid equally (if hardcovers are stopped) well for the paperbacks adn publishers don't pocket the difference/savings by not publishing the hardcovers.

Erin said...

I'm not sure what to think on it. I prefer paperbacks to read but I know a lot of people collect hardbacks. Also, does this affect the author's profit in a bad or good way? I'd have to think about it (still waking up, it's sad how slowly my brain catches up)

Trish said...

Very interesting. I prefer hardbacks as well, but rarely purchase them because the paperback is obviously more pocket friendly. But when I bargain shop, I ALWAYS go for the hardbacks before paperbacks. Hmmm...what is the world coming to?