Many readers are faced with the choice between a hardcover or softcover book. Additionally, there are paperbacks and the classic pocketbook. With such a wide range of options, making a decision can be quite challenging. The right choice matters not only from the reader’s perspective but also for authors deciding how to market their books. We’ll explain the key differences in terms of binding, manufacturing, and costs.
Softcover vs. Paperback – Key Distinctions
Paperbacks and softcovers are often used interchangeably, yet they have some differences. In English, “paperback” is the term for what Germans typically refer to as pocketbooks, but it means more. The term “paperback” relates to the spine’s composition. Compared to a hardcover’s binding, it’s thinner yet thicker than that of a softcover. When a pocketbook is released as a paperback variant, it is generally of higher quality and often slightly larger in size.
Regardless of the paper’s thickness, a paperback is a classic pocketbook with a softcover. It’s produced using durable adhesive binding. In this process, the book is first glued together, and then a cover is added for additional protection over the spine. This cover, made of slightly thicker paper, gives a more premium impression.
Paperback books are particularly suited for special prints, such as dissertations, family books, or as gifts for friends and family. They are slightly more expensive than traditional softcover books and are less commonly used by authors for their works.
The Softcover Book – Flexible Cover and Printed Sleeve
Pocketbooks are typically softcover books, featuring a printed cover and spine. The production is less expensive than for a hardcover or a paperback, making this format particularly popular. Pocketbooks are smaller than hardcovers, as the name suggests. This format was developed for books that are convenient to carry around and can easily fit “into the pocket.”
The Advantages and Disadvantages of Softcover Books:
The debate over which book variant is better can be subjective. The sturdy cardboard of a softcover book reliably protects the book and makes it look good on a shelf. It’s lighter but can develop reading creases on the spine more quickly. This is due to the thick cardboard that gets repeatedly stressed during reading. Here’s a summary of the pros and cons:
- Cheaper than hardcover books
- Lightweight for easy transportation – Prone to reading creases with frequent use – Less resistant to external factors
The Hardcover Book – Extra Protection with an Additional Cover
Books with hardcovers are the “Ferraris” of the book world. They come with a separate cover that protects the actual book block from damage. Beneath the printed covers, usually featuring the title and artwork, is the actual hardcover made of sturdy cardboard. A unique feature of this binding is that the cover is not connected to the spine of the book. When you look at the top of an open book, you can see the gap. There are primarily two types of bindings used for these books:
- Thread Sewing: Regarded as one of the most stable and high-quality bindings. Sixteen individual pages are sewn together with a single thread and then tied with the other pages of the book. The gap between the spine and cover allows you to turn the pages without damaging the book.
- Adhesive Binding: This simpler method involves gluing the pages of the book to a firm cover. This cover is then wrapped in a printed protective sleeve. Since the book block is directly connected to the cover, reading creases on the spine are possible.
The Advantages and Disadvantages of Hardcover Books:
Holding a hardcover book often gives an immediate impression of quality. Unlike a brochure (another term for a pocketbook), the protective jacket is usually removable, revealing a hard and sturdy cover underneath. One of the primary benefits of hardcovers is their longevity. Unless deliberately damaged, these books are nearly indestructible. When it comes to choosing a binding, thread binding offers the best quality. These hardcover books have maximum stability, with only the cover at risk of damage. If it’s damaged, it can be removed, and the book block still remains protected by its actual cover. Here’s a summary of the pros and cons:
- High-quality craftsmanship and best quality
- Various binding options available
- Well-suited for special editions, gifts, or first editions – Bulkier and heavier than a softcover book – Higher cost in production and purchase
Hardcover or Softcover Comparison – Which Suits My Book Better?
The biggest difference is noticeable in the price of the book. The paperback is often several euros cheaper and is more frequently purchased. If you’re looking to publish a book yourself, you face a tough choice. There’s no clear recommendation, as the decision between hardcover and softcover depends on personal considerations.
If you’re gifting a self-written book or using it as a keepsake, a hardcover is the more prestigious choice. However, if you’re releasing a full edition and selling your books, you benefit from the lower price of a softcover.
Consider the reader’s perspective too. Hardcover books are coveted by collectors who wish to fill their shelves or home libraries with high-quality books. A casual reader of novels might opt for the softcover version, as these books are more flexible to carry, cheaper, and easier to handle.
Publishing a Book in Both Softcover and Hardcover – Is That Possible?
If you can’t decide between hardcover and softcover, offer both options to your readers. To save costs, consider the “Book on Demand” method. Print a copy only when you have actually sold one. This way, you can offer your readers either hardcover books or the more affordable pocketbooks.
Interesting to know: Although the content of the book is identical, hardcover and softcover editions each receive a separate ISBN. However, this applies only if you intend to sell your book. If you’re creating a copy for your family or designing a book for friends, no international standard book number registration is necessary.
Conclusion: Hardcover vs. Softcover
The Decision Is Based on Various Factors Both options have their advantages and disadvantages. You’ll feel the difference when you hold the two types of books in your hands. Although hardcovers are more prestigious (and expensive), pocketbooks are better suited for quick sales. Look at other authors in your genre and see which bindings they offer. To provide the best choice for your readers, simply offer both.