Straight to Paperback

One of my biggest pet peeves are publications that demand an additional online subscription when you’ve already subscribed to the paper version of the magazine or paper. And since some of the publications have proprietary content that isn’t reproduced anywhere else, it’s harder to link to and discuss the details of an article. Grrr. Make me do more work, why don’t you!? Humph. Fine.

In this week’s Crain’s New York Business, there’s an article about publishers releasing books straight to paperback and skipping the hardcover issue in an attempt to “target young, cost-conscious buyers.” The article by Matthew Flamm profiles a few books that likely would have followed the hardback-to-paperback sequence, except that rival publishing houses have had success issuing books straight to paperback:

Though it doesn’t work for every title, and the economics of paperbacks hurt agents and authors, publishers and booksellers see the lower-price format as one way to reach new readers…. First novels, translated fiction, and literary nonfiction have suffered most in a media landscape packed with choices. With a standard hardcover price of $25.00, these books barely stand a chance.


The cons are obvious: there’s less money for the agent and the author, and it’s less of an opportunity for a book to make an impact if it’s only released once, as opposed to twice.

Booksellers, on the other hand, “have wanted publishers to go straight to trade paperback – larger and more elegant than the mass-market paperback format- for years.” They can buy more copies and make more of an effort to promote the author with a larger display of paperpacks for less initial money than a hardback.

Publishers who release new issues in paperback format are also encountering a favorable response from viewers. Seems that Major Reviewers recognize that “serious authors are now being presented” in paperback format, and don’t look at a straight-to-paperback release the same as a movie that skips theatres and goes straight to video.

Meanwhile, authors whose books have been released straight to paperback, trade or otherwise, have reported that at promotional events, their books sell out. Says author Sherman Alexie, “I’ve given two readings and sold out all the copies both times. That doesn’t happen with a hardcover.”

Now, I’m not terribly fond of the trade or the “venti” sized paperback, and since romance is a mostly-paperback format, I don’t bother much with hardcovers. The issue doesn’t affect me much either way, but the business and cost side of the question is fascinating. From my perspective as a reader, hardcovers are a lot of money for someone who chews through books quickly, and for another, they’re difficult and certainly heavy to carry around. But when I see a romance released in hardcover, usually it’s an author with a very well established track record of sales, and an equally well established fan base likely to buy the hardcover. Only on sporadic occasions have I seen an author I’ve never heard of released initially in hardcover.

I’ve also encountered here and there online a sense of mild betrayal and frustration with romance authors who make the jump from paperback to hardcover-then-paperback issue, mostly from fans who want to read the most recent release but can’t shell out the $25 for a book, and have to wait for the paperback. When pressed, though, those same fans have to admit that the increased revenue from a hardcover sale would better support that author they love so much.

As writer Brandon Sanderson wrote back in January, there are simple mathematical reasons to support a favorite author by buying a hardback, though he does acknowledge that it’s hard to be both a salesman and an author at the same time. Sanderson provides a sample breakdown of the costs and payouts of the publishing industry based on his experience, and understands the motivations driving the buyer vs. the motivations driving the writer and the bookseller (especially if those latter two are the same person, as they often are).

Simply put, royalties are often and usually better on a hardcover than on a paperback (obviously). But if the book-buying market is skewing younger and more cost-conscious, as the Crain’s article suggests, then more paperback-only releases are to be expected, because, with the eye on the bottom line, paperbacks cost less all around. I don’t know if this trend will affect romance one way or another, except to make it less likely for romances to be released in hardcover, perhaps, but then, I’m not a publishing professional. So I’m very curious what you publishing-type and writing-type folks think of this information.


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Comments are Closed

  1. Kalen Hughes says:

    I guess I think it’s all to the good if the “establishment” has to rethink the HB = “serious” and “good” and PB = crap ideology that’s been entrenched for sooooo long.

    Personally, I only buy things in HB that I know I’ll read more than once (and the vast majority of books simply don’t qualify).

  2. Sarah Frantz says:

    The thing that’s always amused me is that academic books are almost always released in hardcover, because that’s what libraries prefer and if you’ve only got a print run of 500 copies, and it costs $60+, you’re mostly selling to academic libraries.  You know you’ve “arrived” as an academic when you’re released in paperback for the general anxious graduate student and professor who wants to OWN your book b/c it’s that important.  In romances, you’re generally released in paperback and you know you’ve “arrived” when you’re finally released in hardcover.  So my two book-buying areas are the complete opposite of each other.

    However, I like that my field (Jane Austen) is popular enough with the educated and interested populace that most of the books come out in paperback!

  3. Jennie says:

    If they truly want to go after the “younger and more cost-conscious” people, they’ve got to move to a digital format.  Simply put, it’s how this generation lives. Why buy a complete album when all you want is one song and can get it for .99 at itunes?

    Our library has had huge success with the audiobook digital download program.  You can download it right from your computer & away you go.  Much simpler than borrowing audio CDs from the library.

    I know we’ve had the e-book debate before, but this generation has the potential to be the group that brings e-books further into the mainstream.

    Personally, if an author publishes in hardcover I borrow it from the public library.

  4. Without having read the article, it sounds to me like it’s speaking from a position somewhere in literary/mainstream fiction, rather than genre.  As you say, romance is a mostly paperback market, and over in my territory, it’s a big deal when you get stepped up to a hardcover release.  (Or even trade paper, which will be happening with my third novel next year; that constituted exciting enough news to have me bouncing around the house for a while.)  To have a first novel in hardcover is a big deal over here.

    I’ve read other articles about this phenomenon, though, one which covered Naomi Novik, i.e. took some notice of genre.  While it’s true that the royalty terms for hardcovers are more favorable, they aren’t so favorable that selling three thousand of those is better than selling thirty thousand paperbacks.  The bigger issue is that (mass-market) paperbacks don’t get official notice; most trade publications and reviewers focus on hardcovers and trade papers.  It takes a fairly substantial promotional push, I think, to get that section of the industry to pay attention to a mass-market release.  On the other hand, if you’ve got a commercial enough title on hand, screw the trade publications; accessibility is the better route for you to go.

    In other words, it’s a complicated situation affected by several factors, and so this “trend” isn’t going to be applied wholesale any time soon, but rather to the books for which it makes sense.

  5. Bimbo says:

    As a younger romance reader, I admit when a book of one of my favorite author comes out, I think twice before I buy it.

    I understand that as a romance author, if your books comes out is published in hardcover it means that you’ve finally arrived, but what does that mean for all of us who’s been a loyal fan for years and now can’t really afford their hardcover books?

    To me personally, it feels too much like betrayal. Yes they have ‘arrived’, but that actually means that a considerable amount of people buy the book, right? So why the hardcover? Are they not making enough money already? Seems like highway robery.

    Do I have it twisted, or does the 1st and basic law of economy still stands as such, “Demand goes up, price goes down.”?

  6. Nora Roberts says:

    ~To me personally, it feels too much like betrayal.~

    I hear this from time to time, and can never understand it. Who is betraying you? The book would be available from the library if you can’t afford or don’t want to spend the hardcover price. It will be available in paperback within the year—and very likely available at a used book store well before that.

    How is it a betrayal for an author to want to build her career, maintain it, make her living?

    I publish in hard/soft and in paperback originals. That’s my choice. My career, my life, my living.

    Sorry, hot button for me.

    I’m always baffled, too, when I hear the comment `don’t they make enough money.’ Whatever any author makes is really her business. And isn’t the issue for the reader. The reader reads—buys, borrows, hardcover, paper, trade, new, used. I feel strongly it isn’t my business where the reader obtains the book. I don’t feel betrayed by the reader who borrows the book from the library or their neighbor, or who shops used. Why should the reader feel betrayed when an author moves from paperback originals to hard/soft?

  7. Rosemary says:

    I’m poor, so hardback purchases for my own collection are pretty much a guaranteed “No.”  (Yes, there are exceptions to the rule, but those are few and far between.)

    As a librarian I prefer hardbacks for the simple fact that they are sturdier and can handle circulation better.  And when an author (particularly a romance author) is big enough to warrant a hardback, their are going to be in pretty heavy rotation.

  8. Rosemary says:

    I’ve never viewed being published in hardback as a betrayal.  I’ve never even heard that.  How the are authors betraying you by writing such exemplary stories that people would actually like to purchase them in a sturdier, longer lasting format?

    Am I missing something?

  9. Whitney says:

    It’s not cost, it’s quality.

    Most of my disposable income goes towards books (Gen Y here). Romance wise, I rarely purchase any hardcover novels anymore. It’s not because of the price (though it doesn’t hurt) but many romantic series, by the time they’ve hit hardcover, are so drawn out. Yeesh.

    Like Jennie said, e-books might be fun but I’m waiting for Apple to release an ebook reader. An ebook reader with the organization skills and ease of use of an iPod? Sign me up. Like yesterday. Publishers would have to be committed to capping the prices at $10.00 or something similar as oppose to just pocketing the savings from switching to digital format.

    Why not do as Mark Cuban suggests for the movie industry for the publishing industry? Release all versions –  the paperback, the hardcover, the digital, and the audio – at the same time. Let the buyers decide. I think publishers will find it’s not solely a question of cost. People read books in different ways.

    One quick aside on the logic of iTunes—for me and my friends, it’s not that we’re anti-album. We’re anti bad albums. I like full albums of excellent musicians who’ve taken time to produce an even, gorgeous work. But pop music? Where it’s a new album every 11 months? It’s almost guaranteed to be bad. That’s why there’s ripping of individual songs as oppose to full albums. I’m not sure the music industry ever understood that. If we’re only sold disposable items, of course that’s what we’ll buy.

  10. Nifty says:

    In general, I hate hardbacks and will only buy them from a few authors:  Nora Roberts, Diana Gabaldon, and JK Rowling.  My peeves with hardbacks are numerous:  the cost, the size, the heft of the book, the relative cumbersomeness of it, the dust-jackets.  Heck, even the thickness of the paper drives me nuts.  Barnes & Noble regularly has hardcover books by popular authors in the bargain bins for $5.98—cheaper than a MM paperback—and I won’t buy those, either.  I simply hate hardbacks.  But what annoys me MOST about hardbacks is when an author makes the switch to hardback in the middle of a series.  That always makes me feel a bit abused.

    I would love to see publishers do as someone suggested and release the book in all its formats at the same time and let the reader choose.

  11. Marta Acosta says:

    I’ve never heard the concept that “it’s a betrayal” if the author is published in hardback, which is accepted to be the most respected format.

    I grew up without any money for books, so my feeling has always been that a book is a treat, not that it was owed to me in the way I specified.  I love mass markets because I could buy them used for a few quarters. I went to the library for harbacks or borrowed them from friends.

    I love hardbacks when they are printed on good paper with a clear, attractive font.  The book itself is a thing of beauty.

    I love trade paper because the quality is nicer than mass market, the layout better.

    If I want a book, I’ll buy it in whatever format.  If it’s too expensive in hardback, then I’ll wait for the paperback release.  I am not “owed” anything from the author.  With my favorite authors, I get back far more than the dollars I pay for the works they’ve crafted.

    The downside of getting published in hardback is that those books only have a few weeks on the shelves of bookstores.  If they don’t sell well, they’re gone faster than the paperbacks.

    I am happy to have my novels published in trade paper, and I’ll also be happy when they’re re-released in mass market.

  12. skapusniak says:

    Currently I’m a relatively rich bastard (I hope I have the luck for it to stay that way given my expansive novel buying habits) and furthermore a relatively rich bastard who earns his money in GBP rather USD so stuff—including books—priced in USD is *cheap* at the moment.  However the prime criterion for which format of a book is first ‘How quickly can I get it in my hot little hands?’ _then_ comes price.

    That generally means e-book is preferred, because it arrives at the speed of a few clicks and a download, even when it’s at a hardback price (which they sometimes, a bit oddly, are).  From decision to buy to having the book == a few seconds.

    Hardbacks will give me a bit of a check on price, tho’ I do feel I’m getting value for that higher price, given that they’re slower to arrive in my hands.  They’re definitely more durable than paperbacks and are a nicer object to have, tho’ take up a bunch of space.

    Mass-Market Paperbacks, are a good price, and are a standardised size that works well for me and fits in my hands and on my shelving.  Unfortunately like hardbacks they don’t arrive at the speed of download.  Also one might not be available if there’s a hardback or a trade issue of the title.

    I hate, hate, hate, Trade Paperbacks, and if there is an alternative format, I’ll avoid them.  There appears to be no consistent sizing for the darn things, they cost a big chunk more than a mass market for a quality advantage that’s not enough for me to be interested in—indeed being oversized they make my wrists ache—and they don’t arrive any quicker to me than the other non-electronic formats.

    Die trade paperback, die!

    I guess for me ebook->mmp->hardback——->trade(ugh!)

    Tho’ I think ‘betrayal’ is rather strong,  I think I do know where those who are, shall we say, ‘disappointed’ when they find out that their favorite authors’ next books are going hardback, are coming from.  It’s the ‘How quickly can I get it in my hot little hands?’ question again, only with the budget constraints of not being a comparitively rich bastard.

    The greatly anticipated book has been written, edited, proofed, typeset, copyedited, designed etc. It’s almost existing as an actual artifact in the world.  Yay!  But, oh noes, it’s now announced it’s not going to exist at a price you can afford to pay anytime soon.

    The actually available hardback version, that you *can’t afford*, is therefore just a thing that sits there, cruelly mocking you with the knowledge that it sucks to be modest means of you, for six months to a year whilst you wait for the mass market paperback that they could have just have easily been published instead of the hardback.

    If the hardback and mass market were releases were simultaneous, I don’t think authors would get that sort of reaction.

  13. dl says:

    I buy & read alot of books (5-6 week).  There are very few authors I buy in hardback (I could name them on one hand).  For all the other authors released in hardback, I go to the library.  A really good title I will purchase later in paperback.

    In my opinion, if you want to sell more books and/or get your name out…go for paperback.  Cost IS a consideration for most readers, and if more use the library…less money for author, fewer recomendations from readers, and fewer used books bouncing around attracting new fans.

    I often shop Tuesday mornings for new releases. I arrive with a list & attempt to avoid impulse buying.  For publishers & authors that hope I will purchase their product…make it paperback or you’re SOL.  All new authors, good (not excellent) authors, and previously good authors who might be flaking out…I save my money and hit the library.

    Bye…I’m off to the bookstore.  Kalen, your book is on my watch list, maybe somebody has it out early?

  14. Since people are mentioning hating trade papers, I’ll weigh in on that, and why I was excited to be told they’ll be publishing Midnight Never Come in that format.

    I agree that to me, they often seem like a bad compromise between hardcover and mass-market: not as cheap as the latter, not as durable as the former, and of highly variable size, which makes shelving an irritation.

    On the other hand, when I pitched the idea of Midnight Never Come to my editor, secretly I was thinking that it just didn’t look like a mass-market book in my head.  I can’t explain what I mean by that—it was something more than just a feeling that it deserved the attention bigger formats get—but I kept imagining it as a hardcover, and then telling myself that as such a new author, I was unlikely to see that happen.  So when my editor suggested trade paper, I was gleeful.

    Some people really like trade papers; they’re more “elegant” in cultural terms, and frequently are higher-quality in their physical production than mass-markets are.  Some people really hate them.  Some people don’t care.  I like the fact that it’s frequently SOP in fantasy for trades to be re-released as mass-market, so people who would rather have Midnight Never Come in that format can still have it.  Seems like a good compromise to me.

  15. I see a heck of a lot of hardcovers on the remainder table at bookstores.  I’d rather expose myself (heh) to 100 new paperback readers than sell to ten hardcover readers.  The paperback readers will be more likely to come back for more.

    There was a much ballyhooed hardcover romance debut a few years back.  I bought the book and felt robbed when I finished it.  I had no interest in ever buying a book by this author again.  However, had I read her first novel as a $6.99 paperback I might have said “meh”, but been willing to take a chance on her again.  After all, I was only out $7.00 vs. $25.00.

    SF has dealt with this issue for years, so much so that the prestigious Phillip K. Dick award is given to books whose original format is paper.  I wouldn’t say no to a hardcover run of my books, but I’d just as soon get more paper or ebook copies into the hands of more readers.

  16. Najida says:

    My favorite bookstore is Goodwill 🙂

    If it’s a book for pleasure reading, it’ll probably be in paperback, unless I find a HB at le Goodwill.

    If it’s a book I’ll use a lot—- ie, cookbook, referrence book, teaching tool etc, or something I’ll lend to students, then I go for hardback.

    Like others have said, I can read a book a day, I have other activities and obligations, so cheapest is the way I go.

  17. dl says:

    IMO the bottom line (I would probably flunk marketing)…I consider every time a book is checked out of the library to be a lost opportunity for a sale of the book.  When I check out a new Charlaine Harris, or Jim Butcher release in hardback…I probably would have purchased the book in paperback IF it was available at the time…LOST SALES OPPORTUNITY folks. 

    Those are my known authors, not some newbie I’m checking out like Patrick Rothfuss…it was OK, I will probably read his next book.  But it’s not good enough to purchase in hardback nor good enough to purchase the paperback after I read the library hardback.  On the other hand newbie Rob Thurman was released in paperback, which I bought on impulse the week it was released.  Then waited impatiently an entire year for the second release so I could purchase it immediately.  One author has my money the other doesn’t…go figure.

  18. Wow, dl, we must have been separated at birth!  I’m currently reading Moonshine by Thurman and I’ve got the Rothfuss book on reserve at the library.[g]

  19. Bimbo says:

    Wow, what strong reaction for having a little opinion.

    With all due respect, Ms Roberts, I live in Asia, in a 3rd world country. Our libraries do not carry romance books, nor any popular books for that matter. Books are a luxury. Not many read English, and since English books are really quite expensive, most do not lend them to anyone. I myself don’t. We don’t have many used book stores here. Ones that I’ve visited, doesn’t sell popular books, mostly molding 20-year old ones.

    I’m trying very hard to not let temper run, but how you earn your money is not a reader’s business? How so? Who buys the books? Your living yes, OUR money.

    If there was a choice to buy the paperback and hardcover at the same time, I would gladly take back whatever I said that offended anyone.

    As I read my comment again, I must point out that the whole point of my comment was this line: “What does that mean for all of us who’s been a loyal fan for years and now can’t really afford their hardcover books?”

    Give us a choice which format to buy.

    This is just an opinion from a loyal buyer/reader of romance books, just my honest, very polite expression of an opinion, and I got a lashing from one of the best selling author in romance. My mom is going to squee.

  20. Bimbo says:

    You may not feel betrayed when readers borrow/buy used, but why should we feel vice versa to that? Are we not allowed to be contrary here? To have a different opinion? To be unfortunate enough that we can’t afford most hardcovers, adn saying something about it?

    I still can’t wrap my mind around how I warrant such harsh lashing from THE Nora Roberts.

  21. Kerry says:

    While I don’t see it as a “betrayal” when an author moves to hardcover, it can certainly be a “frustration”.

    For me, much as I wish it was different, it’s all about money (or more accurately, lack of it).  I simply cannot afford to buy hardcovers very often, whether I would like to or not.

    I have two authors I autobuy in hardcover, both to get the book as soon as possible to to match their other hardcovers on my shelf.  (As an aside, there’s no way I’m going to pay hardcover price for an ebook – if I spend that much money, I want something solid and pretty to hold in my hands.)  I have two or three other authors I’ll consider on a book to book basis.

    But if one of my “average” authors moves to hardcover, the cost is going to stop me following her and s/he is going to miss out on a sale to me.

    My current case of this is Christine Feehan.  I cringe to admit it, but I keep buying her Carpathian books.  It’s like a bad, bad, bad addiction where each time I swear that is the last.  Then a new one comes along and I just can’t help myself.  I read it, really enjoy a few bits here and there (usually back story), grimace about significant parts of the rest and swear this is the last time.  Rinse and repeat.

    But she’s gone to hardcover with that series now.  There’s no way I’m spending hardcover money on a bad addiction book.  If my library gets it (New Zealand libraries are starting to get in more US books now, so I might get lucky) then I’ll borrow it and get my fix that way.

    Now usually, if I borrow a hardcover and really like it, I’ll buy the mass market when it comes out, so the author still gets at least some of my money.  But for an average book like this, if I’ve got my fix I may well decide I don’t need it again.  So Feehan (to continue my example) actually totally loses a sale from me by going to hardcover.  Of course, little old me by myself with a big selling author, she’s not going to care.  But if there are enough people out there like me, it might actually make a noticeable impact.  (Although probably not.)

    Not even sure if I have any kind of major point here, just a personal observation of the “moving to hardcover” thing (and an embarrassing revelation about my reading habits).

  22. Nifty says:



    Oh, absolutely.  I currently have “Simply Magic” (Mary Balogh) at home, borrowed from the library.  I also have “Forever in Blue” (Ann Brashares), borrowed from the bookstore where I work—nice perk, that.  But those are both books I would have happily purchased had they been released in paperback.  I’m interested enough to read them when they are first published, but by the time they make it to paperback, either I’m no longer interested or maybe I just overlook them.

  23. Najida says:

    Don’t feel bad Kerry—Feehan is my secret vice too.

    The only thing that comes to mind is the remark that the books don’t get ‘better’ even though they go to hardback and cost more.

    Even some have said that often the quality gets worse.  I can think of a few cases where that seems to be true, and a few others where the books have stayed consistantly good even after the transition.

    Again, the ONLY books I buy new in hardbook are those that will be used a lot—- as reference, professional, lending out, reading repeatedly etc.  Otherwise, I go used or paperback.

    I have other addictions that require money too 😉

  24. Nidrah says:



    I won’t buy romance in trade.  I’ve noticed that my B&N has a ton of new trade-sized romances, but I automatically skip right past them.  $7.99 is enough, publishers.  Quit gouging me.  Oh…and is it just me, or is erotica beginning to flood the market in trade size primarily?

    Speaking of trade, though…  Has anyone noticed that “fiction” trades often have matte covers and “romance” trades continue to have the glossy covers?  It has occurred to me that maybe this is another “distinction” the publishers make between “serious” fiction and “genre” fiction.

  25. Nidrah—one of the reasons you’re seeing more trade paperbacks is small publishers (like mine) cannot afford to print mass market size paperbacks.  It’s substantially more cost effective to do trade paperbacks.  So many of the new authors in print coming from Ellora’s Cave, Amber Quill Press and others can only be found in ebook or trade paperback.

    I wish my books were in mass market sized editions, but I’m glad I can offer a choice of the less expensive ebook or print.

  26. Nidrah says:

    Oh, thanks, Darlene!  That’s very interesting.  I had no idea.  My assumption would be:  books cost more to buy because they cost more to produce.  And since MM PBs cost less to buy, I would assume that they cost less to produce.  So that’s why I’ve felt like the publishers were “gouging” when they automatically went for the trade size.  Does that make sense?

  27. Yes, Nidrah, it does.  I often get that vibe from folks when I’m doing a booksigning.  I’d like to offer an explanatory note saying, “Honest, if I could make them smaller and more affordable I would…” but that’s not an option.[g]

    I was pitching my books at a signing Sunday as great Mother’s Day gifts (“C’mon, you know you’re wondering what you’re going to get her this year!  She doesn’t have a hot pirate romance signed by the author!”) and having the trade paperback editions did look more “giftable” than mass market editions.  So maybe it all works out.

  28. AnimeJune says:

    I’ve never felt “betrayed” by authors who make it to hardcover – actually, I’m kinda glad, because HARDCOVERS you can order from the library whereas paperbacks (because of their “flimsy” nature) are never registered in their databases.

  29. Michelle says:

    I don’t get the betrayal part either.  If you don’t want to buy the HB then don’t, borrow it from the library.  I am excited when a favorite author goes HB.  The writers deserve the respect that goes along with getting HB status.  To me the readers that complain just come off as whiny and selfish.

  30. Julie says:

    I definitely prefer buying MM paperback, since my book collection is 800+ and out of control. But…when I found out that Kelley Armstrong’s new book is going to be published in HB, I was…oddly proud of her, given that I don’t even know her personally. And I can’t wait to buy it, to support one of my favorite authors.

    However, every time I see my Laurell K. Hamilton HBs on the chelf, I want to cringe.

  31. Ann Aguirre says:

    I’m not sure authors realize just how difficult it can be to get English books by popular authors outside the US. We certainly don’t library or used bookstore options here in Mexico.

    Only one bookstore carries a significant number of English titles, and it’s all the way across the city. I’ve also found a chain called Libreria Porrua who says if the book is printed later than 2003 and they deal with the distributor, they can make special orders for me. I don’t know what kind of special import fees that involves, however.

    The simplest way for me to get books is through Amazon, but hardcovers, in addition to being more expensive by cover price, weigh a great deal more in shipping as well. It just doesn’t make economic sense to buy a hardcover when I could get four paperbacks for the same cost. I’ve taken to scouring Ebay and just buying job lots of books people have finished reading. I hate doing that because (a)I don’t want to gyp an author out of royalties and (b) I’m rather a persnickety reader who prefers an untouched book. Regardless, I just bought a crate of 77 suspense novels for a total of $61, including postage. I’m considering starting my own used bookstore here in Mexico City at the rate I’m going.

  32. Lucy-S says:

    On a tangent, if the book-buying market is skewing younger—that’s a very, very good thing!  It means aliteracy is not taking over as has been feared.  An older-skewing market would mean younger people don’t have a taste for recreational reading and thus likely won’t be buying books much at all as they get older and have more income.

  33. Jen C says:

    I hate HCs.  I am young and thus I have moved from home to dorm to dorm to dorm to Rome to dorm to home (and home for the summer, of course) so heavy hardcovers are obnoxious.  I only ever buy them for class or second hand.  I admit, too, that it bothers me, for instance, that I own a bunch of Stephanie Plum books, and there are two hardcovers in the bunch.  They don’t match, even though they are a series.  Argh. 

    I like trade paperbacks; I think they are elegant.  That said, I only buy them when they are $.50 at the second-hand store.  $14 is bull for paperback.

    Yay for 6.99/7.99 paperbacks!  I will buy those unread.  I will buy those that I borrow from friends or the library, so that I have a copy for myself.  I would never for any other type of publishing.

    You would think with all the moving I would like e-books, but they make me sad.  I like feeling like I am getting something for my money- even though I get that I am getting the same words for the same amount of money, it doesn’t feel like they are REAL. 

    I totally get the betrayal idea.  Sherilyn Kenyon has started releasing her Dark-Hunter series hard/soft, around the same time her books became more and more stupid.  I purchased all her books new after borrowing them from a friend, and then she goes and phones in hardcovers?  Seriously, what a bitch.

  34. azteclady says:

    I do not agree that it’s a betrayal, but then I don’t think an author owes anyone anything. S/he writes.

    Conversely, the reader buys or not the books.

    I can ill afford hardbacks myself (though there are a couple of authors I can’t resist), and even new paperbacks are something I have to budget for. So it behooves me to be careful how I spend what book money I have, and voice my preferences with my wallet.

    Aside to Ana: an English UBS in Mexico City? Most excellent idea! Have you tried the streets of Justo Celes and Donceles, down in the old Centro? [behind the Cathedral] While it’s true that most of the offerings are in Spanish, there’s the occasional English paperback tossed in. Caveat: consider this a full day excursion and keep a firm grip on your purse! Best of luck.

  35. Charlene says:

    I’m beginning to suspect that many writers don’t even realize they have a market outside of North America and perhaps Britain, or that releasing books in hardcover first makes it almost impossible for readers in other countries to access their writing.

    I’m also a bit surprised at the assumption that everyone has a public library close by. Many people even in North America don’t, let alone in countries where half the population doesn’t even have clean drinking water.

  36. Charlene—this is one of the beauties of ebooks.  If you’re anywhere in the world with a computer, a credit card and an internet connection, you can download ebooks for a fraction of the cost of a hardcover.

    Naturally, not everyone will be able to take advantage of this, but it does bring authors closer to their potential world wide audience.

  37. Karen Scott says:

    I still can’t wrap my mind around how I warrant such harsh lashing from THE Nora Roberts.

    Bimbo, if you think that was harsh, then you obviously haven’t been in Roamnceland for very long.

    The point is, if you can’t afford to buy hard back, then don’t. Seriously.  I certainly don’t, unless I reallly want the book.

    And the whole third world country thing?  Methinks that was a little unnecessary, and kinda negates anything else you have to say on the matter.  That kinda shit’s great at stopping discussions dead, because people don’t know how to respond, or are afraid to respond, for fear that they come off as unsympathetic.

    Just sayin.

  38. Catherine J. says:

    When we all moved into our dorms for the very first time last September, I saw a lot of girls toting futons and big-screen TVs up the stairs. I had a bundle of blankets, a couple of suitcases full of clothes, my action figures (wrapped in tissue paper, naturally) and six big boxes of books.

    I’m poor, and I don’t have much space. I prefer paperbacks simply because they’re easy to take care of and cheap; as a Terry Pratchett devotee, I have about thirty of his books, and the paperbacks are all regulation size and can be easily packed into a box for shipping. Six or seven bucks for three hundred delicious pages is not a bad trade in my opinion, and they have a high rereadability factor. All of Pratchett’s books come out first in hardcover, then get reissued about six months later in paperback, which is a pain but something I can live with.

    Currently, I have both paperbacks and hardbacks on my shelf. Oddly enough, the paperbacks are the only ones I really wanted; the hardbacks are all fodder from the $2 bin at the college bookstore, when I was desperate for something new to read. The rule of my bookshelf is as follows: size and rigidity of the book is inversely proportional to the amount of time I want to spend with it.

    I do dislike it when the authors make the complete switch to hardcover, especially when it’s a series I’m marginally fond of. A lot of authors lose markets by making their books less accessible this way, especially to those of us on the student end of the spectrum. Issue in hardcover all you like, but please don’t neglect the softcover releases. Those are the ones that get us through the days and weeks.

  39. I’m noticing a certain confusion here that somebody should clear up.

    Authors do not decide what format their books will be published in.  Publishers do.  And while authors can maybe negotiate that point, ultimately, they’re not the ones making the decision.

    Regarding other countries, it depends on what rights the author sold: world, world English, North American, or whatever.  If they sold world rights, then that is the end of their ability to influence how it ends up in other countries.  If they sold North American rights, by contrast, then they’re dependent on foreign agents to negotiate good translation deals with foreign publishers.  If you’re reading the English version of a book in Thailand or Mexico or Russia?  Then I can’t begin to guess at the distribution path that led to it being there, but it means they’re getting it from an English-language publisher, who isn’t aiming at that market anyway.

    In other words, don’t rag on the author for the availability of their books in other countries.  Unless they were able to sell translation rights there, they probably have jack in the way of influence over its availability.

    Likewise for questions of format, though to a lesser extent, since an author can try to affect that one.  I agree that it’s irritating to see a series jump format halfway through, but if a publisher thinks that’s a good idea, the author will likely go along with it.  Arguments with the marketing department aren’t wise.

  40. Heather says:

    I just love books. Mass market, trade, HC; I don’t care. I’m addicted, and I will snort it, inject it, or eat it. If I had to pick a favorite format, I would choose trade. Not as heavy as HC (in the bathtub) and more sturdy than mass market.

    I get my HCs from amazon; the prices are cheaper (I just bought a HC for $14), and then I order $25+ and get free shipping. And I don’t have to pay sales tax either. I can usually get a hardcover and a couple of mass market paperbacks at the same cost of going to the bookstore and shelling out the $25-$27 (plus tax).

    I don’t think publishers should stop making HCs. I am a librarian, and paperbacks don’t hold up very well.  Perhaps publishers could trend away from HCs for the consumer market, but offer HC library editions?

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