Hardcover vs. Paperback: What Are the Cost Differences?

Hardcover vs. Paperback: What Are the Cost Differences?
October 12, 2022

Did you know more than 900 million books are sold in the US every year? Overall, hardcover book sales make a higher revenue than softcover and e-book sales.

Whether you’re an independent publisher looking for a partner printer or an author hoping to self-publish your latest literary masterpiece, you’ll be concerned with the cost of printing. And that means you’re likely engaged in the age-old debate: hardcover vs. paperback?

A hardcover book is always more expensive to produce than a paperback—depending on the size of your print run, of course. But both options still have their downsides and plus-sides, making it a more complicated decision than just cost.

Read on to work out which book type suits your budget and needs.

What Are Hardcover vs. Paperback Books?

It’s all in the name!

A hardcover book has a cover made from heavy cardboard, typically with a dust jacket over the top. These books are more expensive to produce, so they’re usually reserved for books designed to last a long time.

Book types might include:

  • Collectors’ editions
  • Reference books and guides (like encyclopedias)
  • Foundational textbooks
  • Coffee table books
  • Artist’s books

Hardcover books usually feature color images, high-quality and glossy paper, and superior print quality.

A paperback book has a soft cover made from light cardboard. Paperback books never have a dust jacket. They’re designed to be portable, cheap to buy, inexpensive to print, and quick to produce in large print runs.

With both options, you can lower printing costs (without sacrificing quality) by working with a company that prints in China.

What Influences Hardcover Book Cost?

Hardcover printing is a much more complex process than paperback book printing.

For starters, hardcover books have a more complicated makeup than their soft-covered counterparts—consisting of multiple layers of casing, binding, mesh, and sheets. They also typically feature higher quality paper for the pages and require full-color, high-resolution printing.

Because of this, you can expect the hardcover book printing costs to be multiple times higher than what you’d pay for a paperback print run. However, the plus side is that customers perceive hardcover books as luxury items and, as such, are willing to pay more per unit.

This makes the higher-quality printing worth the investment.

What Influences Paperback Book Price?

Paperback book printing is a favorite of self-publishers because it’s cheaper than hardcover book printing. This cheap and cheerful option suits everything from small runs of personal family genealogical history books to cookbooks and instructional guides.

Factors that influence the cost of paperback books include:

  • Overall quantity (size of the print run)
  • Paper quality
  • Page print quality and color
  • Cover graphics
  • Binding style
  • Delivery

Consumers perceive paperback books as cheaper, so choose to print paperback when selling your books at a low price per unit.

Talk to a Printer to Understand Book Printing Prices

You need to consider more than just price to solve the hardcover vs. paperback debate.

Hardcover books sell for a higher price, so they’re more lucrative—but only if you can sell larger volumes. That’s because they’re also more expensive to print. Paperbacks are perfect for self-publishing authors or those looking to publish books like textbooks, poetry collections, children’s books, or vacation novels.

PRC Book Printing has over 14 years of experience in book printing. If you want to price up a printing project, request a quote today.

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