Hardback vs Paperback Books Which is Best?

What is the better book for you, Hardcover or Paperback?

In this post, we will try to answer the question, what is better, hardcover vs paperback? We will review various points for both books, help you understand their differences, and help you find the right answer for your book.

Here are some of the topics we will cover.

What are paperback books?
What is a mass-market paperback book?
What are the pros and cons of paperback book printing?
What is a hardcover book?
What are my options for hardback covers?
What is a Printed Paper Case (PPC) Hardcover book?
What is a Cloth Bound Wibalin Hardcover book?
What is a Dust Jacket?
What are the pros and cons of hardback book printing?
Paperback vs Hardcover books the Conclusion
When to consider a paperback book?
When to consider a hardcover book?

Should you print your book in hardcover instead of a paperback? This is a question that many people will ask themselves when it comes to printing their book. Both paperback and hardcover books can look amazing and both can be right for your book.

When it comes to choosing between a hardcover or paperback book, it ultimately comes down to personal preference. Both formats have their own unique benefits and drawbacks, and the right choice for you will depend on your specific needs and preferences.

Hardcover books are often considered to be more durable and long-lasting than paperbacks. They are also generally more expensive to produce and, as a result, tend to be more expensive for the consumer. On the other hand, paperbacks are typically cheaper to produce, which makes them more affordable for the consumer. They are also more portable and easier to carry around.

In terms of aesthetics, both formats can look great. Hardcover books often have a more formal and professional look, while paperbacks have a more casual and relaxed appearance. Hardcovers are also more resistant to wear and tear, so if you plan to read your book multiple times or you want to keep it as a collectable, a hardcover is a better choice.

Ultimately, deciding between a hardcover or paperback book will depend on your specific needs and preferences. A hardcover may be better if you want a durable, long-lasting book that will stand the test of time. A paperback may be the right choice if you’re looking for a more affordable and portable option.


What are paperback books? – AKA softcover

First, we need to understand the meaning of a paperback book. The Cambridge Dictionary classed a paperback book as a book with a cover made of thick paper. The majority of printers will use plain uncoated paper in the region of 240gsm, which is roughly 0.5mm thick.

So a paperback book is a type of book with a softcover. This cover is then normally laminated with either matt or gloss lamination.

Sometimes the books are not laminated. This is either when the paperback cover is created from coated paper (like you would find in a magazine) or if the book is for advance publicity copies.

Paperback books are a popular choice for many self-published authors and publishing companies. They offer a professional finish and provide a high-quality option for reduced weight and cost.

The majority of printed books sold are paperback books. This answers the question – Are eBooks better than Paperbacks?

Printed books unit sales rose by 1.3% in 2018 over 2017 – Publishers Weekly

Paperbacks are used widely throughout the book industry, whether it be a novel, poetry, children’s book or an autobiography; they suit all. This brings to the next big question.

What is a mass-market paperback book?

So we know what a paperback book is, but what is a mass-market paperback? Well, as the term suggests, mass-market is for goods produced in large quantities.

So, a mass-market paperback book is your normal paperback book but is produced for major bookstores and booksellers worldwide. These are the type of books you see in your local supermarkets and high street bookshops.

A typical mass-market paperback book will be around the B-Format book size (198 x 129mm – 8″ x 5″). They will have either a matt or gloss lamination and possibly some embossing on the cover.

These mass-market books are produced in huge quantities, sometimes upwards of 200,000 at any one time, for popular titles such as the Jack Reacher series, which sells a single book every 9 seconds.

Mass market book printing is fantastic for printing large quantities of books at a very quick rate. You also get a lower unit cost than if you were printing shorter-run books.

Not everyone has six figures to spend on the cost of mass-market book printing. This is where short-run digital printing comes in.

You can have your paperback books printed at a low unit cost and not have to spend thousands on a large print run. The unit cost will not be as low as the mass-market books, but your paperback book will still be printed at the same quality – sometimes better. Get a quote and check out the prices for book printing here.

Whether it’s special paper, a specific effect on the cover or an unusual size, paperback book printing is here to stay and any paperback book can be produced to your own custom specification.

What are the pros and cons of paperback book printing?

Pros of a paperback book

  • Easy to carry around – they are a lot lighter than hardbacks, making them more portable.
  • Cost-effective – they are the cheapest book printing and binding option out there.
  • Flexible – they can be made into any sort of vision you have.
  • Easy distribution – paperback books are accepted worldwide by almost every bookshop and book distributor.
  • Affordable to mail to customers – they can be sent by your normal local mail.

Cons of a paperback book

  • Susceptible to damage – as the covers are printed on the card, they can be damaged easily if they are not looked after.
  • Less profit margin – paperbacks are cheap to make but this also means there is more competition and you may have to sell your book for less.


What is a hardcover book? – AKA Hardback Book or Case Bound book.

hardcover book is, as the term suggests, a book with a hardcover. They are often called hardback books, but hardcover and hardback books are the same.

Comparing a hardback cover to a paperback cover is difficult, as many book printers use many different materials. Hardcover books usually have a thick heavy card for the cover, between 2.5mm and 3.5mm thick.

Some children’s books have a much thicker and much more durable cover, sometimes upwards of 4mm thick. This is good for children’s books for younger readers as they need to be very durable.

For our hardcover books, we use a 2.7mm thick board made from card.

The covers on hardcover books are much thicker than paperbacks, and it can make the book feel a lot more durable and give the hardcover a premium feel.

256 Hardcover Designs

What are my options for hardback covers?

Deciding on what cover options you would like for your hardcover book can be a little confusing at first. There are so many cover options and custom options.

There are really two main options to choose from – Printed Paper Case (PPC) Hardback and Cloth Bound Wibalin Hardback.

What is a Printed Paper Case (PPC) Hardcover book?

A printed paper case hardcover (aka Hardback / Case Bound) book is your normal hardback book where the cover is printed onto paper and then applied to the heavy card of the hardback.

These type of books are usually the mass market hardcover equivalent.

The covers are normally printed on coated paper, such as matt, gloss or silk in the range of 110gsm to 150gsm. This cover is then wrapped around the hardcover boards and stuck to the card with an adhesive.

You will see this type of hardcover in almost every bookshop. They are very popular and easy to make compared to the other type of hardback cover design. You can still have custom options with the printed paper case, embossing, debossing, foiling, head and tail bands, marker ribbons etc.

What is a Cloth Bound Wibalin Hardcover book?

A clothbound Wibalin hardcover (aka Hardback / Casebound) is still your regular hardcover book, but instead of having the printed paper case cover, it is a Wibalin cover.

“Wibalin is a strong and very durable paper covering material. It is Britain’s No. 1 non-woven covering material, with specially impregnated long fibre pulps with dyed-through, lightfast colours, and extra strength and scuff resistance”. – Nordale Graphics.

The cloth is applied to the hardcover books similarly to the printed paper case-bound books. Clothbound books tend to have a more premium feel than regular hardcover-bound books.

Clothbound hardcover books almost always come with foiling applied directly to the Wibalin cloth. The foiling can come in different colours and be applied to the book’s spine and front cover.

It is common to have a dustjacket wrapped around any clothbound hardcover book.

What is a Dust Jacket?

A dust jacket is a cover wrapped around the hardcover and sometimes a paperback book.

It is printed on a similar material to the printed paper case, allowing the dust jacket to be laminated and wrapped around the book. The dust jacket can have various printing options, such as embossing, foiling, etc.

Dust jackets must wrap around the book and the cover boards to have a flap (gatefold). The flap of the dust jacket wraps around the inside of the book. The flaps on a dust jack usually provide extra information, such as a biography of the author and the book’s blurb.

30 Beautiful Vintage Dust Jackets

The good thing about dust jackets for your hardcover books is that when they start deteriorating, you can print some more off very easily. This can keep your clothbound wibalin book in good condition and protect the foiling.

The demand for hardcover books has grown rapidly over the past couple of years with many people choosing hardbacks for a more ‘special’ feel.

With the number of choices you have with hardcover books – you really can make your book something to be very proud of.

What are the pros and cons of hardback book printing?

Pros for hardcover books

  • Tend to last longer – the thickness and quality of the cover give the book protection that you wouldn’t necessarily get with a paperback book.
  • 2 covers in 1 – if you choose to have a hardcover book with a cloth and a dust jacket, you can have two different styles of cover in one book.
  • Looks nicer – even a standard hardback tends to look professional and luxurious. Plus, with the added extras, you can really make your book look high-end.
  • Higher Margin – with the higher unit cost and premium feel, hardcover books can be sold with bigger margins.
  • Pre-orders – most publishers will release hardcover books before paperback books. With the higher-margin costs, this can work out well.
  • Collectors – hardcover books will last a lot longer, and so tend to be collectable. The most desirable books are hardcovers.

Cons for hardcover books

  • Price – there is a lot of work that goes into making a hardcover book, so they tend to be more expensive than paperback books.
  • Can be heavy – the weight and the extra thickness that hardbacks have makes them a heavy product to carry around.
  • Longer production times – hardcovers require more human intervention, especially with all the custom options available. This tends to increase production times on almost all hardcovers.
  • Higher shipping costs – with heavier-weight materials and larger book sizes, the shipping costs will be higher.


Hardcover vs Paperback books the Conclusion

In all honesty, when answering whether you should choose a hardback or a paperback book, it depends on what you want from your book.

When to consider a paperback book?

  • You want a cheaper mass-market book for high-quantity run lengths.
  • You want to minimise shipping costs
  • You need advance publicity copies for promotion
  • You want to test the waters in a new niche
  • You need a print-on-demand service

When to consider a hardcover book?

  • You are in no rush to get your book to market, and you want to have many custom options.
  • You want a unique and premium feel to your book
  • You want to have a special book for pre-orders
  • You want to give family and close friends a special edition of your book
  • You want to release a special edition of your book to the main market

If you are looking for an affordable book that is easy to produce and gets to market quickly, a paperback may be your best bet.

However, hardbacks are the way to go if you are looking for a more special, high-end feel to the book and are not too worried about portability.

Some people decided to print both hardback and paperback books. They may go for more paperbacks than hardbacks and then promote the hardbacks as being a special edition.

This is not difficult to do as, generally, the text is the same in both the hardback and the paperback book. It is just the cover that needs slight editing to fit the hardback.

At the end of the day, having your book printed in a hardback or a paperback book is a great achievement and something you should feel proud of.

About Jamie Rand

I'm the Business Development Manager at Imprint Digital, a leading book printing company. This blog is where I share insights and strategies from my journey, offering advice for everyone in the publishing and printing industry.