The Difference Between Paperback And Hardcover: Things Everyone Needs To Know

by CJ McDaniel // March 3  

It is common to notice a difference in books’ prices when purchasing them online on Amazon and other platforms. You would also see the word “paperback and hardcover.”

Paperbacks are relatively cheaper, while Hardcover could be more than double the price of its paperback versions.

That is not the only thing that makes a paperback different from hardcover books. Beyond their prices, there are other differences.

Continue reading as we discuss the differences between paperback and hardcover.

What Is Paperback?

A paperback is also called softback. Another name for it is softcover. Paperback is a book with a cover that has a thick paper or cardboard cover. The pages are usually bound with glue and no staples or stitches.

The books are of a smaller size, lighter weight, and lower prices. By implication, these books are fragile, and you could damage them easily. It, therefore, requires special and careful handling.

What Is Hardcover?

The word ‘hardcover’ is synonymous with hardback and hard-bound, and one could use these names interchangeably. It is a book covering that comes from bound hard protective materials. The pages have stitches, glue, and staples that keep them held together with strong adhesive glue, stitches, and staples. The prices are also usually higher.

Hardcover books are bulkier due to the materials used for production, and most usually have large sizes, but they come off as very durable and strong. If you have to look up hardcover books under the ISBN list, they are the books that come with sequence numbers with the abbreviation “Hbk” on them.

Hardcover Vs. Paperback: What Are The Differences?

Let’s find out the reasons hardcover and paperback are different.

Hardcover is costlier than paperback:

The first difference between paperback books and hardcover books that always seem to scream at us in the face is their prices. In many cases, paperbacks tend to be cheaper compared to hardcover. However, there are very few exceptions to this. You may see also that the paperback version of a book is at a price higher than hardcover. It only happens when two different publishers print the hardcover and paperback.

The hardcover publishers would cost less than the paperback publisher, or even in various editions or other languages. But commonly, because of the price which characterizes hardcover books, the hard cover-type are usually reserved for books with anticipated high sales.

However, once again, this is a rare case. It is rarely the case, as hardcover books incur more in production cost. This results in higher pricing.

Hardcover books are of a better print quality and paper quality:

You make hardcover books, usually with the relatively high paper quality. Also, you use could papers that are acid-free. It helps in solving the problem of preventing the paper quality from damage. Furthermore, the pages of hardcover books are thicker, durable, and come in premium looks.

Hardcover books usually have big fonts, making them more legible, and you do not have to strain your eyes when reading. Alternatively, Paperbacks are of a lesser paper quality similar to newsprint paper, which is vulnerable, fragile, and can get damaged easily.

The covers of the hardcover are firm and thick:

Hardcover books come in a thick and hard and thick cover, which directly explains why we call them hardcover.

Aside from that, you could also find it in soft dust jackets. You can tell that the dust jacket keeps away dust and preserves the book’s cleanliness from the name. On the other hand, paperback books come in soft covers. They do not have dust jackets.

Hardcover books have more weight compared to paperback:

The thicker covers and pages of hardcover books usually make heavier. Simultaneously, the thinner and covers and pages of paperback books make them lighter and easy to carry around.

You publish books in hardcover initially, before they become available in paperbacks:

Books usually have their first editions released in hardcover books before the paperback versions are published. It means that if we are eager and keen to read a book, we might resort to buying hardcover copies. It is because the publishers might not publish the paperback versions till after a long time.

Hardcover books are better durable compared to Paperback books: 

The undeniable significant advantage that a hardcover book has over paperback is its durable nature. You can easily damage paperback books except handled with extreme care. It is easy for paperback books to get worn, become torn, get folded edges and pulled out altogether. For hardcover, you minimize the risk of damaging the books, and they can withstand mishandling largely.

Hardcover books come in wider dimensions compared to paperback books:

The sizes in which hardcover books or paperback books come in are also a very significant difference. Generally, hardcover are wider and possess a firm and rigid structure. However, paperback versions of books come in smaller and are usually flexible and easily bendable.

Paperback books require smaller storage and are portable:

Due to paper books’ flexibility, they can be easily bent or folded so that a little space can be enough to take many of them. However, hardcover books, on the other hand, require so much space to keep them, whether on a shelf or a bag, as they cannot be folded or bent.

It, therefore, makes it challenging to move hardcover books around, as they might not easily find space in a travel bag when going for a vacation or other travels. Meanwhile, paperback books are easy to carry along while traveling or going anywhere as they can be easily adjusted to fit into space in a travel bag or luggage.

Overall, whether to purchase a book with a hardcover or that with a paperback is a decision that is solely left to you to make after weighing the advantages and the disadvantages that the two book coverings hold.

Hardcover books make better gifts than paperback books:

Hardcover comes off as better gifts. They are more expensive and targeted toward an audience who value the book’s aesthetics and quality. Hardcover is richer in looks and is generally a bit pricey. These, therefore, make it a better option when considering gifting someone a book.

Paperback is less expensive and is widely available. It is for the wider public that wants to read it without cashing out too much. Therefore, it does not come off as a good gift option.

Hardback books serve as language artifacts than paperback books:

The durability of hardback books and their ability to stay intact for a very long period has made it an essential tool in serving as a language artifact to preserve a language from extinction and preserve knowledge, cultural orientation, and heritage. You can preserve documented knowledge and language and pass it on to many generations when they have been bound in hardcover to be used as a reference book repeatedly.

However, paperback books cannot serve this same purpose due to their fragile nature. The frailty that characterizes paperback books makes it an unreliable measure of preserving a language from going extinct. It also makes it undependable to transfer written knowledge and information that should serve for ages.

Hardcover books are more comprehensive than paperback books:

While the content of a hardcover book and a paperback book is generally the same as in novels, they share the same storyline regardless of whether a reader has purchased a hardcover or paperback type. There may be some additional content in hardcover versions that you would not find in the paperback versions.

While the author may sign the hardcover editions, or there is an introduction from the author or someone else of the publisher’s choice, or it could also be an appendix to the main work, the paperback types usually don’t contain this. Although these are not particularly necessary to understand the book, they give more and serve supplementary information that the reader might find useful.


Paperbacks are usually of low quality, containing small fonts, and preferred for mass production. Also, it is suitable for a read-and-sell-off or read-and-throw-away. The prices are generally relatively lower than hardcover. On the other hand, it is quite popular to find hardcover with the signature of authors, high paper quality (crispy and pristine), and excellent print quality.

Hardcover books would be heavier compared to paperbacks. If a collector wants to preserve books for years, they would likely get hardcover books because they tend to last longer.

The scent of these hardcover books also makes them appealing. They get their unique scent from the paper and binding.

Richard Feynman, the brilliant physicist, was said to have memorized the unique fragrances of every volume in his 2000-book home library; he could identify each book with his eyes closed by just perceiving the fragrance of the book.

Finally, for a heavy reader, the only significant drawback to hardcover books is their price, which can be nearly twice as much as their paperback versions. You might hardly buy hardcover except for the books you plan to keep permanently.

About the Author

CJ grew up admiring books. His family owned a small bookstore throughout his early childhood, and he would spend weekends flipping through book after book, always sure to read the ones that looked the most interesting. Not much has changed since then, except now some of those interesting books he picks off the shelf were designed by his company!