Paperbacks revolutionized American reading habits when they first appeared in the 1930s. The softcover “pocket books” were cheaper to print, cheaper to buy, and easier to transport than the bulky hardcovers that had previously dominated bookstores. By 1960, paperbacks were the preferred book format of readers.
Despite their popularity, it’s still impossible to find paperback versions of many new books when they debut. It’s a common practice among publishers to release new titles as hardcovers and publish the paperback edition about a year after the initial print run. People who do their reading at the beach or on the subway may not be happy about it, but the financial benefits of this model mean it likely isn’t going away any time soon
“While a hardcover book is more expensive to print than a paperback, the publisher does traditionally make more money on that edition, allowing them to earn back the author’s advance and the costs they incurred for printing, shipping, marketing, and distribution,” Dinah Dunn, a partner at the book packager Indelible Editions, tells Mental Floss.
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