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Life, Law & Libros

Discussion: Where Did the Paperbacks Go?

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Apologies for the lateness on this weekend post. I've been dogsitting and am seriously running on fumes right now. Need sleep. Anyway, I wanted to take a brief moment to chat, once again, about one of my favorite hobbies: book buying! Yes, I believe it does count as a hobby all its own, like collecting stamps or antiques, only more fun. ;)

I was browsing through my local mall-size Books-A-Million earlier this week to get a gift card for my friend's birthday, and I noticed their YA section had a distinct lack of paperbacks. The majority of titles appeared to be hardcovers. I've already said that I buy almost all my books used, and more and more I'm buying used hardcovers, but I still remember the days when I got all my books from Barnes & Noble and Borders. I skipped right past the hardcovers and straight to the paperbacks because I knew I could take home more books for my money.

I wonder whether the reason behind the dearth of paperbacks is because there aren't as many paperback printings/editions out there or because the cheapskates like me who look for paperbacks have likely gone over to e-books or discount shopping online. Maybe they're catering to that certain buyer who wants a pristine, brand new hardcover for the collection.

On the other hand, it may just be this store's policy based on its clientele's buying patterns, or just YA buyers in general. This BAM's children's, romance and sci-fi/fantasy sections had plenty of paperbacks. And it is a small store. I'm sure they have to be picky about what they stock.

What do you think? I know I find paperback editions online all the time, but are you seeing fewer brick and mortar stores stock YA paperbacks, or maybe just the smaller stores?

8 comments :

  1. That's interesting, because the Barnes & Noble near me is the exact opposite - they hardly have any hardcovers unless it's a brand new release and the paperback edition just hasn't been published yet.

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    1. I'm beginning to think maybe it's more about being a small mall location. Higher returns off hardcover sales, so fill your limited stock space with the books that bring home more cash. Or else this particular BAM has just found that its clientele will break down and buy a hardcover if no YA paperbacks are available. The evil genius! ;)

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  2. Hrm, I don't think I've noticed this yet. I buy a lot online so I haven't been in my local bookstore lately. I guess they don't sell as much? Interesting observation. I'll have to pay attention next time I go in.

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    1. I know what you mean about not visiting the physical stores much. I do wonder if it's more about the size of the store or the clientele. I mean, if I knew people would spring for the hardcovers if the cheaper version isn't immediately available, I'd stock mostly hardcovers. Maybe it's an instant gratification thing?

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  3. I have a friend who is a bookseller, so what I've seen from how things work for her is that most books are released in hardcover for the first year ish and then when the second book is coming out or about a year later, the paperback comes out. I suspect this gets more money since the people dying to read the book will cough up for a hardcover and then the people not willing to spend so much on a hardcover will buy the paperback when it comes out. I also suspect that whether a book goes straight to paperback depends on whether publishers think they will be able to get hardcover sales, so backlist titles are more likely to go straight to paperback?

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    1. I remember, back in the day, publishers used to print three or four editions of most books (hardcover, trade paperback, mass market paperback, etc.), but the hardcovers have always made the largest profit. Now, I think most books get one to two editions- three if there's a movie. ;)

      Now I think about it, drawing in the people dying to read a new book by keeping the new (hardcovers) stocked probably gets store the best bang for their buck. They make a larger profit per sale, which must be crucial with all the online competition, and don't fill the majority of their shelf real estate with less profitable paperbacks, which probably face even greater price competition online/used.

      Still, it's a bit of a shame. There are a few local bookstores I'd like to support, but I can't afford all my hardcovers unless I buy them used, and the paperback selection is so small, I rarely find anything. A side effect of the changing markets, I suppose. *sigh*

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  4. I agree for the adult book areas publishers put things to hard back that they think will sell big. But for ya books it seems like almost all of them are now hardcover which I think is ridiculous buti think the publishing industry is expecting that parents will buy any books a teen wants just to promote their reading and to encourage it. I think that sucks. I prefer trade paperbacks because of the size and better durability than mass market papernacks. I dont feel I have to have a hardcover just to have a hardcover especially since for a collector like me i need the space that hardcovers take up. I really think its all about money, but hey the publishing industry definitely needs to make as much money however they can! I have definitely started to lean more to ecopies for space.

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    1. It's a shame consumers are facing fewer choices in-store, but I guess it's somewhat to be expected. Goodness knows I'll be thinking about this topic for a while. ;)

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