A hardcover, hardback, or hardbound book is one bound with rigid protective covers (typically of cardboard covered with cloth, heavy paper, buckram, or occasionally leather). It may have a flexible, sewn spine which allows the book to lie flat on a surface when opened, or have a glued spine. Following the ISBN sequence numbers, books of this type are identified by the abbreviation Hbk.
Hardcover books are often printed on acid-free paper, and are much more durable than paperbacks, which have flexible, easily damaged paper covers. Hardcover books are marginally more costly to manufacture. Hardcovers are frequently protected by artistic dust jackets, but a "jacketless" alternative is becoming increasingly popular: these "paper-over-board" or "jacketless hardcover" bindings forgo the dust jacket in favor of printing the cover design directly onto the board binding.
If brisk sales are anticipated, a hardcover edition of a book is typically released first, followed by a "trade" paperback edition (same format as hardcover) the next year. Some publishers publish paperback originals if slow hardback sales are anticipated. For very popular books these sales cycles may be extended, and followed by a mass market paperback edition typeset in a more compact size and printed on shallower, less hardy paper. This is intended to, in part, prolong the life of the immediate buying boom that occurs for some best sellers: After the attention to the book has subsided, a lower-cost version in the paperback, is released to sell further copies. In the past the release of a paperback edition was one year after the hardback, but by the early twenty-first century paperbacks were released six months after the hardback by some publishers. It is very unusual for a book that was first published in paperback to be followed by a hardback. An example is the novel The Judgment of Paris by Gore Vidal, which had its revised edition of 1961 first published in paperback, and later in hardcover.
Hardcover books are usually sold at higher prices than comparable paperbacks. Books for the general public are usually printed in hardback only for authors who are expected to be successful; however, many academic books are often only published in hardcover editions.
Hardcovers generally consist of pages, two boards and a cloth covering them. Their pages are glued into a flexible piece between the boards, and it too is covered by the cloth. A paper covering, usually artistic in nature, is put over the cloth, folding over each horizontal end of the boards. On the folded part over the front cover is generally a blurb, or a summary of the book. On the back folded part is where the biography of the author and/or illustrator can be found. Reviews are often placed on the back of the jacket.
- "In Praise of Paper-Over-Board". Publishing Perspectives. 2009-06-22. Retrieved 2013-05-07.
- Neyfakh, Leon. "The New Thing: Books Without Jackets". Observer. Retrieved 2013-05-07.