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A hardcover, hardback, or hardbound is a book bound with rigid protective covers (typically of cardboard covered with cloth, heavy paper, buckram, or occasionally leather). They may have flexible, sewn spines which allow the book to lie flat on a surface when opened, or have glued spines.
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 also marginally more costly to manufacture and are usually much more expensive. Hardcovers frequently come with 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 now publish paperback originals due to slow sales. 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, the paperback, is released to entice further sales. Traditionally, the release of a paperback edition was one year after the hardback, but recently paperback releases have had a delay of only six months, by some publishers. It is very unusual for a book that was first published in paperback to be followed by a hardback. One example is the best-seller novel Patriots by James Wesley Rawles.
Hardcover books tend to cost more than paperback versions of the book. Hardcover editions of popular books are usually reserved for authors who are (or 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.