Sayonara, Hardcover; or, Making the Format Fit Today’s Customer

April 2009
by Amy Collins MacGregor and Bethany Brown

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Sayonara, Hardcover; or, Making the Format Fit Today’s Customer

by Amy Collins MacGregor and Bethany Brown

A few months ago, a fiction book buyer from one of the large chains leaned over at lunch and asked for a favor. “Would you please tell all your publisher clientsto stop publishing fiction in hardcover?” he said. “It’s not helping them. And, in fact, it is hampering their chances of getting on my shelves.”

This anti-hardcover observation was not new to us. As consultants to publishers, we had heard it before from librarians and booksellers, but this was the first time we had heard a national chain buyer express it.He went on to say, “With so many small presses pitching books today, publishers should be focused on placement. They cannot get good placement for hardcover books. Hardcover sales are hemorrhaging. If publishers want a shot at getting into our stores, they needto stop publishing in hardcover.”

This conversation led us to wonder: Are the days of launching a book in hardcover over? Articles and interviews with independent, chain, and library buyers provide anecdotal evidence that people aren’t buying books in hardcover the way they used to. But is there hard evidence to support this conclusion?

Figures to Reckon With

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