Are Books Originally Published in Trade Paperback Lesser Books?

Last week at Book Expo America I had several wonderfully bookish conversations with blogging pals and industry friends.  One conversation continues to haunt me, so to get this bee out of my bonnet, I figured I would ask your thoughts on the matter.

I have always been a lover of books that come out in trade paperback.  I loved the format.  They are lighter and easier to carry, the font size is usually smaller and different than those found in hardcovers (and I am picky about that stuff when buying a book!), and they are easily placed and stacked on my shelves.  Prior to blogging I was rarely aware of what was new in hardcover because I never even bothered to go to that section.  Of course now it’s a totally different story, and I have been re-trained and now seek out hardcovers to buy.  I guess all of those finished hardcovers sent for review finally got to me.

For awhile now, people have made the argument that more books would be sold if they were released more quickly into the formats that people want to buy them in. We have e-books, hardcovers and audiobooks all lining up around similar release dates. Now I have no idea if this is true for most people or not, but my friend mentioned that even though she knew that it probably wasn’t true and had no basis in fact, she still couldn’t escape the thought that  any book where a publisher believes in the quality and saleability of said book, will be released in hardcover first.

I was a bit surprised by this, but the more I thought about it, the more I wondered if there wasn’t something to her feelings and if in the back of our heads, others of us weren’t feeling the same way.  Maybe even subconsciously. All it would take would be to read a few books that you didn’t connect with that were original trade paperbacks to start a trend in your mind. We both agreed that quality of the book probably didn’t play into it on a rational level and my friend accepts that, but what about perceptions and the psychological aspect?  Movies that are released straight to DVD are usually written off as not being good enough to have a showing in a theater, or are never even slated for the theater  in the first place because they either appeal to a niche audience  or might be low budget productions featuring actors whose work is not widely known or whose career has seen better days.  The expectation of huge sales are not high.

I also wonder if this is something that most consumers would even think about.  Back before I had as much knowledge of books and publishing, I would have assumed that the paperback I was choosing to buy had already been out in hardcover at some point. That’s just the way it was done.  I may have caught on by now, but then again, I may not have.

What do you think? Does the way a book is published affect the way that you feel about them?  Do books released in hardcover have more prestige than those released as original trade paperbacks?  Do considerations like these affect your purchasing decisions?

I’m not completely sure what my feelings are – this is probably something that I will continue to ponder, but  when I was thinking back on books that I know were originally published as trade paperbacks, I came up with The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte and Life After Yes.  I LOVED both books.  Hopefully I won’t subconsciously let the way books are originally published get in the way of such wonderful discoveries.

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