The Dwindling of Hardbacks?

In case you missed it over the weekend, here’s a link to a Guardian story about Picador’s decision to no longer publish hardbacks in the traditional sense. Instead, new fiction will be published in paperback:

It seems hasty to announce the imminent death of the hardback literary novel on the evidence of one experimental policy by one London publisher. But Picador’s decision to bring out most of its new fiction in paperback editions, accompanied by only a small number of “collectors'” hardbacks, is a symptom of the dire health of what has been a surprisingly persistent format.

Of course, in Australia, hardbacks are already uncommon. And now it appears that, even in the UK, most beautiful of objects is no longer sustainable…

The killer quote:

Until now, a small market has just about upheld the other arguments for literary fiction in hardback. But that market has almost reached vanishing point. The paucity of sales of novels even by acclaimed authors was an awkward book industry secret until this summer, when it was broadcast that eight of the novels on the longlist for the Man Booker Prize had sold fewer than 1,000 copies.

And from the horse’s mouth:

From spring 2008, Picador will publish the majority of its fiction titles in two formats simultaneously: a limited edition, high-specification hardback and a B format paperback.

Picador Publisher Andrew Kidd comments:

‘Recently, a number of pieces have appeared in both the trade and general press about ‘the death of the hardback’, especially in relation to literary fiction. While it has never been the easiest end of the market, over the last few years publishers have witnessed sales reaching new lows. All of us find it depressing, and there are, frankly, no reasons to think the situation might soon reverse itself.

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