Paperback, softcover and co. - do you know the subtle differences?

Bound, paperback, softcover - there are numerous ways to make a book a book. But what do the different terms mean and how does a paperback or softcover differ from a paperback? Why are there different types of editions and which is best suited for your book?

What types of books are there?

Whether as a noble hardcover or a practical paperback, with flaps and highlights or kept very simple. There are many different options when it comes to the design of the cover. But which ones and how do they differ?

What is a paperback?

The modern type of paperback has been around since the 19th century, creating a way to produce new literature in an appealing layout for the mass market. Hamburg's Albatross Verlag is considered a pioneer of the modern paperback, which until the middle of the 20th century was still published as a follow-up to lavishly designed hardcover book titles, but now more and more frequently as a first edition.PUBLICATION, is offered. 

Unlike a hardcover, a paperback book does not have a hardcover, but is paperback. This comes from the French word brocher and means as much as staple. The buckblock sticks directly to the cardboard of the cover. As early as the 18th century, paperback books were sold, often without a cover. What kind of binding the buyer provided the book with was up to his own taste. The publisher's binding as we know it today appeared in the middle of the 19th century. The paperback is more flexible, less expensive, and more handy than a hardcover edition because, as the name implies, it is meant to fit in your pocket.

What is a paperback or softcover?

Softcover and paperback refer to the same type of book. They are books with a flexible book cover made of thick paper. Literally translated, paperback means "paper spine". In English it is synonymous with paperback, but in Germany the features of the two types of cover differ. For example, the paper thickness is often between hardcover and paperback and it also has a larger format. It is an intermediate form and represents a high-quality alternative to the hardcover. A paperback can be identified by the fact that there is no paperback number on the spine.

At tredition, the softcover is equipped with a flexible binding and is processed with hot glue binding. The reader-friendly binding is particularly suitable for novels and non-fiction for the mass market.

What is a hardcover?

Hardcover means hardcover. This classic and noble form of binding has been around since the 19th century. The books with elaborate decorations were often limited. Even today, the first edition is often designed as a hardcover and subsequent editions are printed in lesser quality versions. Because hardcover books take up more space, some readers buy their favorite works in both hardcover for the bookshelf and paperback format to take with them.

The cover around the book block is paperback or cardboard and therefore particularly robust, but also more expensive to produce. The spine is not glued to the cover, the contents and the cover are connected by a flyleaf. The hardcover is best suited for Children's books, illustrated books and Cookbooks.

At tredition, books are hardcover with a solid book cover and spine and chapter bands on the inside. The book block and cover are bound together via the Dispersion adhesive binding bound.

What is an e-book?

E-book stands for electronic book and thus refers to the digital version of a book. Whether with an e-book reader, smartphone or PC, it is now the most flexible way to have a book with you at all times. It is also usually easy for the reader to change the font size or typeface. The idea of offering literature in electronic form has been around since the 1970s, and publishers have been experimenting with this method since the 1990s. The E-Book format was underestimated at the beginning and did not count as a serious threat to haptic titles; at the same time, more and more online platforms emerged that made it possible to offer books digitally. The share of e-books in total sales in the German book market is increasing, but is still low: in the first half of 2021, according to the Statista e-books reached a share of just 0.8 percent in 2011.

Differences at a glance












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What are the advantages of a paperback?

The biggest advantage that paperback and pocket book share is the flexible handling and the cheaper production costs than with a hardcover book. The lighter and more manageable format is much better than hardcover, especially for taking along, and it is also more pleasant for reading.

What are the disadvantages of a paperback?

A decisive disadvantage, on the other hand, is the short life of paperback books. Precisely because they are frequently used, taken everywhere or stowed away in a confined space, and the binding is less sturdy, signs of use can quickly become apparent, such as a pressed-through spine. Although this does not interfere with the reading pleasure, it is often a reason for collectors to add the works of their favourite authors to their bookshelves as a robust and noble hardcover version.

What types of brochures are there?

Not all covers are the same. The brochure can be further subdivided, for example, depending on how the book block is attached to the cover.

Simple brochure

The simple brochure, or softcover, is the standard in the mass market. It is particularly suitable for inexpensive paperbacks, but is of lower quality than other cover types and tends to be short-lived. Books with plain brochures are small and handy and are not elaborately decorated. The book block is glued to the spine of the cover.

French brochure

The French brochure is also called wide-flap brochure. The cover is also glued to the book block with the special feature that it has flaps folded inwards at the front and back. There is usually additional information such as the then named Blurb or the author vita.

English booklet

In the case of the English brochure, an unprinted cardboard cover is placed around the book block, to which in turn a printed dust jacket with flaps is attached.

Swiss brooch

With the Swiss brochure, the cover does not stick to the spine, but to the last page of the book block, which allows it to open flat.

Integral brochure

The integral brochure is visually close to the hardcover: it has a book cover, folded-in cates, and when opened, the spine opens. However, it has no reinforcing cover flaps and no spine insert. The brochure type can be equipped with headband and bookmark.


To provide a handy and flexible book for the reader, paperback is particularly suitable. Like the paperback, it is easy to take with you, but has a higher standard of finish and offers a high-quality alternative to the hardcover. At tredition you can order your manuscript publish simultaneously in e-book, paperback and hardcover, providing all readers, from frequent readers to collectors, with the appropriate format.


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