Trade Cloth vs. Hardback

Last month I pre-ordered the next Harry Potter book through Barnes & Noble’s website. I received a nice giftcard for Christmas. Anyway, I could have sworn that when I placed the order, the description said “Hardback”. The other day, I went to update my account information and noticed that my Harry Potter order read “Trade Cloth”. I looked at the current description of the book, just to make sure I had ordered the right version and it read “Hardback”.

Puzzled, I scoured the website for any information describing what trade cloth might mean, but had no luck. So I sent an email to their customer service department. Within a day, I was pleased to receive the following reply (excerpt):

“pretty much the same thing”? “separate category of binding?” What does this mean? Can someone explain to me the difference (if any) between trade cloth and hardback? If I want the hardback version, should I cancel the order? Thank you.

Trade Cloth is the standard hardcover binding. High-circulation books have a higher-quality binding called “library hardcover,” but trade cloth is fine for privately owned books.

Thanks, *Nametag! That was quick.

I wonder why BN describes the product as “Hardback” in their regular page but then change it to “Trade Cover” in the order status page. But that’s neither here not there.

Nametag pretty much has the definitions right, but here’s some more context from someone who works in a bookstore.

When you walk into a bookstore, the “hardcover” books you see for sale there for $27.95 or so are all trade cloth books. You don’t have need for library binding, as it costs about 50% more, and is almost never sold over the counter in bookstores. IMHO, the Harry Potter hardcover editions tend to be of a better quality than the average Clancy or Grisham new release. You’re going to get a very nice book in about 3 months. I suspect that the front page of the BN website advertises the book as hardback because it is a general and well known term, but on the order page they use the actually term for the type of binding you are purchasing.

Thanks, mcbiggins. (Got the html tag right this time.) I knew that library books have a more hearty binding (abuse consideration, I suppose), but didn’t know that “regular” hardbacks were called “Trade Cloth.” I was afraid that in 3 months, I was going to get a soft glossy “tradeback” (?) copy!

The term you’re searching for is “trade paperback.” This is technically a paperback book that the bookseller has to return whole in order to get credit for a return (instead of stripping just the cover and returning that). Usually they are about the same size as a hardcover book, with paper covers instead of cloth.

Not exactly a hijack, but a tangent:

What is the difference between trade paperbacks and the smaller (mass-market) paperbacks?
Obviously, the size, but what is the purpose of the larger size paperbacks?

I don’t remember ever seeing the trade paperbacks years ago; are they fairly new?
Do people prefer the bigger PBs over the little ones?
Do they see them as ‘cheaper’ hardcovers?

Trade paperbacks are generally exactly the same as the hardcover version but with a paper cover. That’s why they’re bigger. The mass market paperbacks are a seperate, smaller and cheaper printing (usually also on cheaper paper).

The quality of trade paperbacks is nearly as high as that of trade cloth books. It’s often a middle ground for publishers to use. Most major fiction is released in trade cloth and then about a year later it comes out in mass market. Trade paperback is sometimes used in lieu of trade cloth when they aren’t sure if a book will do well enough to merit the expense of a trade cloth release. Mass market books are small and cheaply made. Often genre books are release in mass market only. Best selling non-fiction usually has a trade paper release a year after the trade cloth, and never goes to mass market.

Also, most bookstores can return unsold books to the distributor after 6 months on the shelf. To further reduce the costs associated with mass market books, only the front cover need be returned to the distributor. That is why mass market books have that blurb on the front page about what to do if you bought a book with no cover, because some scumbag got a full refund from his distributor for returning the cover, and then made money again by selling the same book to you. Not all mass market books are strippable. Check the inside cover for a triangle with a S inside it. That means it can be stripped. No marking or a hollow triangle means it should be returned whole. Dumpster divers should take note: I have tossed many a garbage bag full of stripped books into the dumpster outside my bookstore. I assume most other bookstores do the same. If you don’t mind reading unsold crap, dive right in!