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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Hardcovers on borrowed time

You want that book but you don't want to pay twenty five dollars for it. Much like that song you wanted on that CD that you didn't want to pay twenty dollars for it. Books may become quaint artifacts to a simpler time as the price of Kindles fall (about 200) There are people who simply don't want to read a book on a screen and for them there will always be a paper alternative. But what about the hardcover? This old fashioned type of binding might be the first casualty of the digital age.

Price. Hardcovers are expensive. I usually wait until I can get something in paperback. The other day I went to a local bookstore where a woman recommended a book to me. I didn't know anything about the book and so I bought it. When she rang it up I nearly choked. Twenty five dollars. Twenty five! I handed over the cash and took the book home. It was not good. I had given twenty five bucks for a book I would never read.

Cut to the Kindle. A quick download for nine bucks and you have that same book. True, it is technically not a book but you have the authors story in your hands. At least in the paperback your losses have been cut to fifteen dollars. The point is technology is cost driven many times. The hardcover used to the be the gold standard for publishing. First the book came out in hardcover, followed by the paperback. The thinking is you entice a lot of readers with the hardcover who then wait for the paperback. Now of course with the Kindle the enticement is a quick free preview and then hopefully a sale. Times being what they are, the Kindle looks more like the future, while the hardcover feels like the past.

William Hazelgrove's latest novel is Rocket Man. William Hazelgrove is the Hemingway writer in residence for the Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park. He has written reviews and features for USA TODAY and been the subject of stories in the NY Times, LA Times, Chicago Tribune, USA Today, and NPR'S All Things Considered.. More information can be gathered at

Books by William Hazelgrove