Data and Goliath Published in Paperback

Today, Data and Goliath is being published in paperback.

Everyone tells me that the paperback version sells better than the hardcover, even though it’s a year later. I can’t really imagine that there are tens of thousands of people who wouldn’t spend $28 on a hardcover but are happy to spend $18 on the paperback, but we’ll see. (Amazon has the hardcover for $19, the paperback for $11.70, and the Kindle edition for $14.60, plus shipping, if any. I am still selling signed hardcovers for $28 including domestic shipping—more for international.)

I got a box of paperbacks from my publisher last week. They look good. Not as good as the hardcover, but good for a trade paperback.

Posted on February 8, 2016 at 2:11 PM17 Comments


Mailman February 8, 2016 2:51 PM

This is something I have never quite understood with the publishing industry. Books often come out in hardcover first, and only later in paperback format.
I don’t really see the point of having two editions with different cover rigidities, but if publishing houses insist on offering that choice, why not release them at the same time?

Mike Totman February 8, 2016 3:07 PM

I find softcover books more comfortable or convenient to read, that’s why I prefer them, it’s not the cost. Perhaps that’s why they sell better?

Jan Willem February 8, 2016 3:22 PM

Although I prefer to read a physical book, and I agree with Mark that a softcover is more comfortable to read, I am glad that I bought the Kindle version. Now I was able to take this book, together with some other ones, in my hotel room and during my holidays.

John Macdonald February 8, 2016 3:31 PM

I almost never buy hard-cover books. Often I look at the hard cover and decide to wait for the softcover. Sometime it is many years later before I happen to think of it again. There are book series where I have lost track of which ones I am waiting for and just give up on. I wonder if the publishers really gain enough from the people who buy it in hardcover just because the softcover is not available yet to make up for the sales they lose completely, even at the lower price. Unfortunately, they probably do – treating customers obnoxiously usually has a profit motive behind it, and that motive is not always unjustified.

Sara P. February 8, 2016 3:59 PM

I had to buy the hardcover so you could sign it at Defcon this last year! 🙂 I considered it well worth it. I have most of your other books in hardback. I tend to prefer either hardback or electronic. Hardbacks just hold up better.

Clive Robinson February 8, 2016 5:53 PM

I buy hardbacks out of habit.

Back when I first had sufficient disposable income to buy books there was a very marked difference in quality of hard backs over paper backs. It was not just in the quality of binding, but in the paper stock and print quality. So that is where my prefrence for hard backs came from the higher quality of the product.

Some several decades on I look in my dead tree cave at books from back then. Whilst the hard backs are still usable as books, the paper backs are most definatly not. The paper in the paperbacks has decaded, and gone brown and very brittle almost like Autumn leaves, the glue in the binding has become at best gritty dust and pages just fall out. The paper backs cannot be repaired or easily preserved, whilst some of my early hard backs have been repaired and rebound –by me– and whilst not in daily use still get regularly used as refrence material.

If you want either type of book to survive, the first lesson is “clean hands” or cotton cloves, and don’t ever lick your fingers… it’s just plain nasty when you think about it. Second lesson is never ever lay an open book flat, irrespective of if it is hardback or paperback, nor carry it open. Don’t under any circumstances write in them, underline sentances or paragraphes, use postit notes or sellotape to add marks, or worst of all fold pages. As for those who write in books with ink pens or fold corners over to mark their place, they should never be alowed near a book ever again.

When you take a book with you “be nice” put it in a clean cotton cloth bag to protect it from other items in your “carry bag” such as shopping or hard items like keys, phones, netbook/pad computers and other dirt and detritus of everyday life. Further don’t alow books to get to warm or cold to damp or dry and most definatly keep them out of sunlight. And try not to let them get contaminated by tobacco smoke, spice food vapour or crumbs/grease or spilled tea/coffee etc etc. Either store them flat in small piles or standing upright on their ends supported in a book case. Never ever allow them to lean over at an angle even for a very short time as this will damage not just the covers but the spine as well. If they have floppy disks or optical media these are best removed and kept seperatly, because both they and books emit vapours that are harmfull to each other. Likewise do not cover books in “stickyback plastic”, like sellotape it’s dreadfull stuff and does real harm to a books longevity. Likewise don’t use those PVC clear plastic lose covers… And never ever put paper in as a mark that has been through a laser or injet printer or photocopier as time and preasure transfers the “ink” to the pages in the book.

If you do these simple things, then there is a good chance your books will outlive both you and your children, and possibly pay for your great grandchildren to be educated to a standard you would find acceptable.

As for hardback “dust covers” look after them carefully judging by current old book prices they can be worth three quarters of the selling price on rare books if they are in good order…

Bruce Schneier February 8, 2016 7:15 PM

“the movies are also distributed in multiple steps. Theaters, VOD, DVDs, then finally on air.”

It’s to maximize revenue. At every step, there are people who would rather pay more money and not wait.

Clive Robinson February 8, 2016 10:05 PM

@ Bruce,

It’s to maximize revenue. At every step, there are people who would rather pay more money and not wait.

The first point is correct, if you only count “publisher revenue” as few authors benifit from hardback pricing.

The second point of “who would rather pay more…” has a dark side to it as I’ve mentioned before.

There are some people who can “not wait” such as Law and Research organisations, who are in effect compelled to purchase the latest books at any price a publisher cares to ask for. I used to be lucky in that I got pre-publish copies “for approval” so that they would get included in citation databases etc I was involved with.

However one or two “academic publishers” who shall remain namless have caught on to a nice little scam. It’s “short run publishing” of very expensive hardback books for University etc libraries. They scour published paper sources for “fresh meat” researchers and cold-call them about writing a book. What the book is does not realy matter as long as it can be produced quickly and sold as “shelf space filler” to research libraries at 300-500USD/book type pricing. The books are never produced in quantity because they are only designed to get money out of library and research budgets.

The scam works for a couple of reasons, modern publishing methods can produce books in very very short runs economically (runs of 10-50 are very profitable) with in some cases single copy reproduction being quite viable as can be seen by some “self publish” Internet sites. Secondly “fresh meat” academic writers will write a book for in effect “free” just to have a book on their CV. When you consider the cost of making such a book is maybe 10USD each but a few hundred can be sold at 300USD profit each that’s, over 60,000USD income for the publisher for very little work and one “sales rep” can do twenty such books a year that’s a nice little income of over 1 million USD/year per rep…

If the rep gets lucky there is “student editions” that can be milked as well where the same book gets sold in a slightly different cover in course volume of 50 or 100 book lots to a University book shop for 2000-5000USD profit per course lot…

It’s a nice game for the publishers currently. But not for the academic authors or the research budgets or student pockets. Which is why one or two academics are “going it alone” with their books, it will be interesting to see how it goes.

Tim Bradshaw February 9, 2016 1:38 AM

Well, if you buy a book a week, the saving is $500/year, which is not nothing, especially if you’re a student or something (in particular it’s about 28 $18 paperbacks). Other people have mentioned that paperbacks are more pleasant to read for many people: they are also easier to carry with you and, significantly, they use less shelf space. I suspect that shelf space might cost more than books do in some cases.

FoLI February 9, 2016 3:18 AM

@Clive Robinson: “Which is why one or two academics are “going it alone” with their books”

Which academics ?

Academic February 9, 2016 4:42 AM

I prefer paperbacks because they’re more comfortable to hold/read whereas hardbacks are better for longevity. Most people only read this type of book once (it’s not a reference book) so a paperback is, in my opinion, more suitable.

I’ve put off purchasing books before because there has been no paperback in publication.

Nowadays I prefer to read books electronically on my iPad mini because it’s:

  • far lighter than a conventional book
  • stores multiple books/volumes
  • pages don’t become detached
  • easier/more convenient to carry around
  • has an integrated dictionary (by just tapping a word)
  • more secure (for when reading sensitive work documents)
  • good in low-light conditions
  • adjustable font size / background colour (e.g. ‘paper’ effect)
  • multi-purpose (have music playing in background etc.)
  • easy to annotate PDF’s

I wonder how much longer the traditional publishing industry has left considering the advancements in tablets and e-readers.

hoodathunkit February 9, 2016 6:33 AM

Off thread :

Analyzing individual caucus voters in Iowa, their behavior and their friends, by tracking their cell phones. The CEO says it’s all OK because it’s “anonymous” tracking.

“Dstillery [formerly Media6Degees], which has not worked with political clients, mainly sells targeted advertising to large companies, including Microsoft, Citibank, Comcast and Verizon.”

Mailman February 9, 2016 10:25 AM

“It’s to maximize revenue. At every step, there are people who would rather pay more money and not wait”

Makes sense. Like with movies that first come in theaters, publishers start by selling the most inconvenient medium first, at a premium, and hold the more practical options for later.
With that thinking though, you’d think they’d also wait a few months before releasing the EBook version, instead of it coming out at the same time as the hard cover.

Jacob February 9, 2016 2:15 PM

Clive, for your godly instructions how to safely keep a book, I gonna worship you like a demigod.

Randomatos February 12, 2016 10:57 PM

If you’re charging more for the kindle version than the paperback version, you’re doing it wrong and losing money. Especially if your cut of a $5 kindle sale is higher than your cut of a $12 physical book sale…

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