Ask Difference

Softbound vs. Hardbound — What's the Difference?

By Maham Liaqat & Fiza Rafique — Updated on March 9, 2024
Softbound books feature flexible covers made of paper or cardstock, offering portability and lower cost, while hardbound books have rigid covers, providing durability and a prestigious appearance.
Softbound vs. Hardbound — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Softbound and Hardbound


Key Differences

Softbound books, also known as paperback books, have covers made from thick paper or cardstock, which makes them lightweight and flexible. This flexibility contributes to their ease of use and portability, making them popular for casual reading and travel. On the other hand, hardbound books are characterized by their sturdy, rigid covers that are often bound with cloth, leather, or paper over cardboard. This construction not only provides significant durability but also gives these books a more prestigious look, often preferred for collections and gifts.
The cost difference is another notable factor between the two. Softbound books are generally cheaper to produce and purchase due to their simpler manufacturing process and material costs. This affordability makes them accessible to a wider audience. Whereas, hardbound books tend to be more expensive, reflecting their higher production costs and their positioning as premium products in the market.
From a manufacturing perspective, softbound books are produced by gluing the pages together and then attaching them to the cover with a strong adhesive. This process is relatively straightforward and efficient, allowing for mass production. Hardbound books, however, require a more complex assembly process. The pages are sewn together in sections before being glued to the spine of the cover, a method that enhances the book's durability and allows it to lay flat when open.
In terms of lifespan and durability, softbound books are more susceptible to wear and tear, including bending, folding, and damage to the spine. They are designed for lighter use and may not withstand the test of time as well as hardbound books, which are crafted to endure frequent use and last for generations, making them ideal for collectors and those seeking to keep books for long periods.
The aesthetic appeal also differentiates these book types. Softbound books are often seen as practical and straightforward, with a focus on functionality over form. Hardbound books, with their sturdy construction and potential for elaborate designs on the cover, including embossing or gold leaf, offer a more luxurious reading experience. They are commonly chosen for display purposes, such as in personal libraries or as decorative elements in homes and offices.

Comparison Chart

Cover Material

Paper or cardstock, flexible.
Cloth, leather, or paper over cardboard, rigid.


Generally cheaper, due to simpler manufacturing.
More expensive, reflecting higher production costs.


Susceptible to wear and tear; less durable.
Designed to last; more durable.

Manufacturing Process

Gluing pages to the cover; efficient production.
Sewing pages, then gluing to the spine; complex assembly.

Aesthetic Appeal

Practical and straightforward.
Luxurious, often with elaborate designs.


Lightweight and portable.
Heavier and less portable.

Ideal Usage

Casual reading and travel.
Collections, gifts, and long-term use.

Compare with Definitions


A book with a flexible paper or cardstock cover.
I prefer softbound books for my daily commute.


More durable and designed to last for generations.
His hardbound collection has been passed down through the family.


Cheaper to produce, hence more affordable.
The softbound edition is great for readers on a budget.


Ideal for collectors and long-term preservation.
Hardbound books dominate her personal library.


Focused on functionality and ease of use.
Softbound textbooks make college reading less daunting.


A book with a hard, rigid cover, often bound with cloth or leather.
The hardbound edition of the novel looks impressive on the shelf.


Lightweight and portable, making it ideal for travel.
Her softbound novel fit perfectly in her backpack.


Tends to be more expensive due to higher production costs.
I splurged on the hardbound version as a keepsake.


Prone to wear and tear over time.
The spine of my softbound book cracked after heavy use.


Offers a more prestigious look and feel.
The gold leaf on the hardbound cover made it an elegant gift.


Not bound between hard covers
Softbound books.




(of a book) With a cover of flexible paper rather than a rigid cardboard cover.


(of a book) Having a hardcover; hardback


Same as hardback; - used of books.


Having a hard back or cover;
Hardback books

Common Curiosities

Are hardbound books always more durable than softbound books?

Generally, yes; hardbound books are designed to be more durable and withstand more wear and tear.

Why are softbound books cheaper than hardbound books?

Softbound books are cheaper due to the simpler manufacturing process and lower material costs.

Can softbound books be converted to hardbound?

Yes, with rebinding services, softbound books can be converted to hardbound for better durability.

Which type of book is better for frequent travel?

Softbound books are more suited for travel due to their lightweight and compact nature.

What makes hardbound books ideal for collectors?

Their durability, aesthetic appeal, and ability to last for generations make them ideal for collectors.

Why might someone prefer a softbound book?

For its affordability, portability, and ease of use, especially for casual reading.

Are there environmental considerations in choosing between softbound and hardbound?

Yes, production and materials used can impact the environment differently, with hardbound books potentially having a larger footprint due to more resources consumed.

How do libraries typically handle the difference between softbound and hardbound books?

Libraries may prefer hardbound books for their durability and longer shelf life, but they also stock softbound books due to their affordability and wide range of titles.

What is the main difference between softbound and hardbound books?

The main difference lies in their covers; softbound books have flexible paper covers, while hardbound books have rigid, durable covers.

How does the manufacturing process affect the book's durability?

Hardbound books, sewn and glued, are more durable compared to the glued pages of softbound books.

Is the choice between softbound and hardbound books a matter of personal preference or practicality?

It can be both; the choice often depends on personal preference for handling and aesthetics, as well as practical considerations like cost and portability.

Are there specific genres that are more likely to be published in hardbound or softbound?

High-demand or luxury editions, such as first editions or special releases, are more likely to be hardbound, while mass-market publications are often softbound.

Can the cover material affect the book's cost?

Yes, the cost of materials, like cloth or leather for hardbound covers, can make these books more expensive.

Do softbound books have any preservation advantages?

While generally less durable, softbound books can be easier to handle and store in large quantities, but they don't have inherent preservation advantages over hardbound books.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Maham Liaqat
Co-written by
Fiza Rafique
Fiza Rafique is a skilled content writer at, where she meticulously refines and enhances written pieces. Drawing from her vast editorial expertise, Fiza ensures clarity, accuracy, and precision in every article. Passionate about language, she continually seeks to elevate the quality of content for readers worldwide.

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