Catching up with Open Letter’s Chad Post re: Paper-Over-Board

In What's the Buzz by Edward Nawotka

By Edward Nawotka

Last year at this time on Publishing Perspectives friend and contributor Chad Post, director of Open Letter Press at the University of Rochester, wrote a paean to paper-over-board book bindings — you know, those hardcovers without the book jackets.

At the time, Chad revealed that despite his dedication to the format, both consumers and booksellers were often confused by paper-over-board.

“Customers assume that anything in hardcover is going to be expensive and available in paperback one year later,” wrote. “And most people who buy literary fiction (especially in translation) primarily purchase paperbacks. Not to mention that bookstores are never quite sure where to stock these either, since they tend to keep separate shelves for new hardcovers and new paperbacks. So this special format that combines the durability of a cloth edition with the low cost of a paperback — a hybrid if you will — gets lost in between.”

He then revealed that Open Letter was moving to a paperback only publishing program.

We recently caught up with Chad to get and update and gauge his feelings about the change.

He replied:

So, it’s been a year since we announced that we were going to stop publishing all our books in the paper-over-board format and instead do all original paperbacks. I miss the paper-over-board books at times, although I think our paperbacks look really nice, since we kept the same sort of cover design, and there’s something about reading a “floppy” book . . .

Booksellers have had mixed reactions. There are some who loved the original format and wish we had stuck it out. Others have told me (and sales numbers reflect this) that the books are selling much better now that they’re displayed with the other paperbacks. Which makes some sense, since I suspect people into Open Letter titles don’t buy a lot of expensive hardcovers.

Our other concern in switching over to paperbacks was review coverage. Thankfully, that hasn’t been much of a problem. For example, we’ve had three titles reviewed in the NY Times Book Review — two of which were paperback originals.

That said, one of my favorite responses to our announcement was this letter (see attached photo) I got from The Post and Courier in South Carolina. Apparently, our decision to dump paper-over-board is going to make it that much harder for us to sell our books in Charleston. . . .

About the Author

Edward Nawotka

A widely published critic and essayist, Edward Nawotka serves as a speaker, educator and consultant for institutions and businesses involved in the global publishing and content industries. He was also editor-in-chief of Publishing Perspectives since the launch of the publication in 2009 until January 2016.