Why Have Paperback Books Become So Expensive?

Young Adult books are at an all time high, yet the price of a paperback continues to skyrocket. Lets compare the big 5 publishing houses and Scholastic to see who is doing the most damage.

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As a young adult myself, I can truthfully say that it feels like YA literature is having its 2012 resurgence. Bookstores are becoming popular again, I actually see people reading and enjoying it, and platforms like TikTok are booming with booktoks. The energy in the book community has me right back in middle school reading The Hunger Games, Divergent, and John Green. So, why are Young Adult paperback books so expensive if this is the case?

As simple as it may sound, it all concerns supply chain issues. The cost of paper has raced in price thus the cost of books. It is as simple as that. With other price increases on necessities such as baby formula, eggs, and gas, it was only a matter of time before it trickled down to paper.

Let’s Look at the Numbers

Paperback novels have always been the inexpensive option when book shopping. I myself will search for a paperback copy over a hardcover because the price difference can be astronomical; this is no longer the case.

Two years ago, the average cost of a YA paperback was between $9.99 and $12.99. To me, this seems like a very fair price. A Hachette-published book cost about $10.99, a Harper Collins $9.99 to $10.99, a Penguin Random House cost $11.99, a Macmillan $10.99, a Scholastic $11.99, and finally, a Simon & Schuster coming in at $11.99 to $12.99.

Some publishing houses only had a slight price shift when entering 2022. A Hachette paperback remained at $10.99, however, Harper Collins ranged from $11.99 to $14.99; quite the increase and range of prices. Penguin Random House sold books for $9.99, $10.99, and $11.99 last year, lowering some prices from the previous year. Macmillan stayed steady at $10.99 but also had some books for $12.99, a $2 increase. Scholastic went down a dollar at $10.99 a book and Simon & Schuster sold books for $12.99.

Four people sitting against a wall reading books- via Matt Kelly, Radical Compliance
Image via Matt Kelly, Radical Compliance

So Far This Year

Entering 2023, there have been some significant price increases from certain houses. Hachette went up a dollar to $11.99 a paperback while Harper Collins had the most drastic inflation. In 2022, Pride and Premeditation by Tirzah Prince was $11.99, and the second novel in the series Sense and Second Degree Murder coming out this year will cost $15.99. That is a $4 increase in only one year. Penguin’s prices now range between $11.99 and 13.99, while Macmillan’s are between $11.99 and $12.99; notable changes from 2022. Scholastic also went up $2 from 2022 to $12.99, while Simon and Schuster remain at $12.99.

There needs to be a change in book pricing to make paperback novels still accessible and an inexpensive option compared to hardcover. I hope there will not come a time when a paperback novel will be more expensive than a hardcover. If YA literature has any intention of remaining as popular as it is now, it needs to make a better effort in being affordable to the people who are trying to read it.

It is also important to note that the Harper Collins Union members are striking in support of better wages and the company’s support in diversity development and yet, we see the biggest spike in their pricing. We should expect better from our publishing houses and support those that treat their workers fairly.

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