Hardbound or softbound?

Most libraries and schools prefer to buy hardbound editions of children’s picture books. So do families with kids who are a bit rough on books. Some people pick hardbound books because they’re building a nice kidlit collection, or other little ones are in line to handle those books.

These thoughts came to mind recently when West Margin Press advised that they will be releasing a softbound edition of Bobbie the Wonder Dog (one of my favorite stories, by the way) in April 2021. So while I’m sad to see that beautiful hardcover go out of print (get yours now!), Bobbie will still be going strong in a softbound version. It’s been nearly a century since Bobbie’s remarkable walk across the country. In the winter of 1923-24, this hardy Scotch collie walked thousands of miles to reunite with his family, from Indiana to Oregon, after they accidentally separated during a vacation. The story is all the more moving because it’s true.

In Alaska, the decision about what edition to buy has to do with how our population more than doubles in a typical summer. The 2020 summer was anything but normal, but usually more than a million tourists visit our state between September and May. We love showing off where we live and the visitors boost the economy while making memories. Those visitors buy books! Many are grandparents who’re roaming the world in retirement; some are families with the kids along; then there are the singles with beloved nieces and nephews. And that’s where the hardbound/softbound question comes into play. Someone like me, who often meets readers and signs books at market stalls and other events, knows instantly that tourists are careful about how much their gifts weigh. So often I meet them after their tour company has possession of their checked bags, and now it’s just the carry-on to contend with. Softbound books can win out in those debates.

Speaking for myself and my fellow Alaskan authors, we can’t wait to see you in person again. It’s really fun chatting and signing books at Anchorage’s Saturday Market, and learning about where people have come from on their big trip. We’re hoping to be back in summer 2021. In the meantime, teachers and librarians, shoot me an email if you’re interested in a Zoom or Skype visit. I’d love to share Bobbie’s story.

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