Something about methodology and binding, hardbacks and so on…

Based on some of the discussions here on the blog recently and over time, I just wanted to briefly touch on a few subjects.

First off, just a little bit of an update. I uploaded two books to our printer Sunday night. They are:

Grandmaster Repertoire 19 – Beating Unusual Openings by Mikhalevski. Some 584 pages of dealings with 1.c4, 1.Nf3 as everything else that is not 1.e4 or 1.d4. The reason the book is so long is that there are different suggestions available, meant to fit into your repertoire no matter which major opening you play. In this way it is and were always meant to be, the brother of GM 11 – Beating 1.d4-Sidelines by Boris Avrukh.

The other book uploaded is King’s Indian Warfare by Ilya Smirin (Sorry not on the site yet. Colin will fix this after Baku). This book is based on a number of typical themes, first explained in a simple setting and then shown in the highly complex setting of top GM games, in this case Ilya’s own games. Ilya is not a very theoretical player, but his understanding of the King’s Indian is sublime and this book shows it. I have personally edited this book (with some outside help on the language, which I am sure you will be happy to hear!) and I am really pleased with it. I think many will find it interesting even if they do not play the King’s Indian, but just want to improve their dynamic feeling. A total of 352 pages.

Both books are probably out on the 3rd October (and a week earlier on Forward Chess). Excerpts will be available when Colin returns from Baku.

About lines, approaches and so on. Boris Avrukh has inevitably been approaching the same position from both sides a few times, as cannot be avoided when you make a 1.d4 repertoire and books on meeting 1.d4. Originally he was not sure how to approach this. I gave him the advice I always give to all our authors: Don’t lie. We all know that chess is a draw in the end. Chippy authors that pretend that they have special insights or great ideas that somehow makes things murky was famously ridiculed by John Nunn in Secrets of Practical Chess, where he refuted at least one opening book that was published later on…

What I believe you guys are looking for is the best advice we can give. And this is what I ask of our authors, to be honest and thorough.

This is also an approach we like to have in approaching other aspects of our work. We try to put the books out quickly and in the order that will protect the most time sensitive books the most. We use paper that is good and makes the books look slim, rather that paper that is cheap and make the books look chunky. I suspect that our books feel like less value, because they are physically thinner. Well, there is less on the plate in a fancy restaurant, but you get more value. At least this is the theory. I have always worried that it was bad for sales, but I don’t want to compromise on Quality for the sake of upping sales through deception, no matter how innocent.

This leads me to the most important point of this post. Last year, while I watching the end of Neil Berry’s game in the final round of the Scottish, a game Berry won, giving him the title on tie-break in front of yours truly, someone tried to engage me in a conversation about pages falling out of our books. I explained politely that the championship of my country was about to be decided and that I cared deeply; and that I was also not at work at this moment. But if he would email us, we would assist him with a replacement of any books that were not well bound. He took offence of my apparent “non-caring” for this issue. Let’s not go there.

I apologize for the fact that I did not pay a lot of attention to this matter immediately. It was only later on that year, when we saw on the blog that other people had this experience that we realised something had changed. We talked to our printer and realised that their hardware has changed. They assured us that after a few initial problems, everything was now working well. We believed them, which was probably a mistake.

From April this year we have changed our binding to a thread binding. I am not expert in this area, but we were assured that this was a) an unnecessary extra cost and b) a stronger binding. I have talked to some customers on Facebook and elsewhere and those who had problems with previous books are reporting no problems at all with the new ones. I am very chuffed.

This leads me to the final little thing. We have kept our prices the same for all 12 years of our existence. We have recently started to charge €25.99 for some books, for example King’s Indian Warfare. This is a) a price increase from a default €24.99 and b) not really a price increase, as Learn from the Legends, our first ever book, was €25.99 in 2004 and €26.99 in 2006. Now of course we have replaced this old version with a Deluxe Hardback only, at €29.99. This yields slightly less profit than €26.99 in paperback, for reference.

The physical production is getting a bit costlier, paper and so on. Transport too. Our employees one rare occasions get a small raise. Our rent goes up, as does other costs. The thread binding is another €0.15 per book, and remember that we do not get even half of the cover price.

So, some paperback books are a bit dearer than they would have been a few years ago. But we are keeping the hardbacks at the same price for the moment. In some cases, this is a €4 difference. Originally we aimed at €6, which gave a small extra profit on top of the extra costs. At €4 there is no extra profit to speak of. Three beers, a glass of wine and a bottle of sparkling water (I am T-total for a few years by now) at the next office lunch, and the “profits” are all spent.

We do the hardcover books because they are greater value to the customer and hopefully it will make people happier with their purchase and likely to repeat that very activity J. Yes, we are a business after all…

36 thoughts on “Something about methodology and binding, hardbacks and so on…”

  1. I ordered 8 books about one year ago. When the packet was given to me… I thought something strange is going on. The size of the packet was rather like 4-5 (traditonal chess) books, but not 8!!! And after I came back home I realized everything is correct! Just to tell you much slim the books are – all these 8 books are just 120 mm high!

    4 books are just 60 mm!!! They are pages in total 1392 pages! Here are they:
    1. The Soviet Chess Primer by Ilya Maizelis (400 pages)
    2. Soviet Middlegame Technique (416 pages)
    3. Soviet Chess Strategy (240 pages)
    4. Mating the Castled King (336 pages)

    And if we do simple calculations we can see: 1400 pages : 60mm = 23 pages in 1mm! It is very hard to imagine that! 60mm : 1400 = 0,043 mm is the thickness of one page!

    And the painful problem of falling out pages. From my perspective (I have about 20 QC books) only about 3-4 books are fragile to this problem. It means no more than 20% of overall books (from my collection). However when you change the binding (even at the cost of increasing the books price) the problem should completely disappear.

    BTW. Compare “Chess for Rookies” by Everyman that is 350 pages long with its thickness: 23 mm! How many pages they packed at 1mm thickness? Let’s count: 350 pages : 23mm = 15 pages in 1mm! It means 23mm : 350 = 0,065 mm is the thickness of one page! And it is 50% thicker than QC page! 0,043 + 50% of 0,043 = 0,065 mm! Does anyone have any other questions? 😉 🙂

  2. Sorry for being picky, but perhaps the pages are numbered on both faces, e.g. page 1 & 2 on the same sheet. In this case a 23-mm thick, 350-page book would count as 175 sheets, making each sheet 0.13 mm thick.

  3. I must confess that I felt QC books were shorter only because they were slimmer. It was an impression that was with me for a long time. Afterwards, however, I came to realize that almost always (with some exception), the QC paper is way superior to other publisher companies, and that’s all that there is to it.

    On the other hand, hardback is something I first thought of just stupid snobbery and have grown to like a lot. I try to buy my books on hardback even if they are more expensive, but could not find it anywhere else. QC hardback books are top notch and I have yet to find any problem with them. So I’ll continue to buy hardbacks when possible.

  4. I bought a lot of chessbooks in my life and about 10 from qualitychess. I am always surprised that it is possible for you to produce books of this quality for such a low price. Its just amazing!

    Thank you qualitychess for your great work!


    I’m buying hardbacks only! No matter what the price is! After all, your books are at such high level that money is not an issue for me when we speak about Quality Chess books.

    Keep up the good work. If you want Mercedes, you should pay more, but if you want some lesser known car, you should buy that one.

    Don’t slip in quality of paper and binding cause when you once ruin your reputation it will take ages to restore it!

    I’m dreaming about STRATEGY/POSITIONAL PLAY ENCYCLOPAEDIA (several typical examples + dozens of exercises; in style of Informator’s tactics enc.), but no publisher dares to tackle it. Why you shouldn’t give a try? Jacob, I find you as a “fighter”, not as a money accountant.

    Publish such book! Let it cost 50 euros and I’ll buy not one but two copies just for myself 🙂

  6. @Gollum
    I think this is a common misconception. Do I want to reduce the quality of the book in order to appear bigger? Not really. We are hoping to make people see that we choose quality and then in the end get loyal customers. Does it always work. Hmm. Not sure. Btw. I also think there is more on our pages than on the pages of Everyman books. So it is not only the size of the books, but also the layout.

  7. PLEASE keep the focus on quality, even if this means an increase in price. QC books are simply the best you can get these days. From both sides, the content and the physical book. There are quite good books from competitors suffering from a terrible layout or very low quality of the binding. And there are so many books which are simply crap, winning with this or that obscure opening or explaining really complicated games on two pages.
    Naturally not all QC books are on the same level, but there is none that I would label as something nearly close to “crap”. The opening series, especially Avrukh and Negi are de facto must-haves for every serious player. Many other opening books are superb pieces of work. Which KID player for example wants to be without Kotronias’ work?
    There are also Jacobs preparation books and on top of all Gelfands books. Who else has such books? Too expensive? Are you joking? Everybody having a closer look at those books and having a serious attitude on chess won’t argue about that. There will always be more people buying those “winning with tralala” books, but that shouldn’t be your goal.
    By the way – can’t wait to see Smirins KingsIndian warfare.

  8. @Thomas
    Thank you for the support. Don’t worry, the main thing here was to tell you that two books are coming, we have acted on the binding issue and what our philosophy is when a line is met by the same author from both sides (and just generally).

  9. The books I have received are awesome and any damage to them is from me. The binding is great. The density of your “thinner” books crushes all the other nonsense on the market, so I have no idea why anyone thinks there is less material compared to a standard chess book.

    I have no problem paying more for your work. The quality is so insanely high I have no idea why you haven’t raised prices in the past. If you need to raise prices do it. I have a hunch demand for your books are relatively inelastic just because the other competitors cannot match your quality.

  10. I have bought very few chess books over the past 7 years due to the lack of funds (and free time) from embarking on an undergrad and two grad degrees. The quality chess books I had bought prior to that have all held up amazing well especially with a half dozen moves in there. My copy of “San Luis 2005” looks brand new and I have probably put it through more than any other book. That book will survive the apocalypse with all pages intact.

  11. I think it was only books published for a year or maybe two that had problems. This is why we did not pick up on it quickly. The printer changed their hardware and apparently it had an effect on quality.

    We only raise the prices cause we have to. We would rather sell more books than make more on each book. But basically, we are just trying to stay in business and so far we are managing just fine.

  12. I too only buy hardback books now and I have about 40. The books last in physical quality and content quality. It should be a no brainer – put the prices up! In the unlikely event you make too much profit and all become multi millionaires then rethink it. Seriously, a few Euro is small price to maintain super Quality Chess books!! We love them and want you guys to continue the great work!


  13. Having received GM 1B last week I am happy with, the paper quality, the binding, the soft cover and most importantly what I have seen of the content so far.

    Being KID player for pretty much all my chess playing life if I have to pay an extra Euro or so for Kings Indian Warfare so be it, I’ll still buy it ….

    On a more serious note living in the Southern Hemisphere what I rarely appreciate about dealing with QC is their approach to postage charges. Many of QC’s competitors certainly loose sales to me due to their unrealistic packaging/handling and postage charges.

  14. @Michael
    Actually this fits well in with the whole ethos of what we are doing and also leads to a nice anecdote…

    Before leaving for Baku, Andrew sent me a message that he had left pages with corrections for the Mikhalevski book at my desk in the office. Well, I rarely go to the office these days. I prefer working at home, where I can start at 5am and then go to the gym for an hour (it is literally across the road), work a bit more, play the guitar, more work, pick up the girls from school or whatever else is happening.

    I only go the office to meet up with the others, collect stuff and when we need to be in verbal contact continuously. It is certainly not for everyone, but I function much better as a human being in this way.

    So, with EVERYONE being in Baku, except for Claire, who does not go the office to sit there on her own either, but only when she needs to be able to talk to Colin and John every five minutes, there is really nothing for me in the office. With the exception of these corrections, which, honestly would have been more valuable if they had been in Baku.

    I went there and found FOUR VERY MINOR corrections to the book. I had to be in the centre, so it was only 15 minutes of my time spent on this. But it was REALLY REALLY good that I had gone. Because, when the new books had gone out two days earlier, a package meant to go to Brazil had been piled up with the pre-stamped packages and thus gone to the postbox…

  15. …without postage.

    We send books to Brazil “to sign for”, as too many were lost in the mail. This costs £14.40 in this case. We charge €8. Is this business? Sort of. The book costs €25-30. We still make €21-22 per book sold and John often finds it a healthy break to walk to the post office, pay and come back.

    I see this as is a service. We want our books to be available all over the World, to whoever who wants to buy them. I had to fight for this in the early days of the company, as well other “friendly” policies (and it should be this way; anything costly should be fully investigated before initiated).

  16. Hello,

    I really like the hardcover editions, and they suit me perfectly to study next to a real chessboard. If there is anything I would like to mention that they are sent wrapped up so tightly together in a package that the edges/corners are bent and that is a shame I think.

    KInd regards,

    1. Hi Carlos. No, this is not the causality. It is the ruthlessness of the post that throws the parcels around like they were made of rubber. When we used envelopes sometimes the books were quite seriously damaged.

      I presume you are getting them with the post and not ups?

  17. Jacob, Thank you for addressing this issue in a professional manner. I started buying the hardbacks because of the page issue and will likely continue to do so as I just like the fact that they are sturdier and can lay flat. Also, I purchase all the books directly from your website as I assume that maximizes your profit rather than purchasing through a dealer. I find it important to directly support people who go the extra mile for their customer and want to thank you.

  18. @Doug Eckert
    We do make a few pounds extra from selling through the site, but what is more important is to not buy through Amazon. We don’t buy our chess books from there; we find it really important to support the chess specialist shops. Without them there will be no industry and thus no Quality Chess. So, buy from them too, it supports us as well.

  19. @Jacob Aagaard
    I get my books through UPS, and the corners are usually bent. I don’t really care, as the books I use (some are unfortunately still unread-I tend to buy more than I can read) usually get in a worse condition anyway – I’m to blame for that, not the books.

  20. @Tobias
    Don’t we all :-). I will look into it. We are rather frustrated with the way the UPS guys prefer throwing the boxes around to actually lifting them and putting them down gently. All I can say in our defence is that it is not because of the boxes, but that the boxes protects the books from further damage…

  21. Question for Mr. @Jacob Aagaard

    I saw Quality Chess gave discount shipping inside Europe; outside Europe, 5 euro per book. I just wonder whether you have plan to give discount to some countries outside Europe (eg. US). This would give incentive for people to buy more books, don’t you think?


  22. Just noted that the Grandmaster Rep 19 advocates the same solution against the 1.c4 as the recent book by Delchev & Semkov (ChessStar, Attacking the English/Reti) – recommending the Keres system vs 2.g3 and 4-knights+Bb4 vs 2.Nc3. Will be greatly interesting to compare their variations, and comparing against Marin’s books too …

  23. Quick comments –
    I LOVE the paper you guys use. Do not change that.
    I buy hardcover only; that’s just personal preference, though.
    And, I agree 100% with your point on how much content you put on each page.

    Here’s how I see it.
    The layout of your material (structure of the text, headings, and so on) is superb. Much better than in, say, Modernized books (which I also have and think are useful).
    I prefer high quality paper to any bulky “this looks big” option. I love the format (size), too. It all simply looks great, fits on the bookshelves great, and takes up less space. All pluses.
    And the material itself is second to none.

    And even your site design deserves praise.

    Overall, Qualitychess is number one.

  24. @Subtle
    Sounded too over the top 😉 so I made a joke that Andrew from the office had written it…

    Thank you for your nice comments. Sorry the joke was to obscure. I am especially happy you like the layout. We spent a lot of time looking at what everyone had done to come up with it. Also, the font size is 10.5. We used to do our books in 10, but some customers found it too small and we actually agreed. We did one in 11 (Vigorito’s Semi-Slav) and it was definitely too big. That’s how 10.5 came about.

  25. The layout is generally great, e.g., in Gelfand’s latest – airy but still compact, so it is easy to get an overview; great with many analysis diagrams; easy to see where a sidenote ends and the main game continous.
    For contrast and comparison, I would like to point to Everyman’s current layout, e.g, “Nimzo and Bogo Indian” which is a book I otherwise consider as quite decent but with a very horrible layout. Bulky pages, “looking-big” with way too long lines, hard to see where the main moves are, requiring way too many page-turns to get an overview, very ugly low-pixel diagrams, etc…
    Why am I mentioning this? Because I would hate to see another publisher going in the totally wrong direction. I am not comparing Everyman to QualityChess, but I think they once had a quite decent layout in their books, say, around 2006-2009. My personal opinion is that ProgressInChess Edition Olms generally have a great combination of high-quality binding, paper quality, and layout. (E.g., Fighting Chess with M. Carlsen as the perfect example).

  26. As mentioned before I really like the hardcover editions. One thing that I have noticed is that the print shines through the pages, so you see also the print from the other side of the page. But since no one has mentioned it, I may be the only one that cares 🙂
    Guess you need ultra thin paper cause your books are so impressively large.

  27. @Carlos Hemmers
    The paper is actually not “ultra thin”. It is standard paper. You will see that the same happens with almost every other book on your book shelf. I just looked at a few random ones, including New in Chess and Chess Stars (and a few psychology paperbacks) and you can see the print on the other side of the paper in all of them. If you have really thick paper, you can avoid it, but it has other downsides.

  28. @Jacob
    Oh, I see. It would’ve worked on the first go had I known who Andrew is. 😀

    Both from seeing how well your layout (and paper and everything else) serves its purpose, as well as seeing what else is on the market, you deserve all the praise you get.
    Great work and good choices.

    One bit – I picked up pretty much all the “free” books you have on that list of books which you give away with bigger orders.
    When’s that one (that list) getting updated? 😀

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