What happened to the paperback?


General Culture

Strictly speaking this is not photo book related, but since it’s about books: Have you ever noticed that paperbacks seem to have expanded along with the rest of America? On the left a paperback from 1980, on the right one from 2006.

(Updated below)

Reader Larry Gustafson explains: “Your post about paperbacks shows a ‘mass market’ paperback to the left of a ‘trade’ paperback. The difference is explained by marketing and distribution techniques. ‘Mass market’ paperbacks are smaller, cheaper and designed to fit in racks. These are distributed the same way newspapers and magazines are. These books show up in regular book stores but also in nontraditional spots such as airports, drugstores, and magazine stands.

“Mass market paperbacks are made of cheaper paper, which yellows quickly, and they stay on the market for a shorter period than do ‘trade’ paperbacks. Because they stay on the market for a shorter time, a large number of them must be sold in just a few months in order for the book to be successful. Trade paperbacks stay in the bookstores for a longer time and thus don’t have that ‘immediate sale’ time pressure. […]

“A Trade Paperback is a larger book, often the same size as the hardback original. Typically the paper is of better quality than in the mass market paperback. Sometimes, even the text on the trade paperback pages is exactly the same as that of the hardback copy, especially if put out by the same publishing house. The reason for the size of the Trade paperback is it is manufactured from the actual sheets that produce the hardcover book.”

Thanks, Larry! I’m tempted to re-phrase my original question but since Larry mentioned the magic words (“The difference is explained by marketing and distribution techniques”) why bother…