Pocket Paperbacks 3: The Publisher's Viewpoint

Christopher Fowler
Simon Taylor Simon Taylor, Transworld editor, responds to the formats issue: 'In the UK, (the large size) is generally referred to as B format. Trade paperbacks tend to be larger still — Royal octavo or Demy formats. But in the US they call it trade paperback; whereas the smaller format is referred to as A format, or 'rack size', or 'mass market' format… So you can see, confusion from the outset. When it comes to the green issue, the smaller format would use less paper (although there is an argument that, because there are fewer lines to a page in an A format edition, the pagination would greater and use up the same amount of paper) but the larger format does appear to be becoming norm. In such a cutthroat retail environment (obviously online's a different environment altogether as there's no real visual sense of format) where display counts for so much, this larger format means the book not only takes up more physical space but it also allows a cover design to be more impactful. I also think there's an aspirational/qualitative element to the choice of formats as well.' Some publishers have started testing the water with smaller formats (Raymond Chandler has just been reissued in small format) but clearly there's no common consensus yet...
Posted in
Reading & Writing


Helen Martin (not verified) Tue, 28/07/2009 - 14:13

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I think I had this conversation not long ago. As a reader, I want a book that is comfortable in my hand, easy to hold open and small enough to go comfortably into my purse, since under no circumstances would I add anything to my hip area. The approx. 10cm X 17cm size is quite reasonable. That would be "rack" size. The larger 13.5cm X 20cm is easier to hold open and the example I have in my hand will actually stay open on its own. I think it is the binding that makes the difference. The second book will stand up to more readings since the first is a 'perfect binding' and pages will eventually drift out. It's binding, not size.

I.A.M. (not verified) Tue, 28/07/2009 - 17:05

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

The only way the amount of paper used is reduced in a smaller book is if either the page margins are slimmed, the type-size is shrunk, or both. A smaller books isn't actually 'greener' unless those are done.

The chief advantage of the pavement slabs is that they use the same page layouts as the hard-backs and the cost of re-typesetting and re-proofing is saved. Once again, keeping your RRP low and the corporate profits less dismal.

Paperbacks with 'slot-bound' bindings will cost the same as 'perfect bound' to produce, although the former might be slightly thicker by a hair's breadth. The ease of their staying open on their own isn't the question, really, as we're concerned with the size of the books when closed and not being read.