Pub Rants

Where’s The Rise In The Mass Market Paperback?

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STATUS: TGIF! Lots to do still over the weekend. One of these days I’ll get caught up and I’ll feel less guilty.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? DO I DO by Stevie Wonder

Here’s an interesting monkey wrench to throw into our whole discussion concerning hardcover versus paperback.

Many of you mentioned that that the price point on HC is just too high—you wait for the paperback release, which often happens about a year after the HC release.

In recent articles I’ve been reading in Publishers Weekly, it has been often mentioned that sales of the mass market paperbacks have been on the decline. In other words, the pocket size versions that usually have a very nice price point of $5.99 or $6.99.

Now I have to wonder why that is. If price is the issue, then that certainly solves it so the reader can buy the book. It’s only a couple of dollars more than a fancy Starbucks latte. (That’s putting it into perspective!). Yet, sales are down over previous years.

What’s causing that do you think? Is it aging baby boomers who can’t (or don’t want to struggle) with the smaller print? I’m not there yet but soon I’ll be able to relate.

Trade paperback (same size as HC) is a bit on the rise—but not in huge numbers. (I really wished I had saved that article or articles so I could reference it here. I’m too lazy to look it up right now as I only have a few minutes to blog before I head out of the office.)

If price is the issue, than folks should be buying more mass markets rather than fewer. That doesn’t seem to be the case…

Have you seen the slightly over-sized mass market versions some publishing houses have been experimenting with for their big name authors? They aren’t as big as the trade pbs and not as small as the regular mass market. I know they were experimenting to see if that would draw readers. I haven’t seen any statistics on those yet. They are priced a buck or two higher than the regulars.

61 Responses

  1. Anonymous said:

    What about e-books? Does that affect the sales of printed books?
    Personally I buy HC, when I can find them. If its first edition all the better!
    Mass market paperbacks fall apart too easily and I like to keep my books forever if possible. I think HC are worth every penny, if you want to collect as well as read books.

  2. Anonymous said:

    I have bought a couple of the oversized mass markets; for the difference in the price, I’d rather have a trade paperback, with nicer paper and a better overall “feel.” I realize publishers are looking for a compromise, but this doesn’t do it for me.

    IMO, the problem with paperbacks is the elimination (or contraction) of mass market ORIGINALS. They gave you the opportunity to try out an author at a cheaper price. I used to throw a couple of extra books into the pile when it was paperbacks. Not now. I’ve read all my favorites, either by purchasing the hardcover or via library. There’s no way I can afford to experiment with new authors in hardcover at $25 bucks a shot or more. Give me new stuff in mass market and I’ll buy.

  3. Shanna Swendson said:

    I wonder how much it has to do with the fact that booksellers are more likely to discount trade PB while selling MM at full price. Amazon seems to be offering MM at list price these days, no discount, while trades are still discounted. Borders does the “buy 2, get 1 free” thing with trades only, and the member coupons they send out usually apply to only purchases of a certain amount and above, at a level that means the coupon won’t apply to a MM paperback. About the only place where MM paperbacks are discounted is at stores like Target and WalMart, and there the selection is really limited. With bookstore coupons and discounts, and with MM prices edging upward, the trade is almost the same cost as MM. If you’re being picky about books and only buying “keepers,” it makes sense to buy the one that won’t fall apart after one read.

    I think I quit buying a lot of MM when the price went over $6. It went from a cheap splurge to a purchase to consider.

  4. JL Robinson said:

    I’ve purchased a few of the in-between size paperbacks since that was the only size available for an author I just discovered (Linda Fairstein) but I don’t care for this new size. You would’t think the slight size change from a standard paperback would make much of a difference but it sits differently in my hand, I’ve had some issues getting them to stay nicely in my book stands and they no longer fit in my smaller purses or bags. I prefer the regular paperback size for new authors or no hardback authors.

    I have to admit that for my main authors, I just can’t wait for paperback and go ahead with a bookstore or book club hardback purchase. I actually budget for them since I spend $900-1300 annually on books.

    I’d like to see comments from anyone who prefers the new in-between size. Maybe you can share an idea that will make me change my mind.

  5. Anonymous said:

    “If price is the issue, than folks should be buying more mass markets rather than fewer.”

    Well, that depends on your economic bracket and just how hard the rise of gas and grocery prices, etc., is hitting you. There are people now, and I’m one of them, who don’t have the option of paying even 5.99 or 6.99 for a book, much less a latte. I now buy my books, when I buy them, second hand for 25 or 50 cents apiece; and I don’t imagine that I’m the only one who’s doing this.

  6. Miki said:

    For me, it’s not like rising prices led me to shift from buying HC to mass market — I was already buying mass market to begin with, because of both price and in an attempt to conserve bookshelf geography.

    Over the last couple years, though, the prices of just about everything have gone up while my income has stayed pretty flat — and so I’ve slashed my “buying new books” budget by about 75%, and rely pretty heavily on the library and trading books with friends. I have tried to be more aggressive about getting my library to buy the books I want to read, though, and they’re pretty responsive about that — so additional copies are being bought, but far less so than I was picking up 5-8 new paperbacks a month.

  7. Liz said:

    Most stores where I’m from will get rid of those few remaining hardcovers as fast as they can once the release date for the paperback starts looming. So…$3.99 for a hardcover now or $6.99 for a paperback in a month? It’s a no-brainer. Two bucks may only be one third of a venti frappucino, but it’s also half a gallon of gas.

  8. Anonymous said:

    I created my father’s memoir stories through Lulu. At 86, I thought it better not to wait. He told, I wrote.

    Anyway, I made up a large print edition as an afterthought. That version has sold way more than the trade paperback size. Tells me that people like the big print.

    To encourage the sales, I also zapped up the book through CreateSpace (Amazon). I cut $5.00 off the TP price and $4.00 off the LP.

    Yeah, POD doesn’t sell. Get to the right price point and POD sells just fine.

    As for the mm vs hc on big publisher books, I can see a year of reviews discouraging mm buyers. As you agents always say, the writing is everything. What the big pubs are pushing may be disappointing.

    You also can’t discount the ebook market reducing mm sales. Even cheaper to buy. A pain to read for me, but the readers like Kindle may make this a more attractive option.

  9. k said:

    I’m only in my 20’s and the mmpb’s already hurt my eyes. That’d be my guess. (Too much time on the computer?)

  10. Just_Me said:

    Possibly the reason is the demohraphic of who buys which books. Mass market paperback is the realm of genre fiction, poor students, working mothers, geeks, and the people who usually list buying $20 worth of books as a guilty indulgence.

    Hard cover and the large paperbacks have a different following, a different buyer demographic, and a different set of pocketbooks to dig into.

    My theory (untested and unproven) would be that the decline in mass market buying reflects the lack of free money the usual buyers have. Whereas a collector of hard covers is going to make it a priority to buy the hard cover regardeless of price someone who grabs a book because they have spare change and now doesn’t won’t be buying.

    The other thing to note is the number of good titles coming out in the past year in mass market. Most genre (sci-fi/fantasy/romance/urban fiction) comes out as mass market. I’m not sure what everyone else thinks but I’ve been having trouble finding something new and engaging on the shelves I usually browse.

    I don’t doubt good books are being written, but not all the stores are stocking those books. It’s possible the drop in sales simply reflects the empty shelves and the lack of choice. When buyers go in and can’t find anything new they simply don’t buy….

  11. nightsmusic said:

    I made the mistake of buying one of those slightly oversized mass market versions. It doesn’t fit anywhere on my shelf!! And there are very few that are the same size even with that.

    I’ll stick to the itty bitty mass market paperback and just keep buying stronger glasses 🙂

  12. Joseph L. Selby said:

    One possible reason that I can cite is the manner in which booksellers make the books available. My local borders has completely segregated the mass paperbacks from hardbacks and trades. Mass paperbacks are in a completely different row. For the longest time I thought publishers were abandoning mass paperback for the higher price but still affordable trades. I mean, the shelf went from A-Z without any mass paperbacks, what else could it be? There had been mass paperbacks on those shelves previously.

    One day I was bored and went to look at the mysteries that used to be on the row behind the fantasy that I generally browse first. That’s where I found the mass paperback. The signs on the shelf still said Mystery even though it was entirely fantasy and science fiction.

  13. Gary Sand said:

    I’m not surprised that overall book sales are off, but I am surprised that pocketbooks fall into that category. That’s all I buy since I actually put them in my pocket at times. However, I’m finding it more and more difficult to find books I want to read. They are too cookie-cutter and filled with the f-word. I spent 25 years in the military, and a bunch of battle-hardened WWII sergeants couldn’t hold a candle to the typical female character when spouting foul language.

    As authors seek the lowest common denominator in class, they come closer and closer to writing for those who don’t read.

    It’s time for writers to do their part to raise the level of civility.

  14. Irate Teacher said:

    I know it’s horrible, but both my wife and I teach, and on our salaries, with gas at three weeks’ pay a gallon, we both go to the library. I know, I know, but that’s the only way I can continue to see where I need to be in terms of my writing right now, because I have to save a few bucks a month to pay the mortgage and such…

  15. Anonymous said:

    I like the Mass market size and can’t stand the larger trade paperbacks. I don’t want a taller book (fatter is great but not taller).

    I have to admit to buying fewer books these days after spending lots of money over the last few years and getting burned with a bunch of books I really disliked.

    Money is too tight to take a chance on a bad book so I now pre-read books at the library and if I like the book I’ll buy it (but only in mass market size).

  16. domynoe said:

    Personally, I prefer the size and quality of trade paperbacks, despite the higher cost, but most books don’t come out in trade.

    As for why the mass ppb is on the decline, other than the economy sucking the buying power out of the dollar, I know I’ve gotten more cautious with ALL my books purchases as prices go up. I’ve bought several recently that I haven’t liked, some even recommended by other readers, and to me it’s just waste of $7-$10 if I’m not going to finish it or, if I do manage to finish it, if I’m never going to want to read it again. This makes me hesitant to risk money on new authors.

    I haven’t seen the oversized mass markets, but I think I’d be in the same place with them as I am with mass market — if it’s going to be pricey, I’m going to be careful about what I buy. and $8 (on average) for a mass market is pricey to me.

    It makes me sad too because I would love to risk more on authors I don’t know. The cost is just prohibitive for me.

  17. Susan Helene Gottfried said:

    I loathe those new, bigger mass market sized books. For one, they’re usually 9.99. And for another, since they’re bigger, they don’t fit neatly on my shelves, in my hand, or anywhere else.

    I’ll do without if the only option is to spend money on that size. Many of my friends in one of my online book communities agree with my hatred of the size.

  18. Katherine said:

    I’m no marketing expert, but this is how things look from my armchair: people see trades as the best bang for the buck. Hard covers are expensive and not terribly portable, but pocket books don’t look as pretty on your bookshelf when you’re not reading them at the moment.

    Also, one thing I’ve been noticing with my friends over the past year is that we all really like the cool cover designs coming out these days, and that seems to get done for trades more than pocket books.

    Sound plausible?

  19. Moth said:

    Personally, on anything but Neil Gaiman books (and other auto-buy authors of mine), lately…I’ve been waiting until I can get it used on Amazon. Wait a few months and you can get almost any book on there for $4 (and that’s WITH the shipping).

    If it’s an autobuy author, of which at the moment I probably only have 2 or 3, then I’m buying the hardback and damn the cost because I need that book now!

  20. Suzanne said:

    From my faulty memory as a former Waldenbooks bookseller of four years: I remember people buying trade paperbacks much more than mass markets. I think part of this was because, at least in our store, the trade paperbacks were better displayed. The mass markets had their little bestseller rack and ‘what’s new’ section, but the trade paperbacks had at least five times the exposure.

    Almost everyone looks at the first half of the store, where the special displays are located. And the majority of the displays throughout the rest of the store are also dedicated to trades and hardbacks.

    Ultimately, do I think it contributes? Sure. Probably. Depends completely on how many stores do it that way. All of Waldenbooks’ stores are organized roughly the same, though, and I’d be surprised if other competitors deviated much from the tried and true methods. It’s all about gently presenting the highest priced books for the customer. It works.

  21. Mystery Robin said:

    I have to agree with the crowd here, that I don’t like to pay for a hardcover, particularly if I know I’m going to read the book really fast and probably not reread it.

    On the other hand, I cant’ stand mass market pb. It doesn’t fit in your hand well. It’s too fat, and not tall enough, and not, well, elegant.

    Also, during my formative years of book buying, Barnes and Noble would put such lovely trade pb’s all on a table right out in front. I always knew I’d like any book on their new fiction table that was printed in a trade pb.

    Once I got savvy to the publishing world, I could branch out and find those books myself back in the back, but the siren call of the trade pb is still a strong one.

  22. carterbham said:

    Perhaps I’m a bit of a snob, but I don’t like the mass market books. The feel of the paper, the way they look on my shelf, the tiny ass print. For only a few dollars more, I prefer the trade paperback. It may not hold up as long as a hardcover, but it works for me.

  23. Anonymous said:

    Hm… Interesting. I’m guessing it’s the smaller print, although it’s never bothered me too much (not enough to reject the book at least.)

  24. suelder said:

    Have you included audio books in that list? My BF is getting old enough that he doesn’t want to struggle with the fine print, so he gets audio books from a club (I think it’s a little like Netflix, you rent) and listens to books rather than read them.


  25. sirayn said:

    Are you serious? Paperbacks are $6-$7 in the US? They’re £6 and up in the UK and that is one mighty price increase. Wow. That explains why I can’t afford to buy new books in the UK.

  26. CAL said:

    I’m not sure if you consider this relevant, but do e-books factor in anywhere? A full 50% (perhaps more) of my book purchases nowadays are in e-book format. I have a tiny apartment and I can’t have that many bookshelves around me, so the e-books let me have my cake and eat it, too. (And should I lose my computer files, I can just get the book from the online bookstore again, as there is a “virtual bookshelf” there.)

  27. Julie Weathers said:

    I’m probably odd man out, but I try to get hardcovers of authors I really love. If I am short on money when I find a new book, I’ll buy the paperback. Then, when I can, I go back and buy the hardcover because I simply love the permanence of them.

    If I’m experimenting with a new author, I probably won’t buy the hardcover unless it’s highly recommended by someone I trust. Then it still has to pass the sniff test. Back cover, first few pages, random middle pages, end.

  28. Sheila Connolly said:

    Are sales in hardcover declining at the same rate as sales in mass market format? Do sales of the hardcover to libraries counterbalance any decline in individual buying? (Although I’ve heard sad stories about declines in library budgets, so I’m not sure this makes sense.)

    Is this an economic issue (hmmm, do I buy a book or dinner at McDonald’s?), or do people just read less these days?

  29. Carradee said:

    I can only speak for myself, but in my case the price issue means I’m buying far fewer books than I’d like. I’d much rather buy four books a month than four a year.

    And that I still live at home and my parents disapprove of fantasy and science fiction means that I avoid buying them when I do buy books, to avoid lectures. If I had the means to buy more books than I do (I’m facing a layoff and paying off college debt), I’d slip some fantasy/sci fi in there (definitely Shanna Swendson and Patricia Briggs!), but I don’t at the moment.

    If I get a good job post-layoff, I should be able to finish paying off debt in about a year, so maybe then! >:-D

    I also prefer the size and price of the regular paperbacks. I like my bookshelf to be even. Then again, I’m also young even if my eyes are pretty bad, so that probably affects my willingness to read small type.

  30. Ravenne said:


    With regard to the decline in paperback sales, I think that the numbers might be screwed up by the fact that there seems to be an increase of publication in paperback by authors that are either mediocre or new. Not that I don’t think experimenting with a new author in paperback isn’t a great way to discover a new series at cost value, but I’ve bought a half-dozen paperbacks authored by new or unknown writers and found that they haven’t lived up to their promise. That’s okay, for 6.99 I’ll take the chance. I won’t pay HB prices for a new author without a lot of research first.
    I’ve been stung by the new version of pb which is larger than the old version but not as expensive as the traditional HB. At 14.99 I didn’t like THAT at all. Will NOT do that again.
    Perhaps this decline is a matter of numbers. When you increase the number of PBs then sales need to go up to show profit. If a large percentage of PBs are unknown or new authors and are thrown into the mix of well-known authors, then the numbers are going to look bad.
    I choose carefully now. I buy deliberately to support the authors I like. I’ve bought six HBs this month and all were from big name authors that I love.


  31. Marie said:

    Judging from my own buying habits over the past few years, I had stopped buying hard cover when I bought my condo and decided to wait until the paperback version comes out.

    I have done it, when I can wait for the paperback. However, I still buy hardcover, but online, not in bookstores, as there is a significant difference in price. Amazon will consistantly sell a hardcover $10 to $20 less than it sells for in the bookstore. (I’m Canadian)

    So if I’m anxious to get a book that just came out, I will buy the hardcover version, but online, not in the store. And as I can always find enough books to get for free shipping, I get more books online then I’d get in the store.

  32. Anonymous said:

    Wow, as an author I find these comments discouraging partly because they reveal some problems with the industry and economy for a new author — and some realities of the business that readers don’t seem to recognize. A bit off topic, perhaps, but still relevant:

    First, if the hardcover doesn’t sell well enough, there won’t BE a paperback, trade or MM, to wait for. Second, buying books second hand is tough on authors because neither they nor the publisher get part of that 50 cents. And it’s easy to say, “Well, the book sold the first time,” but I’ve seen enough ARCs and marked review copies being illicitly sold on Amazon to know that plenty of those second-hand sales NEVER gave a dime to the author or publisher — only Amazon and the immoral jerks who sell books they never paid for.

    For authors, it would probably be easier to find fans and build a career if most everything was published in trade paper the first time, and forget hardcover, because people can afford them. A library market alone will not sustain a career, I don’t think.

  33. Anonymous said:

    I wondered if those oversized books were coming out to get readers used to holding e-readers.

  34. Anonymous said:

    I’m a writer and, sadly, I rarely buy a new book. Those mass market books are irrelevant to me because they’re almost always genre or commercial fiction, which I usually don’t read. The only books I buy new are books by my friends and the short story annuals (Best American, O. Henry, Pushcart); otherwise, it’s the library or used-book stores. How could I read 100+ books a year and pay full price (on what I earn?)? Sad but true.

  35. AstonWest said:

    I’d say it’s not price as much as it is perceived value for your money. If the customer doesn’t feel that $7 for a MMPB is a good value, it isn’t going to matter that $7 is far cheaper than $30 for a HC (which also isn’t perceived as value for the money).

    Although books CAN be read more than once, how often do people go back and read through ones they’ve already read? In essence, books are a one-time use expense…similar to the example of a Starbucks coffee (which personally I don’t think is value for the money, either… 😛 )

    And I’m probably a big “traitor to the cause” because I like to wait until the HC is on the discount rack, and pick it up for next to nothing…but that’s just me.

  36. Anonymous said:

    JL the biggest complaint I’ve seen about the Venti (Taller) books is that they’re heavy and cumbersome…and a little harder to hold. The print is slightly larger for older eyes but apparently the books weigh heavier on older (see arthritic) hands!

    I haven’t seen Amazon discounting MM either but they do buy 3 get 1 free for quite a few books so maybe it comes out about the same. That said, I like trade PB’s…like Agent K my eyes are getting older (but I’m WAY too young for reading glasses).

  37. Anonymous said:

    You’re forgetting something here. People who cannot afford the hardcover and don’t want to wait for the cheap copies download pirated versions of the book. This is our generation. If we can’t have what we want when we want it, we cheat. If publishing was smart, they’d offer us what we want immediately so we could throw money at them. Otherwise, too bad for them.

  38. rachelsnyder said:

    RE: the aging eyes of baby-boomers and small print in MMPB

    In addition to the tiny print, perhaps it’s also the overall aesthetic (or lack thereof) of the book design.

    The rise of digital photography and other technological advancements have accustomed us to sharp, clear, clean, spacious design – most often presented on high-resolution flat-screens, monitors, etc.

    Could it be that the humble MMPB isn’t tasty enough for 21st-century eyes?

    Regardless of the quality of the writing,the visual experience might feel cramped, dense, and sluggish — amidst a world that has moved on to crisp, quick, and sharp.

  39. Anonymous said:

    I have to agree with the few people who mentioned the economy. To not consider the tightening of budgets due to the high gas prices and the affect that has had on all aspects of the economy seems a tad short sighted.

    If a hand to mouth income is now paying two times as much for gasoline as last year – but their income has not increased proportionally to their expenditures- something has to go.

    buying books is a luxury of sorts- I suspect sales at second hand bookstores are on the rise. Websites such as paperbackswap are seeing much activity.

    the way sales are decreasing in department stores and increasing in discount outlets – the same is no doubt happening with the purchase of paperback books.

  40. Allison Brennan said:

    Some random comments:

    1) My mom hates the “oversized” mass market. She’s rather buy her favorite authors in hardcover. I’ve only seen the oversized MM as paperback releases of hardcovers; I doubt any PBO authors are in this format and I hope they never go that way. My mom is a barometer–she reads 5-6 books a week in genre (mystery, suspense, romance) and is a baby boomer.

    2) I started in mass market originals and am moving to hardcover for my 12th novel in late summer 09. I’ll still be publishing mass market originals as well as an annual hardcover. Building a readership in mass market is a reality for commercial, genre fiction. I can’t honestly say whether my books would have done well in trade, but I don’t think so–I’m hoping they’ll do well in hardcover.

    3) My mom used to have the wrong opinion that if a book was released as a mass market original that it was inferior. Since, she’s read many PBO authors and discovered that some are better than what she’s getting in hardcover. Format has more to do with market and genre than quality. I know four authors off the top of my head who published first a hardcover, then their publisher published their second book in MM because they hadn’t found their audience in the hardcover. Time will tell if they move back into hardcover. My agent once told me that you only get one shot at hardcover, so you want to do it right the first time. I’ve taken that to heart, so waiting for book #12 to move into HC is find by me.

    4) Trade paperbacks, for me, are hit or miss. They tend to be either literary; literary/commercial (i.e. Jodi Picoult); or erotic romance. I love the feel of trade; my mom doesn’t. I’ve felt for the last few years that trade was going to replace hardcover, but I haven’t seen it happen . . . at least for genre, which is either mm or hc.

    5) Someone mentioned ebooks. I don’t see them affecting the market at all. Ebook sales are less than .1 (point one) percent of my total sales. All my books are available via ebook. Believe me, I’m looking at these numbers carefully, but I haven’t seen anything that makes me think the ebook revolution is even on the horizon. What I think is that publishers need to offer books in a variety of formats to appeal to the breadth of readers–it’s really a “readers” market as there is a format for everyone, and bestsellers tend to publish in ALL formats eventually; midlisters only one or two.

  41. Sherryl said:

    Here in Australia, it’s fairly rare for a book to come out in hardback (unless it’s Tim Winton or Bryce Courtenay, with promotions back-up), and they cost around $45 full price. But I also refuse to buy full-price trade paperbacks – our alternative to your hardbacks. That’s because at full price they are $32.95 (yes, you read that right!)
    KMart and similar stores will sell them for 35% off, so I’ll buy at that price if it’s an author I really want. By the time we get MM versions, they are still $17.95 or more – hardly worth the wait. Amazon does a lot of business here!
    All the same, I have also cut back on book purchases, like many commenters – money has to go further these days. I look out for second hand books to try out new authors, or I use the library.

  42. Heather Harper said:

    I wish all of my purchases were MM price, but my hands prefer holding open HC or Trade. I struggle with the MM’s because of joint pain, (which has only worsened with daily computer use) but I’ll cave to purchase if I’m having budget issues or if the MM is all that is available for a specific title. Love the upperbacks, but not too many titles are available in those.

  43. Linda said:

    I know for me, it’s been cost and quality. Paperbacks are the cheapest, and yet they’re $7-$9. I get two, and I spend nearly $20. A trade paperback is $12. I’ve passed on authors I would like to read because they’re in the more expensive trade paperbacks. I stopped by hardbacks completely after getting hardbacks from authors I’d read and enjoyed before and the books were awful. $25 is a lot of money when the book is diappointing.

    Now when an author comes out with a book I would like to read, I put it on hold from my library. If I like the book, great; but if I don’t like the book, then I didn’t waste my money. There’s been several authors recently that I would have purchased in hardback in the past but checked out inside–and I’m glad I did. The books weren’t even worth buying a paperback.

    I think the quality might be suffering because the authors are having to turn out books so fast. I’ve run into several books where it was pretty obvious the author ran out of time to do the book properly, and others that felt like they were just tossing out a book to meet the deadline.

  44. Caitlin said:

    Sales of trade paperbacks are on the rise not just because of demand but because of supply. It’s pretty simple: More books are released in this format, so more books are sold in this format.

    This has a knock-on effect for hardback sales. Books are released in hardback or trade paperback, not both. So if more trade paperbacks are released, then fewer hardbacks are released – and fewer hardbacks are sold.

    The flow-on effect to mass paperbacks can still be about price. Trade paperbacks are cheaper than hardbacks so a book released in this format should sell more copies prior to the release of the mass paperback edition. That can eat into the potential audience for the mass paperback edition.

    The key thing about price is that it stops people buying hardback copies at all, but trade paperbacks are affordable enough that they will still sell if there is no mass paperback to compete with. Once the mass paperback is released, that will outsell any other format.

  45. Anonymous said:

    Most of the time, I buy the MMPB because I simply can’t justify the HB cost. Also, paperbacks are easier to tote around in my purse.

    However, in the past couple of months, I’ve started hitting the library. I simply can’t afford to buy any books right now.

    I now buy my books, when I buy them, second hand for 25 or 50 cents apiece; and I don’t imagine that I’m the only one who’s doing this.

    I hope you’ll consider the library, when possible. I’ve requested books numerous times, which the library has purchased (a sale for the author!). And I think checking out a book supports authors more in the long run than buying a used book.

  46. Anonymous said:

    As much as I would like to believe that publicity and marketing have nothing to do with the success of good books, there is obviously a decline in “buzz” during the year between releases.

    I prefer hardcover for books I think I might want to read again or offer to a friend. I have some paperbacks that are 30 or more years old, and the “perfect” binding is a failure. Some are nothing more than a stack of pages surrounded by the cover. The acid in the paper is also a problem.

  47. Kristi said:

    I think that MM paperbacks seem overpriced. Many aren’t $5.99 or $6.99..many are $7.99. And they aren’t put on sale, discounted, have the 3-for-2 sales or anything. I’m an avid shopper of the “bargain books” section at the bookstores, and I can frequently pick up a trade paperback of a newer title for the same or less $ than a 2-year old reprint MM. Why bother even check the paperback aisles?

    I wondered for years why the mm-sized paperbacks are never on the bargain tables, and having read about “returns” lately, I now know why. Seems to me (as a consumer), that if bookstores would simply put more paperbacks on “sale” instead of throwing them away, then I might buy more of them (and they’d make more money, waste less, etc).

    I am ridiculously easy to entice with a 25% off sign, and I suspect that there are plenty of other book readers just like me….

  48. AmyB said:

    I have no idea why mass market paperback sales are declining. I buy them frequently. It’s my least favorite format, but it’s the best value for my money. And since I buy a hundred books a year, price matters.

    My favorite format is trade paperback. Lately I’ve been reading O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin novels. They are offered in hardcover and a very high quality trade paperback. I buy the trade paperbacks and I’m very pleased with them. Content aside, they’re a convenient size, have attractive cover art, and they “fall open” nicely–that is, I can lay the book open on my lap and read it hands-free, which I can’t do with a mass market paperback unless I break the spine. They’re perfect books to carry around and read anywhere.

  49. Anonymous said:

    I rarely buy MMPB anymore, once in a blue moon. I find most of them cramped, with too much type crammed onto a poor quality page…doesn’t make for a nice reading experience. I’ve tried the tall ones, and they don’t quite work either, the paper and font is nice, but the books are too skinny, overall feel is awkward.

    My preference is hardcover, and I’m usually an immediate gratification person, can’t wait for the trade or MM version if it’s an author I like, such as Emily Giffin, who I snapped up the day it came out.

    Trade pp is fine though, still has the nice feel of hardcover and lower price. Some trade pp have the same issue as MMPP though when they try to cram too much on the page or use really tiny font. This does a huge disservice to the reader and the author. One of your authors had this happen actually. I bought Jennifer O’connell’s NAL book, the one where the heroine was a baker, and it was a great story, but tiniest most crammed font I’ve ever seen.

  50. WordVixen said:

    I can’t speak for anyone else, but I know that by the time the paper back is available, I’ve forgotten all about the book. Authors promote the heck out of the first printing, but as a consumer I do not babysit the shelves until the paper back comes out. Sometimes, it’s years before I happen to see it and think “oh yeah, I wanted that”.

    Unfortunately for me, most of the PB’s that I want tend to run closer to $8. That adds up very quickly with how much I read.

  51. Beth said:

    I like mass markets for the price and size (portability counts for a lot), but I’ll admit that trades are much nicer to read in terms of print size and overall quality. Hardcovers take up too much room on the shelf and are too awkward to lug around (and sometimes they’re too heavy even just to read comfortably), so I don’t have many of those. I buy mostly mass market.

  52. Anonymous said:

    The price of MM paperbacks used to keep pace with movies. Now they are a bargain compared to first-run movies. We have paid as much as ten bucks a ticket for movies in Manhattan. You can pass a paperback along to someone else. Can’t do that with a movie!

  53. Shanna Swendson said:

    It’s occurred to me that what is being published in each format could make a difference. It seems like YA is a really hot market segment right now, and they don’t seem to do a lot of MM originals there. They’re almost all hardcover at first, then going to trade paperback. That alone could skew the numbers.

    Then there’s a lot more of doing a trade paperback as the interim step between the hardcover and mass market, often with “bonus features.” There have been a couple of times that I’ve bought a trade paperback even though a MM edition was available because the trade had extras like an interview with the author and a related short story included. If you can get that with the trade edition, there’s less incentive to wait for the mass market. I tend to do my initial reading through the library with the hardcover edition, then buy the trade paperback comes out with the bonus features if the book is a “keeper” that I know I want to own.

  54. Doreen Orion said:

    My contract for my book was for HC, but the publisher (Broadway Books) said they’d had a lot of luck with my genre (humorous travel memoir) in trade paperback, so would I consider it? I’m so glad I did, for here are some bonuses I never would have thought of and would not have happened if my book had not come out in trade paperback: Borders has chosen it as its featured book club selection for this month, Target has chosen it as a Breakout Book, and Anthropologie is carrying it! I’ve also already been contacted by several book clubs to “appear” by speakerphone (and the book has only been out a week). I don’t think they would be buying HC, either.

  55. Anonymous said:

    Apparently it is simple math that explains the change-
    Page area increases by ~9% and price increases by ~25%. All about the benjamins.

  56. Anonymous said:

    I’m a bookseller. Independent. (We’re not dead yet. Well, quite, anyway.) I truly hate the new size for mass market paperbacks & continue to avoid buying them… but it’s starting to mean serious gaps in what I can carry: it’s a catch-22. They don’t fit. They’re too expensive. Customers *won’t* buy them. And the publishers are starting to make some backlist titles unavailable in the “old” size.

    Selling $8 paperbacks to people is hard enough. $10? It’s a psychological breakpoint it is going to be awfully difficult to get most American buyers past.

    This size is a disaster from a shelving pov. Ok, my problem as businessperson, not the customers’. Still: it sucks. (And if you have shelves at home designed to hold only mass market paperbacks… you might well agree.)

    There is no difference in print-size between “old” and “new” mass markets. The margins are narrower. Thus all arguments from publishers that this is targeted at an older market are specious. I *am* that older market. My eyes are not happier with this “new” size. Puhlease. (And narrower books are hardly easier to hold.)

    Publishers are all about profit. They are only about profit. They are unbelievably greedy.

    A hardback used to cost about $1.65 more to produce, per book, than a trade paperback. But they cost the buyer twice as much (leaving aside discounts & all that for now). I can’t believe the economies of scale are much different with mass market books in relation to trade. The paper in mass mkt is lower quality than *newsprint*. There is pure-D no reason to charge people $2 more per book because they are being offered… what? more paper? higher pages with narrower margins? And customers would find this desirable… why?

    Conclusion: I’ll have to start carrying them, eventually. But where I’m going to put them I have no idea. How I’m going to *sell* them I have no idea. And how this helps encourage people to buy more books–escapes me.

    Ever since the Thor Power Tool decision, publishers have been unable to write off product they have warehoused over time. So instead they have smaller & smaller print-runs; books go out of print ever-faster. Jacking the price on mass-markets seems like it only leads to an inevitable dead-end: people stop buying increasingly expensive, inconveniently-sized mass market paperbacks. And publishers’ profits rise accordingly. So they see no disconnect–or seeing it, could care less.

    That leaves both me and my hardcore scifi and mystery readers hanging out to dry. These are people who can read two books a *night*. They are not going to start dropping $16 a book for trade paperback. I so wish publishers would get a clue, but their objectives and mine have amazingly little in common.

  57. Thomas said:

    I have what I classify as a “semi-serious” book habit: about 10-12 books/month. I hate, hate, HATE the new taller paperbacks! They don’t fit on my shelf at home. They don’t fit in my murse while I’m mobile. They don’t fit in my pocket while I’m headed to the bathroom at work. They’re harder to hold while I’m driving. I won’t pay the outrageous sums publishers are foisting on me for hardbacks EVER(!) (It’s bad enough they’re already making me wait an extra year-or-so to get the paperback!) but now I’m seeing more and more of the books I want to read being released ONLY in that stupid, over-priced, user-hostile, too-tall and totally-unlovable “venti” format. It’s enough to make me want to hunt down the idiot who dreamed up this catastrophe and shove every one of them I now own up his/her bunghole!! (They’d be easy to grab because they’re all laying in a pile–because they won’t fit in my bookshelves!)

    I heard a unique theory the other day from another reader who hates them. (Have you met anyone who prefers them? If so, can you get them to explain why?) They said, “Maybe they INTENTIONALLY designed them to be hated, to drive people to eBooks!” I’m not normally a “conspiracy theorist” kind of guy, but it got me thinking about it: eBooks currently cost the same (or MORE!) to you and me, but no print runs! Profit margins have got to be HUGE, when compared to the printed market! After they pay for the initial infrastructure, Operation and Maintenance costs for keeping an online sales site up and running are pretty low, plus there are no shipping costs to distributors, no returned book covers to deal with, fewer accounting issues for credits to bookseller since they cut out the middleman of the bookseller completely…it’s pretty much a winning scenario all around for them if they can discourage cheap book readers. Let’s face it: I’m an addict, and I WILL get my fix!! If they’re delivered by electrons rather than those stoopid too-tall books? I can probably make the technological leap, although it would still pain me to do so, since I really LIKE paper-based books. And having a Kindle, Nook, Google Books and Kobo reader app all installed on my phone makes them available wherever I am, no matter who’s providing them.

    So, whether by accident or design, I’m probably going to end up no longer buying MMPBs…primarily as a result of that too-tall publication format.

    And I really can’t believe I’m going that route alone.