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Policies & Practices > Mass Market Paperbacks

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message 1: by Carol (new)

Carol | 29 comments What is meant by mass market paperbacks in the format field? How do you tell the difference between this and other paperbacks?


message 2: by Kim (new)

Kim | 604 comments http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mass_mar...

They are commonest and cheaper of the paperback varieties. In major releases they're also the last edition generally. Big paperbacks are trade paperbacks.


message 3: by Lobstergirl (new)

Lobstergirl Mass market paperback is the type you would see in a drugstore rack. It's smaller in format than a trade paperback (although it might be thicker) and it's more likely to have a cover with gilt or embossed letters, or cut-outs. Typical cover:




message 4: by Kim (new)

Kim | 604 comments Most of my hardcovers have a dust jacket with gilt or embossed letters. I've some trade paperbacks with them too.


message 5: by Sffgeek (new)

Sffgeek | 26 comments I've asked before for a "Trade Paperback" in the format field, so that people can be sure. The trouble is that most of the smaller sized earlier books (up to the 90s?) are just recorded as "paperbacks". Only when the larger size became widely available did they start getting called "mass market paperbacks" by contrast (although in some cases this has been applied retrospectively). If we had a "Trade Paperback" option we could be specific.


message 6: by Sandra (new)

Sandra | 23181 comments Sffgeek, you can write Trade Paperback very easily.


message 7: by RB (new)

RB (rblindberg) | 31 comments If you need more informaion you can also look here, both links are quite useful:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paperbac...

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/16/boo...


message 8: by Sffgeek (new)

Sffgeek | 26 comments Sandra wrote: "Sffgeek, you can write Trade Paperback very easily."

Thanks. I hadn't realised that.

But I still think it would be a good idea to have it as a standard format.


message 9: by rivka, Librarian Moderator (new)

rivka | 41998 comments Mod
But it isn't one. Unlike MMP, which are virtually size-identical publisher to publisher, trades vary in size. Sometimes the term is even used for MMP-sized with better-quality paper.


message 10: by Lobstergirl (new)

Lobstergirl I'm not a fan of allowing people to write-in a format. What's wrong with having a set list of standardized formats only?

I also don't see the need for a Trade Paperback format. I think Paperback suffices. It covers everything - if you're not sure if something is mass or trade, or some other category of paperback, "Paperback" is perfectly good.


message 11: by Sandra (new)

Sandra | 23181 comments I sometimes like to know which size a pb is, so that it matches the rest of my books if it is a series. Other than that I don't think it matters, other than they charge more for tpbs.


message 12: by Kim (new)

Kim | 604 comments Sandra wrote: "I sometimes like to know which size a pb is, so that it matches the rest of my books if it is a series. Other than that I don't think it matters, other than they charge more for tpbs."

But how would that matter from here? You don't buy books from GR directly. It's up to the place you purchase it from to tell you what size it is. Once you've received the book just make sure you get the right ISBN.


message 13: by Vicky (last edited Nov 09, 2011 04:56PM) (new)

Vicky (librovert) | 2459 comments I don't mind the differentiation between Mass Market Paperbacks and (Trade) Paperbacks. In fact, I like it, because I don't particularly care for the mass market paperback as a format.

But I do agree that no further separation is necessary. A trade paperback is, essentially, every paperback that isn't a Mass Market Paperback, is it not? So whether we call it "Trade Paperback" just "Paperback" it's the same thing.


message 14: by vicki_girl (new)

vicki_girl | 2765 comments Vicky wrote: "I don't mind the differentiation between Mass Market Paperbacks and (Trade) Paperbacks. In fact, I like it..."

Agreed, but like Sandra, I like knowing what size I am getting before I buy so they match. While the online retailer should give you that info, Amazon(and many others) is not the most reliable source of information.

Vicky wrote: "A trade paperback is, essentially, every paperback that isn't a Mass Market Paperback, is it not? So whether we call it "Trade Paperback" just "Paperback" it's the same thing."

Technically "paperback" covers both MMPB and Trade Paperbacks. However, GR has chosen to call all paperbacks that aren't MMPB's just "Paperback", which I believe is perfectly adequate. In addition it avoids confusion with comic book "trade paperbacks". For booksellers/retailers, trade paperbacks for non-comics and comics are the same (IIRC, both can be returned to the publisher for credit). However, to many readers the word "trade" implies comic book, regardless of the fact that booksellers were using it long before comics were distributed that way.

That's my long-winded way of saying, I think it's fine the way it is. :)


message 15: by Sffgeek (new)

Sffgeek | 26 comments Vicky wrote: "A trade paperback is, essentially, every paperback that isn't a Mass Market Paperback, is it not? So whether we call it "Trade Paperback" just "Paperback" it's the same thing."

Unfortunately no it isn't! The trouble is, as I said before, that the majority of older paperbacks are actually mass market paperbacks but are recorded in GR simply as "paperback". To implement Vicky's approach we would need to retrospectively change most of the "paperbacks" from before 1990 to "mass market paperback". Unfortunately not all of them - we'd have to check each one individually.

I believe the most pragmatic approach is to continue to use "paperback" as a generic term, in the absence of greater detail, and to use "mass market paperback" and "trade paperback" as specifics when the detail is known.

Lobstergirl wrote: "I also don't see the need for a Trade Paperback format. I think Paperback suffices. It covers everything - if you're not sure if something is mass or trade, or some other category of paperback, "Paperback" is perfectly good.

I like to know what size a book is because some of my shelves are only wide enough to fit mass-market paperbacks, so I have to put larger books by the same authors on other shelves. I'm sure there are other people who would also like to have this information.


message 16: by James (new)

James (james_k_bowers) | 152 comments Lobstergirl wrote: "I'm not a fan of allowing people to write-in a format. What's wrong with having a set list of standardized formats only?

I can almost agree with this -- but the list would have to be very inclusive and devoid of ambiguities, meaning that there would always have to be those icky options like "Other" or "Not known" and the like. I'd feel more comfortable with simply not encouraging "write-in" formats and keeping the options table as complete and user-friendly as possible - which would mean adding "Trade Paperback" to the existing list.

Lobstergirl wrote: I also don't see the need for a Trade Paperback format. I think Paperback suffices. It covers everything - if you're not sure if something is mass or trade, or some other category of paperback, "Paperback" is perfectly good."

While this may be true, I think if we can be more specific, we should use "Mass Market Paperback" or "Trade Paperback" when we know the format. (As Sffgeek has pointed out, when thinking in terms of shelves, size does matter.)


message 17: by Mike (new)

Mike  Davis (mldavis2) | 6 comments It would appear that the two variables under consideration are quality and size, with size being the dominant issue. The problem with segregating paperbacks by size is that there are too many different sizes to consider - trade, mass-market, etc. not to mention metric vs. inch measurements. I can appreciate the storage problems with narrow shelf spacing, but I cannot imagine making a purchase determination based on the height of a paperback. If that is the case in rare instances, the dimensions of book versions are given on other web sites such as LT.


message 18: by James (last edited Nov 10, 2011 04:20PM) (new)

James (james_k_bowers) | 152 comments Mike wrote: "It would appear that the two variables under consideration are quality and size, with size being the dominant issue. The problem with segregating paperbacks by size is that there are too many different sizes to consider - trade, mass-market, etc. not to mention metric vs. inch measurements..."

Personally, if I'm going to purchase a book that takes up as much shelf space as a hardcover, I'd rather purchase the hardcover version than a trade paperback, so this can easily be a quality and size issue.

Perhaps, the better solution at Goodreads would be to treat all non-hardcover, non-audio, non-electronic books as simply "Paperback" instead of muddying the issue by offering both "Paperback" and "Mass Market Paperback" as options, while excluding "Trade Paperback" (which would work for those over-sized paperbacks as well as "fancy comic books").

Just my two cents, but obviously we'll play the game by what's in the GR rulebook.. :)


message 19: by Sandra (new)

Sandra | 23181 comments Kim wrote: "Sandra wrote: "I sometimes like to know which size a pb is, so that it matches the rest of my books if it is a series. Other than that I don't think it matters, other than they charge more for tpbs..."

As I buy mostly on line and they don't always specify book sizes, it can be helpful to know which ISBN to buy, and GR is all about the info :)


message 20: by Sffgeek (new)

Sffgeek | 26 comments Another solution would be to have the book height avalable as a "visible column" under Shelf Settings. Then we would have the precise information to work with, rather than a generic description.


message 21: by James (new)

James (james_k_bowers) | 152 comments Sffgeek wrote: "Another solution would be to have the book height avalable as a "visible column" under Shelf Settings. Then we would have the precise information to work with, rather than a generic description."

Agreed, but shelf depth is also a concern. So, essentially, one would want the dimensions of the cover (how thick a book is less a concern, though the sum of these thicknesses will determine how many linear feet of shelving one needs to keep them from inhabiting boxes).


message 22: by Carol (new)

Carol | 29 comments This has been a good discussion. I thank you all for responding. My knowledge as a librarian is increasing :)
I am getting into the habit of putting the dimensions of the books I am entering into the system. Unfortunately, not all Goodreaders can see this information. That would be another option for knowing which book edition to purchase.


message 23: by Lobstergirl (new)

Lobstergirl Book size and book format do not always correlate. I have no problem with size being part of the data (though I ignore it myself) but to me that's an consideration independent of whether something gets labelled mass market paperback or paperback.


message 24: by Caro (new)

Caro | 177 comments OK, I just want to make sure I got this right, sorry layman here, 'trade paperbacks' are paperback books that are basically the same size as a hard backs (looking at the cover, not thickness) and 'mass market paperback' are the paperbacks that are the smaller version of trade (usually thicker because of the smaller size), and 'paperback' paperbacks are the paperback books that are from before 'trade's exsisted and are the size of mass market but were just called paperbacks because there was reason to differentiate (there was only one size paperback).


message 25: by rivka, Librarian Moderator (new)

rivka | 41998 comments Mod
Actually, "paperback" mostly means any size paperback. Trades are technically about quality of paper, not size of the book, but it gets used both ways. If you're not sure what kind of paperback it is, you're always safe with plain "paperback".


message 26: by Caro (new)

Caro | 177 comments ok thanks, that's a lot easier to remember


message 27: by Lobstergirl (new)

Lobstergirl rivka wrote: "Actually, "paperback" mostly means any size paperback. Trades are technically about quality of paper"

I wonder if this is still true. I've even been seeing hardbacks lately with awful paper. Like newsprint paper.


message 28: by An Odd1 (last edited Feb 12, 2012 12:35PM) (new)

An Odd1 | 80 comments Wiki says mass-markets are small pocketbook 4x7ish", trades bigger (originally better paper). So "paperback" is correct for both, and misleading to have separate as now. If we really need to separate, pocketbook and trade are more accurate than paperback and mass-market. The average reader, without research, says paperback, not mass market. May delete mass market, add trade, choose 4x7 vs big, call pocketbook. Obviously current choices are unclear, or people wouldn't ask.


message 29: by vicki_girl (new)

vicki_girl | 2765 comments I would avoid using the term "pocketbook" for two reasons:

1. In some areas of the US (like where I grew up), a "pocketbook" is the same as a purse or a handbag. I think most people will not confuse a purse with a book. In my personal opinion, though, it sounds strange to call a printed book a "pocketbook", which to me means "handbag".

2. The term "pocket book" was coined by the original publisher of this size book, Pocket Books. I personally would avoid a term that highlights a particular publisher in this way.

Really, I think we could add Trade Paperback to the drop-down list of choices of format, while retaining Mass Market Paperback and just plain old Paperback. Trade and Mass Market are how the two types of paperbacks are distinguished on Wikipedia, which indicates to me that they are the most commonly used terms for the differentiation. Paperback could be kept for those times when the person isn't sure which is correct.


message 30: by Caro (new)

Caro | 177 comments that would be my thought too. keeping trade and mass market for those who know and paperback for those who don't. some don't really care, and for those who do, they will have the option


❂ Murder by Death  (murderbydeath) I agree with vicki-girl's idea. I'm one of those that like the differentiation, and having also grown up in the US, 'pocketbook' doesn't conjure books in my mind, so much as purses. :) Plus, I've seen the smaller books referred to as "mass market" for as long as I remember.


message 32: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Palfrey | 13 comments I'm British, and to me a paperback is a paperback. "Mass market paperback" seems to me an American term that I've never used, and I don't see the point of it. Does any company deliberately publish "small market paperbacks"? Why use three words when one word will do?

The trouble with having different classes of paperbacks is the terms are not consistently used in the database, which means that the Format filter (when looking at multiple editions) becomes useless. If you select Paperback, the list will omit some paperbacks because they've been marked as Mass Market Paperback, and vice versa. If you're looking for a paperback of some kind, you have to look at all formats to be sure of finding the edition you're looking for. This is not good.


message 33: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Palfrey | 13 comments I think everyone understands the distinction between a hardback and a paperback: it's to do with the rigidity of the cover.

I have read that some people distinguish between mass market paperbacks (small) and trade paperbacks (large).

Well, the size of the book is a completely separate attribute, and to lump size and rigidity together as a single attribute is surely bad database practice. Better to have one attribute for hardback/paperback, and a different attribute or attributes containing the dimensions of the book.


message 34: by Michael (last edited Feb 25, 2012 03:39AM) (new)

Michael | 262 comments Jonathan wrote: "I'm British, and to me a paperback is a paperback. "Mass market paperback" seems to me an American term that I've never used, and I don't see the point of it. Does any company deliberately publish ..."

I'm British, too, and so, having the same cultural background, agree with you, Jonathan.

Hopefully, Goodreads will remember that they are serving a global community and will eventually simplify the database by using a simple, one-word term that is universally (I'm going out on an Anglo-centric limb here :-)) recognised: Paperback


message 35: by Sandra (new)

Sandra | 23181 comments Chipping in from Aus, we only use Paperback as well.


message 36: by James (last edited Feb 25, 2012 07:00AM) (new)

James (james_k_bowers) | 152 comments It might be nice to see this simplified but allow for subcategorization of format. For example "Paperback" format could be chosen, then the person adding/editing the data could then be allowed the option to further define "Paperback" as a "Mass Market Paperback" or "Trade Paperback". If "Audio" format is chosen, then it could be further defined as "MP3", "Cassette", or "CD". Using this method, the (primary) format would be used for selecting paperbacks in a search for "paperback", and the (primary and secondary) detailed format would be used in sorting the items selected in the search.

As much as I would like having the ability to choose "Trade Paperback" as a format, I'm very much in support of the simplification of this field. Why? Because I'm not British, and to me a "Paperback" is a paperback and a "Mass Market Paperback" is a paperback and a "Trade Paperback" is a paperback. Furthermore, it makes no sense to me to be able to select "Paperback" and "Mass Market Paperback" with 1 click, while "Trade Paperback" can be a format only by selecting "other" and typing those 15 characters. GR would probably have a far different view of how its data is handled and maintained if its librarians were paid for their time, because every keystroke represents time and effort.


message 37: by Cornelia (last edited Feb 25, 2012 05:37AM) (new)

Cornelia (stage) | 86 comments In Germany we simply do have two formats: Taschenbuch (paperback, but literally pocket book) and gebundenes Buch (hardcover, but literally bound book). Both formats come in very different sizes and are usually qualitywise better than any American book of the same formats I've ever seen.


message 38: by Caro (new)

Caro | 177 comments James wrote: "It might be nice to see this simplified but allow for subcategorization of format. For example "Paperback" format could be chosen, then the person adding/editing the data could then be allowed the ..."

I agree with this. It would make a searching and info a lot easier.


message 39: by vicki_girl (new)

vicki_girl | 2765 comments Jonathan wrote: "I'm British, and to me a paperback is a paperback. "Mass market paperback" seems to me an American term that I've never used, and I don't see the point of it. Does any company deliberately publish "small market paperbacks"

I apologize in advance for my long post, but I want to make sure explaining myself correctly.

I think you are asking are non-mass market paperbacks produced, i.e. are there paperbacks for a small market versus a mass market. If so, then I would say yes. In the US, Trade Paperbacks (or just Paperbacks on GR), are usually a smaller market than the Mass Market Paperback.

They were originally produced for the academic community & colleges, because they weren't as heavy to cart around campus. A very small market. Today they are still a smaller market. Most people today, in my personal experience, want either a) the quality and/or collectiblity of the hardcover, b) can't wait until the paperback comes out and thus buy the Hardcover which is put out first, or c) they want something cheap (Mass Markets are about half the price of the Trade Paperbacks).

People who buy the Trade Paperback are still a pretty small market. They are the folks that want something that is better quality than a Mass Market Paperback, but don't want the expense or bulkiness of the Hardcover. (I do want to note, in a few cases, the Trade Paperback is the only paperback available, and thus also becomes the cheapest option for people trying to save money.)

In the US, Trade Paperbacks (or Paperbacks) are very different from Mass Market Paperbacks. Trade Paperbacks are generally much larger, close to the size of a Hardcover. In addition, the quality of binding, paper and ink are much better than the Mass Markets. The Mass Market Paperbacks are only half as tall and much lower quality, sometimes the paper and ink are equivalent to newspaper/newsprint (I have actually had Mass Markets "smear" and leave ink stains on my fingers similar to newspapers before). This difference in quality is also reflected in the price. Mass Markets are usually $7-9, Trade Paperbacks are usually $12-15, and for completeness, Hardcovers are usually $20-30.

There are additional differences when it comes to how these books are distributed and bought between the publisher and the bookstores, but that is irrelevant to this discussion.

I would like to ask, since outside the US there is only Paperback and Hardcover, do you have these distinct differences in your Paperbacks? Or are all Paperbacks produced with the approximately the same quality, size, and price? I know there is some variety, as you stated previously, but I am asking if there is no distinction in other countries because there is no real difference. (I want to state there is no offense intended in the previous statement. I am just curious and trying to understand better.) :)


message 40: by Michael (new)

Michael | 262 comments In the UK, we do have paperbacks in the size that are called Trade Paperbacks in the US, but they're just called paperbacks, at least by the general public.

Personally, I find them an annoyance - they're too big to sit comfortably on my shelves and I tend not to buy them if I can avoid them. Clearly, I am biased in the matter of nomenclature for the database.


message 41: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Palfrey | 13 comments Hello Vicki, thanks for your explanation of the US situation and terminology. Of course, there are variations in the sizes of books all over the world, but in my experience people just refer to paperbacks as paperbacks, whatever size they are. I have some old paperbacks from the 1960s, and they seem the same size as normal modern paperbacks; I don't think anything has changed. If I need to mention that a paperback is larger than usual, I suppose I could call it a large paperback; but usually I have no need to mention the size of a book in conversation. If I want to know when buying, I see that Amazon gives the dimensions of books on its Web site.

It sounds from your description as though some of your "mass market paperbacks" use lower-quality paper than what we're accustomed to over here. I'm a rereader of books, and I expect a book to last as long as I do. Most of mine have done, though I'm starting to get loose pages with a few of them.


message 42: by vicki_girl (new)

vicki_girl | 2765 comments Michael wrote: "In the UK, we do have paperbacks in the size that are called Trade Paperbacks in the US, but they're just called paperbacks, at least by the general public.

Personally, I find them an annoyance - ..."


Do you have an equivalent to the Mass Market Paperbacks then? Just curious. :)


message 43: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Palfrey | 13 comments Vicki, I think that what you call Mass Market Paperbacks are just what we call (normal-sized) paperbacks; though perhaps yours sometimes have lower-quality paper than ours.

I have a number of American paperbacks that are the same size as British paperbacks.


message 44: by vicki_girl (new)

vicki_girl | 2765 comments Jonathan wrote: "It sounds from your description as though some of your "mass market paperbacks" use lower-quality paper than what we're accustomed to over here. I'm a rereader of books, and I expect a book to last as long as I do. Most of mine have done, though I'm starting to get loose pages with a few of them."

For some people, and possibly the publishers as well, Mass Markets are essentially disposable. They were originally sold in train stations, along with magazines and such, as quick cheap reads for traveling.

The lower quality (and lower expense to produce) and relatively standard size are the defining characteristics of the Mass Market Paperback. Visually they are easily distinguishable because of the size. Mass Markets are almost always 6.5 inches tall and 4 inches wide (about 16 cm tall, 10 cm wide). Trade Paperbacks vary much more, but are almost always much bigger.


message 45: by Cornelia (last edited Feb 25, 2012 11:04AM) (new)

Cornelia (stage) | 86 comments Hmph, I don't know how to quote, but I want to reply to vicki_girl's post #39: paperbacks and hardcovers differ here from one publisher to the other. On the very first sight of the shelf in front of me I see at least five differing paperback formats, and the same counts for hardbacks. What price a book has, depends a) on edition run, b) on the number of pages, c) on a translation if needed and then again from publisher to publisher. Aside from sometimes very costly looking covers there's usually no difference in paper or binding quality. Some paperbacks even come with flaps whereas others don't, some hardcovers come with ribbon markers, others don't.


message 46: by Darcy (new)

Darcy (drokka) Having just packed all my books for a cross-country move, I can say that both UK and US have multiple size of 'mass market' paperbacks and 'trade' paperbacks.
For example, my Bernard Cornwell collection alone has 6 different paperback sizes (thickness, height, width/depth). I don't think either term is specific enough to identify what size a particular book is.

I have square paperbacks, I have tall pocketbooks, I have short pocketbooks. I have paperbacks that are not as wide as most, and I have some that are larger than most hardcovers.

If there is going to be a choice of selection, then it must be vast to encompass everything, otherwise, keep it simple and use just the term paperback and allow people to view the sizes that the librarians add.

On a side note, I have hardcovers that are the size of pocket books, but we don't distinguish those by 'size'.


message 47: by Michael (last edited Feb 25, 2012 11:23AM) (new)

Michael | 262 comments vicki_girl wrote: "Do you have an equivalent to the Mass Market Paperbacks then? Just curious. :)"

We just call them paperbacks!

If we go with the US term, does that mean I will have to edit my iPod to show The Beatles song as Mass Market Paperback Writer? :-D


message 48: by An Odd1 (new)

An Odd1 | 80 comments LOL. I forgot all about 'purse' pocketbooks! I wasn't serious; it was a throwaway aside. Maybe pocketbooks were meant for purses too? After all, 50s men's clothes are full of lovely pockets, whereas we girls were stuck with purses for our pocketbooks.
(Tee-hee on the Beatles Song title revision).

Canada votes with all the one choice "paperback" nominations; we're still a Commonwealth Nation.


❂ Murder by Death  (murderbydeath) As a Yank living in AU, I can toss in that what we call "Mass Market Paperbacks" are the most popular size paperback available here in AU. But I can't say that anyone here refers to them as mass market paperbacks - even I don't do that in conversation. But if you look at the copyright page of these paperbacks, the publishers refer to them as such. I have a stack here beside me from several publishers that show in their printing history "Berkely Prime Crime mass-market edition" or "First mass market edition". Neither of the trade size paperbacks I have beside me list any such distinction.

I like having the distinction myself, if only because it helps further define my collection, but I can easily acknowledge the logic behind having only one "paperback". :)


message 50: by mlady_rebecca (new)

mlady_rebecca | 593 comments Slightly off topic, but I find it strange that trade paperbacks are considered "better quality" than mass market paperbacks. I find the texture of many trade paperback pages to be unpleasant. I even had an allergic reaction to the paper in a small press book one time.


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