14 January 2008

Does book format influence your choice?

When a copy of Giles Blunt's THE DELICATE STORM arrived, and I found it was in the smaller format (I think it is called a mass paperback), it occurred to me that I almost never read a book in this size. Most of the books I read are either hardcover (especially if I borrow it from the library), or in the trade paperback format.

I often listen to books on CD but find that they take me longer than if I was reading a printed version, and I have only read one "e-book" which somebody sent to me as a pdf. I found I had to print that out, I couldn't read it on my computer screen.

Every now and again I borrow a book that is in large print. I do such a lot of reading, online and in printed books, that large print feels like a luxury even though it makes the book actually a lot heavier.

I hate books that have wall-to-wall printing, where it is really difficult to read the text close to the central margin. I also hate books where the text is far too small. One author who did himself a real disservice was Jeffrey Deaver when he went with Coronet Paperbacks who printed with the main text at about size 8 font. I look at the font size and then weigh up how much I really want to read it. A MAIDEN'S GRAVE has been sitting on my shelf for nearly 2 years now. I'm waiting until I have to get new glasses, and then maybe I will cope with it.

Picador's announcement last year that most of their new publications would not go through the hardcover stage caused quite a bit of discussion. The argument is an economic one - hardcovers cost more to produce etc., profit margins are less. Libraries on the other hand often buy hardcovers because they last longer. Paperbacks of any size get tattier quicker. Although nothing saves the book from the careless reader who generously donates his coffee to its pages - don't you hate that?

This has been a rather disjointed posting, so let me throw just one more random thought in. When I bought my copy of IN THE WOODS by Tana French, in trade paperback, the edges of the pages were dyed black. The book shop people commented that books with coloured page edges are rare these days, especially in paperback. So does anybody have an explanation for why her publishers bothered to do it? I don't think it made the book more expensive, although my recollection of how much I paid is rather hazy.

And lastly - here is roughly what we pay for a book here in Oz
hardcover - $45 AUD
trade paperback - $32.95
mass paperback - $19.95

So feel free to comment on any part of my ramblings.


Marg said...

I prefer the larger sized trade paperbacks, but will buy mass market paperbacks if it's a book that I really want. I very rarely buy hardcovers, although a lot of library books are hardcovers.

To be honest, Picadors announcement barely bothered me because the vast majority of books published here in Australia go straight to trade size. Of course there are exceptions to that, but for the most part it is true!

Anonymous said...

I don't really mind, I don't like hardbacks from the point of view of them being harder to read in bed, but I do like them from the point of view of their print being larger. I suppose I read most of my books in small paperback format as this is cheaper, though many of my favourites, eg Bitter Lemon Press, put out nicely produced books (albeit in paperback).
On the coloured pages, I agree they are unusual. I bought Jenny, my younger daughter, "Skullduggery Pleasant" for Christmas -- at which she looked askance -- the edges of the pages are coloured orange.
I also recall in the days when I read James Patterson that he had little pictures on the top of his pages, so that when you flicked them you saw a wolf leaping across the top of the story (or other appropriate animation). Quite cute-- but not enough on its own to make me bother with his books, these days!

Peter Rozovsky said...

I'll buy a book in the format that's available at the time, though I don't buy many new hardbacks. This suits both my reading habits and, incidentally, my budget.

I suppose it should not make a difference, but an attractive trade paperback is, well, attractive.
Detectives Beyond Borders
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