Paperbacks, Hardcover, eBooks, and Ewe

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Wed Jan 14, 2009 8:34 pm Post


Ok For a long time there was one predominant common size for paperbacks (A format). There was also the common (C Format) for trade paper backs.

But for the past few years I have noticed a large increase in the (B Format) paperbacks which are a tad bigger than the A I am accustomed to for Mass Market novels.

I ponder the sudden increase in format change. Honestly I do not like the B Format size as well as the A Format. Is the A format just a US thing or have others seen that A format was the dominant and now the B format is making its way into becoming the default?


I usually purchase more paperbacks but when I find a really good book I seek out the Hard Cover edition. Do you find yourself buying more hardcover or paperback novels?

I find these sometimes difficult to read at long lengths of time and I miss the tactile feel of the paper and the smell of freshly printed ink. Am I just old fashioned or does "digital" still have a generation gap to leap across before mass exceptance?

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Wed Jan 14, 2009 10:59 pm Post

Yeah, seems like there are some weird sizes out there now... I wonder if it's some attempt to target more casual readers.

I buy hardcover editions mostly when I can't bear to wait for the paperback, or I find a screamin' deal at a used book store.

I will probably get an e-book reader gizmo some day, but I will never forsake treeware books. I'm sitting in my tiny office surrounded in all four directions by lovely, smelly books right now. :D
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Wed Jan 14, 2009 11:23 pm Post

Treeware is low tech, you just need light.

Other methods require battery power and you to feel comfortable pulling some electronic gadget out in public. Face it, how many people have been robbed for a book as opposed to robbed for a phone, Ipod, computer etc.

I like books. There is a reality. You can pass them on to future generations.
That said I do read ebooks on planes with the lights out.


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Wed Jan 14, 2009 11:46 pm Post

I've never heard of anyone getting robbed for a Kindle or a Sony Reader, though. Chances are, some future e-book gizmo will end up being more like one of these than an expensive telephone or music player with a small glowing screen. But yes, before I got an e-ink device I only read e-books under certain conditions, and it was never really *relaxing*. Reading e-ink is just like reading paper, though, and once you get over the click-flicker = thumb+finger-flip difference, it's pretty much all the same.

One nice thing about the e-Book option is you can generally get the book when the hardcover comes out---but for only $10 or so. So the choice between the two paper formats really only comes down to preference. For that, I only buy hard-cover if I suspect I'll always want it. Classics, reference books, and things of that nature I'll spend the extra 10 dollars to get a copy that will last years longer than paper backs. I prefer to get hardcovers that are a little old though; used up a bit. I've had some of the new, ultra-cheap ones fall apart on me faster than a paperback would have. The signatures were actually glued together, not stitched! Really pathetic.

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Thu Jan 15, 2009 11:45 am Post

klcorridon wrote:Yeah, seems like there are some weird sizes out there now... I wonder if it's some attempt to target more casual readers.

I buy hardcover editions mostly when I can't bear to wait for the paperback, or I find a screamin' deal at a used book store.

I will probably get an e-book reader gizmo some day, but I will never forsake treeware books. I'm sitting in my tiny office surrounded in all four directions by lovely, smelly books right now. :D

Trim size, paperback or hardcover, is a function of market demand (not consumer demand, but shelving demand from retailers) and cost of goods management. Once the editor gets the finished manuscript and squeezes out its extraneous blather (or demands its obvious cavities be filled), a production editor does a cast-off, a probable page-count is determined (measured in 32-page signatures plus 16-page half-signatures or, in a pinch, 8-page quarter-signatures), and you see where you'll come out. Sometimes you can squeeze more type into fewer pages by going up a trim-size and saving money that way; at other times (and this depends on paper markets as much as anything else), you're better off going with a smaller trim and more signatures. There aren't any (many) hard-and-fast rules. I used to publish a lot of boating and outdoor books when working at a small specialty division of a giant company, and was able to lower cost of goods on many titles by publishing in 7-3/8 x 9-1/4, a nonstandard trim for boating and outdoor (and thus a visual standout on the shelves) for which we could buy paper and bind really cheaply because the big parent published vast numbers of computer books, and that was then the standard trim size. That it was more square than rectangular and provided a nice stage for expansive art programs was a pleasant bonus.

My first two hardcovers, and the softcovers that followed them, were all 5.5x8.25; my most recent hardcover was 6x9. I wasn't in on the decision, having done these books from the far side of the editorial desk, but I'm guessing it had something to do with cutting down the number of blank pages of unused signatures. Must have worked; there's only one blank page at the back (plus the usual required number at the front).

The point of all this rambling being, there _is_ no standard trim size (except perhaps for mass-market paperbacks, which if I remember correctly is 5x7.25). It's determined by a combination of marketing requirements and hardnosed economics (a 3-pence per copy difference in printing costs might make the difference between making a little money or losing a little money).

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Thu Jan 15, 2009 3:57 pm Post

I have gone through various stages in which book format I prefered. At first I was a solid mass market paperback reader. Hated hard cover. And when trade paperback format became popular, I was dismayed whenever a book I wanted was only available in that size. Now I'm finding I prefer trade paperback, probably because the slightly larger print and line spacing is easier on my 52-year-old eyes. My preferences have matured other ways as well. Like Amber, I will get a hardcover if I think it is a book I will want to keep and refer to... mostly nonfiction. I will almost never buy a hardcover novel, with the exception of Carl Hiaissen, whose books I just can't wait to read.

As for e-book readers, I think having a Kindle would be great, but I fear that it would be just TOO easy to buy new books as they are published. Even at $10 per, I can see me racking up some big credit card bills! Yikes!

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Sat Jan 17, 2009 8:46 am Post

For a long time now I've used the library instead of buying books. I prefer to buy them, but needs must.

But this can't apply to books that I am waiting to be published though - it's too long a wait for me to endure! I will always try and wait for the paperback version, and mostly fail and buy a hardcover.

I've never bought an ebook, I much prefer paper.

I like ewes. :lol:
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Sat Jan 17, 2009 1:49 pm Post

I've never understood the point of trade paperbacks, perhaps because I've never noticed any difference in layout even as my eyes get older. As far as I'm concerned they're just a nuisance to store and I'd rather have either a hardcover or a standard paperback that fits into my paperback shelves.

I've never bought an ebook and if the prices don't get somewhere closer to what I consider sane I never will. That would be sad, because I've been looking forward to good ebook technology for 15 years and I really thought it'd be here by now. I don't want ebooks only, but I think they make a lot of sense for the things I'm not sure I'll return to. Books published till now about the Dubya presidency come to mind; I've read a couple and bought one (the first Woodward book). I won't be buying any more because I have neither budget nor space, but there are several that I'd be happy to have as ebooks.

I like ewes twos, but I like phishes more.


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Sat Jan 17, 2009 2:46 pm Post

Hardcover. Nothing but unless only paper back is available.

I figure that if I am going to put $$ on the table I want that sucker to be there for the next person. I don't trust most authorities to leave me free to read what I want so I would like my stuff to out live me. Knowing what I know about "electronics" I will never trust any electronic media as an archive solution.

The biggest problem I have is the crappy quality of hardcover bindings these days. As noted by AmberV the quality is horrid. So I windup dealing with Easton Press or other "high end" groups that are more about look and pay a ridiculous amount for each book ($US50 would really make me happy). This means that I only get a book every couple of months or so and my selection is pretty limited.

I do use Gutenburg for quick reads. Not much "modern" stuff there but it works for me.

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