Trade versus Mass Market, oh the Humanity! (Important for Writers)

Before we get on to the discussion, my spies have reported in that Soulless: The Manga, Vol. 3 is up for pre-order. This is the adaptation of Blameless and I’ve been loving it so far (yes, I get to see the chapters ahead of time). Also, I learned the trade paperback version of Etiquette & Espionage will be available October 8, 2013. Which brings us nicely around to (the entirely unconnected) . . . Trade Versus Mass Market.

I asked a question recently over Twitter and Facebook, it sparked a fascinating, and strangely epic discussion. Here’s the question:

Talk to me about trade paperbacks: why do people prefer them over mass market paperbacks? Why do you?

First, let me quickly explain that in the US trade-sized paperback books, formerly called quality paperbacks (TR/TP/QP/QPB), are the ones that are slightly smaller than the hardcover (HC/CL) or roughly half-way between the UK’s B format and C formats. These days young adult books, for example, are often brought out in HC first and then TR. I can’t be precise with the measurements because it has come over all non-standard.

Mass markets are those little ones, also called pocket sized (MM/PB/PPB) which in the UK would be A format (although A is slightly larger than the US’s MM for metric reasons). In the US these are 6 3/4 by 4 1/8 inches. Don’t ask.

The Parasol Protectorate books in the US came out in MM, and there are two omnibus in HC. In the UK, they came out in B format. In other languages they came out in TR or HC with the exception of the Japanese edition which is very tiny (A6, I think it’s called, 4×6 inches, like Baedekers).

The ARCs of E&E and C&C, just to complicate matters, came out in hardcover formatted paperback. Yeah, you read that right. Muhahahahaha.

From Left to Right: HC, TR, B format, MM, A6

The reason I asked this question is that recently rumor has it the market is shifting in preference (in the US) from MM to TR. This may have to do with publishers, or it may have to do with self publishing, or it may be that the MM readers are moving to ebooks. But it is certainly true that individuals have decided reasons for liking one over the other. I was curious as to those reasons.

The other reason I asked is because, as a reader, I prefer MM. My bookshelf, inherited from my grandmother, is sized for MM. I have to stack TR horizontally. Also, I can double stack MM if I need to, which means I can fit more books on the shelf. MM fit into my purse for travel, and since I have carpel tunnel, they are easier/lighter to hold. Also I don’t feel bad about beating them up, and I am rough on my books. Those who prefer MM seem to share many of my reasons. Lastly, I would like to point out that I just ordered four different TR books from different authors/publishers, and each one was a slightly differently sized from the others. This kind of thing drives little OCD me absolutely bug-nuts. Fine, switch to TR, just everyone please switch to the same size TR!

Variable size TR’s just for my own book, this example is global but even all within the US the range is pretty extreme.

However, those who prefer TR had good reasons of their own. The following is a small sample:

Trade paperback books (or B format) …

    • are less awkward to hold one-handed


    • sometimes (not always) have larger print and are easier to read


    • will stay open better


    • have lighter paper with a nicer feeling texture


    • don’t smell funny


    • have a nicer weight and size


    • are perceived as higher quality


    • have spines that don’t crack as easily


    • better capable of handling thicker books comfortably (although one reader said the thicker the better in MM)


    • have cleaner lines


    • are more elegant


    • hold up better after multiple reads


    • fit better in larger hands


    • are comfortable to read, yet still feel special


    • look better and more book-like on the shelf


  • have bigger/nicer art work on the cover

I am intrigued and have already begun to look upon trades with a more sympathetic eye. I’m not interested in starting a debate, I merely enjoy seeing all sides of a object-shape preference. I find this kind of thing fascinating, it’s the archaeologist in me.

Also, and I have no idea what this means, but among my social media interactions: Twitter came down firmly in favor of MM, and Facebook for TR. Make of that what you will. Oh, interwebs, what a wild and crazy place you are. I foresee some kind of rap throwdown in the future on this subject. I’m looking at you, Hard & Phirm.


Your Moment of Parasol . . .
1870-1880 The Victoria & Albert Museum
1885  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Your Infusion of Cute . . .
Lisa Hilland Chair Photo by Niklas Lundström
Lisa Hilland Chair Photo by Niklas Lundström

Your Tisane of Smart . . .
“By law Parliament had to meet at least every three years, but in practice it met annually because the historic English antipathy to a standing army forbade Parliament to authorize any army budget that provided for more than a year’s expenditure.”
~ Daniel Pool

Your Writerly Tinctures . . .
Via the Facebooks

Waistcoats & Weaponry ~ The Finishing School Book the Third: Writing rough draft.
Etiquette & Espionage ~ trade paperback available in the US October 13, 2013.
Curtsies & Conspiracies ~ The Finishing School Book the Second: Release date November 2013. My ARCs have arrived, contest to come.
Manga ~ Soulless Vol. 3: (AKA Blameless) Available serialized through YenPlus. Print edition Nov. 19 2013.
Prudence ~ The Parasol Protectorate Abroad Book the First: Delayed. Why? Begin rewrite in 2014.

BIG FAT SPOILER ALERT on the Parasol Protectorate series! Really, DON’T READ THE BLURB ON AMAZON if you haven’t read the other books first!

The Omnibus hardback editions are limited run through the SciFi Bookclub only.

The manga editions available in print.

Most short stories available in ebook form world wide!

The first Finishing School book ~ OUT NOW, The second Finishing School book ~ Nov. 5, 2013?

Book News:
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Alexia fan art by sweet tabby

Quote of the Day:
“Belle was from New York, and thought herself “swell.” A dashing brunette, with a fine figure, flashing black eyes, rich, sang well, aged twenty-five, and decidedly asserting in her style.”
~ Godey’s Lady’s Book and Magazine August 1872

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Posted by Gail Carriger


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  1. Pabkins said:

    What an interesting thing to think about! Personally, I prefer Trade paperbacks BUT I do loathe the inconsistency in the sizing. They do hold up much better to rereading and also don't damage as easily – and you can open them better than a MM. If you open a MM all the way you are going to crack the spine and that ruins the look of them on the shelf. I prefer a different format for different situations. Ebooks for travel, TR for everyday and MM for single reads or ones I suspect I might not read again and or give away to the used book store.

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