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Book formats (physical sizes) [Split from Waterstones 3-for-2]

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  • Book formats (physical sizes) [Split from Waterstones 3-for-2]

    ... I don't claim to understand the black arts of book publishing but I don't know why books can't go back to the classic Penguin paperback format (with matching price) rather than the whopping great doorstoppers that seem to be de rigueur these days.
    Last edited by Rothgo; 09-10-2011, 06:53 AM. Reason: Thread split down to single subject.
    _"For an eternity Allard was alone in an icy limbo where all the colours were bright and sharp and comfortless.
    _For another eternity Allard swam through seas without end, all green and cool and deep, where distorted creatures drifted, sometimes attacking him.
    _And then, at last, he had reached the real world – the world he had created, where he was God and could create or destroy whatever he wished.
    _He was supremely powerful. He told planets to destroy themselves, and they did. He created suns. Beautiful women flocked to be his. Of all men, he was the mightiest. Of all gods, he was the greatest."

  • #2
    Hear, hear! I wanted Tor to do the Hawkmoons in that proper pb size but apparently 'the booksellers don't like' the size. What about readers ?
    My plan was once to replace all my firsts with old Penguins wherever possible or with Everymans.
    Reducing the size to about a quarter and enabling us to contemplate moving again, even if it was into Austin...

    Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in Europe:
    The Whispering Swarm: Book One of the Sanctuary of the White Friars - The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction
    Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles - Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - Modem Times 2.0 - The Sunday Books - The Sundered Worlds


    Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in the USA:
    The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction - The Sunday Books - Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles
    Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - The Sundered Worlds - The Winds of Limbo - Modem Times 2.0 - Elric: Swords and Roses

    Comment


    • #3
      Mike - What would you is the correct size is a proper paperback or Limp book size - A format 178 x 110mm, B - 198 x 128, Demy - 216 x 138 or Royal 234 x 153mm? And that is just the British sizes.

      David - Remember the paper does cause the book to bulk up, so giving you that door step to read.

      Probably smaller format, more units per shelving or FSDU (Free Standing Display Unit), which the publisher has to pay the bookseller for, if they want it in a 'good' selling space to get more sales.
      Last edited by Rothgo; 09-10-2011, 06:53 AM. Reason: Thread split down to single subject.
      Papa was a Rolling Stone......

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by David Mosley View Post
        I don't claim to understand the black arts of book publishing but I don't know why books can't go back to the classic Penguin paperback format (with matching price) rather than the whopping great doorstoppers that seem to be de rigueur these days.
        I couldn't agree more David. I loathe and detest the way that almost nothing is published in the old paperback size now. Modern paperbacks are too big to slip in your pocket, take up too much shelf space, and most importantly of all, too big to hold in your hands comfortably. I really, really hate them. They have turned what was a utilitarian object for transporting information, into a something which isn't really fit for purpose, but it useful for displaying on your coffee table because it makes it look like you are in touch with whatever the latest bestseller is.

        Some books may need to be that size - ok, fine. But why waste paper and ink on books that don't need to be that size? Like the Penguin classics range - the only people who are going to buy most of those volumes are going to buy them anyway, no matter what the size of the book. Is it simply so that they have an excuse to charge more for them because they look 'bigger'? I'm finding that I am increasingly searching out books second hand, rather than buying new editions, simply because of the fact that it is so uncomfortable to read modern size paperbacks now.

        Rant over. As you were.

        Comment


        • #5
          The French have got this sussed with livres de poche. I'm not sure why publishers think such a format wouldn't sell over here.

          Comment


          • #6
            Yeah I like the little ones better too. Not just the dimensions but the length, the sixty or seventy thousand word genre book was more or less the perfect length for me in terms of how long I wanted to spend with a character or plot before trying something else for a while. And it was a fun size to move around with.

            It's all moot any way, I think, from what I've read, mass market PB's are to be replaced by ebooks now. But I don't see shoving an ereader in my back pocket.

            I wonder if now that the genre stuff is going over to ebooks if the novels will get shorter again. Because it's not about a reader getting a 'fat book' or a publisher's printing costs, it seems like your average genre writer would be better off writing more, shorter novels.

            I hope so because one of the reasons I like the old ones is because I will often lose interest in whether Prince X saves Princess Y from the spacefaring Z part way through. Whereas the shorter books often leave me wanting more.

            Comment


            • #7
              also the smaller books fit my life better at work I have approx depending on shift pattern 1.5 hours of breaks per day a penguin sized book lasts me that and the walk to work instead I always find the intreasting bits just before I am due back.
              if saving money I will buy omnibuses as they are normally the only sane way to get extra contents without selling firstborn on e-bay but they are home books not work books to be read when the others have gone to work/school etc.
              waterstones is a strange beast anyway and get more new books via smiths and amason than at their shop.they normally have one copy and as lunch time readers use it as a library but leave the books damaged would rather go to smiths with the scary old ladies tell everyone in a loud voice dont damage it and if you want it pay for it(but strangly have a bigger brouser problem with magazines)
              come to the dark side we have cookies

              Comment


              • #8
                Just doing some checking

                Penguin Classic on Amazon - B format 198 x 128mm

                Livre de Poche on Amazon Fr - A format 178 x 110mm

                Are these the sizes, you are referring too?

                For a comparsion, Mike's Terraphiles' book

                Cased - 234 x 153mm

                Paperback 190 x 126mm (almost a B Format) - so this is the format most of you like?
                Papa was a Rolling Stone......

                Comment


                • #9
                  Although Tor's decision is justified by the great new illustrations, this is I think the first time Hawkmoon has
                  been published in the larger size. I still believe the majority of my genre titles would be best published in handy editions, the way the Lancer, DAW or Ace editions were done in the 60s,70s or 80s.
                  Last edited by Michael Moorcock; 09-02-2011, 02:26 PM.

                  Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in Europe:
                  The Whispering Swarm: Book One of the Sanctuary of the White Friars - The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction
                  Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles - Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - Modem Times 2.0 - The Sunday Books - The Sundered Worlds


                  Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in the USA:
                  The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction - The Sunday Books - Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles
                  Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - The Sundered Worlds - The Winds of Limbo - Modem Times 2.0 - Elric: Swords and Roses

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Pebble View Post
                    Mike - What would you is the correct size is a proper paperback or Limp book size - A format 178 x 110mm, B - 198 x 128, Demy - 216 x 138 or Royal 234 x 153mm? And that is just the British sizes.
                    Taking my Mayflower The Eternal Champion (1970) as an example I'd have to say A format 178 x 110mm is my ideal.

                    Originally posted by Pebble View Post
                    David - Remember the paper does cause the book to bulk up, so giving you that door step to read.
                    You're not kidding! Mike will forgive me for using the following book as an example but, as the photo below shows, in 1979 an A format copy of The Two Towers was only 18mm thick but by 1999 the same book (same format) was a whopping 30mm thick. Perversely, the '79 edition is 448pp long (inc. non-story pages) while the '99 edition is merely 464pp long (ditto). That's some bulk up. (Must be steroids or something!)

                    Another factor: in 1979 that copy of TTT cost £0.95; according to the Bank of England's inflation calculator, if book prices had risen at the rate of inflation then in 1999 the same book should have cost £2.90 but actually it was priced at £6.99! Someone was creaming it, weren't they?

                    Incidentally, in 2010 the price - adjusted for inflation - 'should' have been £3.90 but instead it currently retails for £7.99; even with Amazon's 38% discount it will still cost you £4.92 to buy. And this is just an A format book; no doubt B format trade paperbacks are even more expensive (and generally no less thick).
                    Attached Files
                    Last edited by David Mosley; 09-02-2011, 03:38 PM.
                    _"For an eternity Allard was alone in an icy limbo where all the colours were bright and sharp and comfortless.
                    _For another eternity Allard swam through seas without end, all green and cool and deep, where distorted creatures drifted, sometimes attacking him.
                    _And then, at last, he had reached the real world – the world he had created, where he was God and could create or destroy whatever he wished.
                    _He was supremely powerful. He told planets to destroy themselves, and they did. He created suns. Beautiful women flocked to be his. Of all men, he was the mightiest. Of all gods, he was the greatest."

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      When I first read the Elric and Hawkmoon stories quite a few years ago, the books were quite thin, yet these days most new books seem to be much thicker. I wonder why this has become the trend. If someone today wrote a great story that was, say 120 pages long, would they have trouble getting it published.
                      Talking of Waterstones, I'm still missing Borders here in Britain.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Speaking of book formats:

                        The Dog-Eared Paperback, Newly Endangered in an E-Book Age

                        http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/03/bu...m-shelves.html

                        A comprehensive survey released last month by the Association of American Publishers and the Book Industry Study Group revealed that while the publishing industry had expanded over all, publishers’ mass-market paperback sales had fallen 14 percent since 2008.
                        For decades, the mass-market paperback has stubbornly held on, despite the predictions of its death since the 1980s, when retail chains that edged out independent bookstores successfully introduced discounts on hardcover versions of the same books. The prices of print formats are typically separated by at least a few dollars. Michael Connelly, the best-selling mystery writer best known for “The Lincoln Lawyer,” said he worried that book buyers would not be able to discover new authors very easily if mass-market paperbacks continued to be phased out.
                        “Growing up and reading primarily inexpensive mass-market novels, it allows you to explore,” he said. “I bought countless novels based on the cover or based on the title, not knowing what was inside.”

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          What about E-readers then?

                          I guess I'm alone here but I really happen to like bigger format books - for one thing the bigger letter type just feels more soothing on the eye. I've got a version of Wuthering Heights which is so thin you could put it in a toaster but the letter-type is miniscule. I buy books because I want to keep them and if I want to keep something I'd rather a higher quality, luxury product. Sure, an old battered paperback that's been around a bit has a certain kind of charm but brand new small paperback just has less of a quality feel about it. I find it hard to worry about the waste of paper because like I said I want to keep my books. What does worry me are the enormous volumes of disposable trash that are printed every single day - gossip magazines, newspapers, etc - but that is a bit off topic.

                          I've got Mike's eternal champion series (Millenium) - almost complete, I'm working on it - in large size hardback and wouldn't want it any other way. I must admit though that I've always had a sneaking suspicion that Mike himself would prefer the more disposable trade paperback size.........

                          I live in the Netherlands and here new novels come out in the large format that you all don't like but after a while they are available in smaller formats - they call them "pockets"! (something like the French size mentioned here I think). I assumed that was the case everywhere - isn't it? Anyway, I guess that this policy would keep all of us happy.

                          Finally on the topic of saving space and paper and slimmed down publications I was wondering what you all thought of E-readers. I find them an interesting proposal in theory but don't understand why the screens have to be so damned small!

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            As I work for Waterstone's (and have done for well over 20 years, having hosted events with Mike three times), I'm not going to comment on pricing etc, but will say that it's wise to ignore press speculation and the comments of 'experts', You'll notice that the press virtually never speaks to actual bookselling staff, who are (of course) the people who speak to most readers.

                            Booksellers hate the A format? Nonsense. Most booksellers over a certain age love the A (the original paperback format) and it is still relatively common in genre fiction, classics and when Penguin decode to reissue some classic/modern classic titles for the umpteenth time in new liveries.

                            Younger booksellers (and readers) are less used to the A format, so are more likely to dislike it. Here's some history to put things into context:

                            The B format was supposedly invented by Sonny Mehta, a much-lauded publisher, who created the format for Paladin at the end of the 1960s. Paladin was entirely a non-fiction imprint until 1986 (when it launched its fiction list with books by Disch and Jonathan Meades) before expiring a few years later. Originally, Paladin was affiliated with Jonathan Cape.

                            When Mehta moved on, he took the B format with him, but extended the width of the format (meaning the front and rear covers) a little - this first true B format was bestowed upon the then-new imprint Picador. As Picador soon became lauded as the imprint for quality writing in paperback, covering both fiction and non-fiction, spanning both classic and contemporary work, other publishers launched B formats to signal the 'highbrow' content of the books. The Picador spinner was a common sight in British bookshops by the mid to late 70s and by the early eighties, copycat imprints like King Penguin and Flamingo had appeared. By the mid eighties, B started to become very prevalent, as even the likes of Hodder had to start packaging their more 'literary' books by launching the Scepte imprint.

                            What publisher's reps used to tell booksellers at the time was that as the trade was moving over to B in a big way, printing costs would come down for them (in printing you get bigger discounts for larger print runs) and that these costs would be reflected in cover prices. of course, what actually happenned was that virtually every title went up by £1 and never came down in price. Look at a Penguin Modern Classic today, and you'll see prices up to £14.99 for books that were once much cheaper in A format (even allowing for inflation). One drawback of this has been that it's impossible for younger readers to discover classic beat writing, modernism and backlist SF at reasonable A format prices. And of course books are now competing with more accessible screen-based technology, so the B format has been a very bad thing in my view.

                            One quick aside : a wonder how many of us here recall Gollancz' short-lived Classic SFR B formats of 1986/7? These were probably the best-looking skiffy paperbacks ever, but as they didn't look like the average Chris Foss style A format, they didn't sell too well and a Gollancz rep told me they had to revert to A to continue the series as the specialist shops couldn't fit B's onto their shelves.

                            More paperback history to follow.
                            2006: 100 Must Read Science Fiction Novels (5th printing 2009/Bulgarian Edition (!) due 2011).

                            2008: 100 Must Read Books For Men (2nd printing 2008)

                            2009: 100 Must Read Fantasy Novels

                            sigpic

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                            • #15
                              More paperback history. Thought I'd post a second entry rather than one over-long piece.

                              Although I've long held concerns over the pricing and fomatting of B paperbacks as injurious to readers discovering backlist books (look at the large format yellow paperbacks Gollancz were doing almost a decade ago of books that should have been £5.99 in A, but were £10 up in trade format , such as Ian Watson's 'Jonah Kit'), the fact is that it is Fantasy readers who are responsible for the commercial success of the much-loathed trade paperbacks that come either in demy or royal format as a mid-price alternative to the hardcover issue, published simultaneously with said hardcover (if a hardcover is published at all these days).

                              Back in '86, when Ray Feist's 'Magician' was riding high in A format, Grafton ( formerly Granada, part of Collins, now HarperCollins...and affiliated with Paladin too, funnily enough) issued 'Silverthorn' in hardcover. Three months later, 'Silverthron' was issued in trade paperback and it sold like mad. Nine months later the book was issued in A format. The trade paperback was finally a commercial success in Britain.

                              From that time up until the end of the eighties (by which time quit shop-floor bookselling for four and a half years), Fantasy and SF established the trade as a commercial force, with Grafton and Bantam being the prime movers. I have very happy memories of selling dozens of trade paperbacks by the likes of Mike, James Blaylock, Tim Powers and authors I was less enmoured of such as David Eddings and Anne McCaffrey.

                              So the order then was hardcover, three months later a trade, a year after the hardcover an A format. I can only recall one book adding a B format to this publishing structure and that was a Terry Brooks title issued by MacDonald/Futura.

                              As time went on, the trade became simultaneous with the hardcover and in many cases supplanted it, resulting in the dreaded paperback original (great for an author starting out, but anathema to hardcore bibliophiles who appreciate cloth and boards in the same way a vinyl junkie does gatefold sleeves and label designs). On the current booker shortlist, there is only one hardcover - by the long-established Julian Barnes.

                              As much as we need to save the A format, we need to support the hardcover book as a thing of beauty. Sadly, few book buyers seem to appreciate hardcovers now, saying they are 'too heavy'. Funnily enough, a piece of neuroscientific research I read in a broadsheet yesterday said that the reading experience was enhanced by a heavy book, subconsciously telling us we are reading 'heavy' (as in worthwhile and high quality) work. So let's just say the hardback book sets the stage and ensures we give the author the respect of proper attention when reading. Incidentally, whenever a customer suggests that books are expensive, I usually mention that most books take up a year of the wrtier's life - and then they agree that the price for a years' work seems justified.

                              Back to trades : I've never met anyone who likes them. What readers want is a uniform editions of the books they love, so that all the works they own by their favourite author fit on the same shelf. A little Utopian, perhaps? Look at George R R Martin now : his series is in its second livery (how I miss the Jim Burns jackets on the first few) and is now jumping to B format. This means it will be impossible to curate a uniform edition of Song of Ice and Fire until all 7 books are published in paperback (which will mean 9 volumes, since it seems possible that Dance with Dragons will be issued in two paperbacks due to its size, rather like Storm of Swords).

                              How I long for the days when most authors wrote standalone books and didn't bother with sequels, when publishers didn't refuse to sign a genre author without promise of endless sagas. I may sound like I'm blaming Mike here, but there are always good exceptions to every rule! Ironically, I sell lots and lots of copies of 'The Broken Sword' to Fantasy fans, who never come back to complain of lack of a sequel.

                              Finally on hardbacks : people will buy them and do like them if they are well made. Barnes and Noble's leatherbound classics are reasonably priced and popular and whenever I stock PS hardcovers, I sell them, even at £20 a pop. I also sell Goodchild hardbacks of Bester, Zelazny, Van Vogt and Pohl (at a mere £8.95), probably because I may be the only bookseller in the UK to realise they are still in print after being issued some 25 years ago...and just look at the Gollancz 50th anniversary laminated boards hardcovers, all selling beautifully at £8.99.

                              So guys, if you love books, buy beautiful ones. Ereaders are handy to take on holiday or to store out of copyright classics on when you've no shelf space, but they've no mythic resonance. How the hell are you ever going to get your fave authors to sign a PDF file?
                              2006: 100 Must Read Science Fiction Novels (5th printing 2009/Bulgarian Edition (!) due 2011).

                              2008: 100 Must Read Books For Men (2nd printing 2008)

                              2009: 100 Must Read Fantasy Novels

                              sigpic

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