10 Difference Between Paperback And Mass-Market Paperback Books

SHARE

What Is Paperback?

A paperback, also known as a softcover or softback, is a type of book characterized by a thick paper or paperboard cover, and often held together with glue rather than stitches or staples, unlike hardcover books that use thicker boards to protect the pages. Paperback books are glued to a thin spine rather than hand-sewn like hardcover books. While they have the same main content as hardcovers, they may lack supplementary content like a foreword from the author, illustrations, and additional content.

Generally speaking, a book is first released in hardcover format, with the paperback release scheduled for a few months after. Sometimes, books are released in hardcover or trade paperback at the same time. Other times, the book is only made available in softcover. It all depends on the publisher’s strategy, which the writer will be privy to prior to release. 

Paperback traditionally come in three sizes: A-format (used for your traditional paperback novels), B-format (often used for trade paperback) and C-format (small pocketbooks) . Some paperback books are even of the same size as their hardcover editions (5.5” x 8.5” or 6” x 9”), while others are slightly smaller. Paperback books can be found at traditional trade outlets such as bookstores, book distributors, and book dealers, hence the name “trade paperback.”

Paperback books are not “strippable.” This means that the front cover cannot be stripped by the distributors when they remain on the shelf after a long period. This means that if nobody buys them, the distributor simply returns the unsold books to the original publisher for credit.

Paperback books are more affordable than hardcover books because it uses cheaper materials. They are often used by less popular writers whose readers would be less likely to buy costly hardcover versions. More popular writers may also choose to publish paperback versions if they want to provide their fans with a low-cost version of the book. 

Trade paperback books are slightly more expensive than mass-market paperbacks but have better quality and are usually bigger than the average size at B-format, which measures 135 mm x 216 mm. Some trade paperbacks use acid-free paper and won’t discolor after a few years, but the cover is still similar to mass-market paperbacks and is still more prone to damage compared to hardcover books.

What You Need To Know About Paperback

  • Trade paperback is typically the fiction and nonfiction books that you might find in online stores or in bookstores, typically have a better quality paper and binding, and are priced higher. 
  • Paperbacks in general are those books that are bound with glue on paper covers, rather than into cloth and board covers.
  • Paperback books are typically printed as a softcover edition of a previously printed hardcover edition but can also be printed as an independent release (no preceding hardcover).
  • A paperback book can be identified by its “French flap,” an extension of the front and back covers that is folded over inside (similar to the paper cover of hardcover books). Its purpose is to make paperback books look similar to its hardcover edition but for a more affordable price.
  • Trade paperbacks (in the US definitions) are the larger formats, often seen in standard sizes such as 5.5 by 8.5 inches. Some paperback books are even of the same size as their hardcover editions (5.5” x 8.5” or 6” x 9”), while others are slightly smaller.
  • Paperback books can be found at traditional trade outlets such as bookstores, book distributors, and book dealers, hence the name “trade paperback.”
  • Paperback books are not “strippable.” This means that the front cover cannot be stripped by the distributors when they remain on the shelf after a long period. This means that if nobody buys them, the distributor simply returns the unsold books to the original publisher for credit.

What Is Mass Market Paperback?

Mass-market paperbacks are cheap, small editions of books (4” x 7”) that are printed on low-quality paper that may discolor over time. They have an inexpensive binding and are typically not illustrated. They are printed and promoted to attract a large number of people at the lowest cost.

These books usually come out months after a hardcover release and are generally of small font. However, if a mass-market paperback surprisingly becomes a hit, publishers can opt to release a hardcover edition at a later date, though this is rare for most new authors.

Mass-market paperbacks are sometimes called “pocket-editions” because they are the compact books that are easier to handle and carry around in pocket or handbag, which makes them ideal for travel. While they can be available in bookstores, convenient stores, pharmacies, gift shops and supermarkets, you can also find them in the magazine aisle at grocery stores and on the racks at gas stations and airports. 

Mass-market books are “strippable.” This means that distributors can simply strip the front cover (or sometimes, the first few pages) and return them for credit. The rest of the book should be shredded and recycled and should not be resold.

Some new authors and self-publishers publish their first books in mass-market paperback format only. Genres that are often printed in the mass-market paperback format are fiction, romance, thriller, and mystery.

What You Need To Know About Mass-market Paperback

  • Mass-market paperbacks are sometimes called “pocket-editions” because they are small enough to fit in a pocket or handbag. 
  • Mass market paperbacks have a tendency to have less expensive paper, no (or not very many) outlines, smaller print, and a smaller page dimension.
  • Mass market paperbacks (again, US definitions) are the smaller, rack sized paperbacks.
  • Mass market paperbacks usually have a lower production cost, not quite at par on quality compared to trade paperbacks, the distribution outlets might be different.
  • The quality and price of mass-market paperbacks make them easy to buy on impulse and then discarded after reading by reselling or donating to charity.
  • Mass-market books are “strippable.” This means that distributors can simply strip the front cover (or sometimes, the first few pages) and return them for credit.
  • They are usually found in locations that do not primarily sell books, such as convenience stores, pharmacies, gift shops, supermarkets, airports, etc. and are displayed among items near checkout lanes.
  • Genres that are often printed in the mass-market paperback format are fiction, romance, thriller, and mystery.
  • Mass-market paperbacks are cheap, small editions of books (4” x 7”) that are printed on low-quality paper that may discolor over time. They are printed and promoted to attract a large number of people at the lowest cost.

Difference Between Paperback And Mass-Market Paperback In Tabular Form

BASIS OF COMPARISON PAPERBACK MASS-MARKET PAPERBACK
Size In the US at least, trade paperbacks are larger as they go to bookstore shelves. Ideally 6” x 9” is the most common size but they can vary accordingly. In the US at least, mass market paperbacks are 4” x 7” or smaller so as to fit the spinner racks.
Alternative Names Trade paper edition, soft-cover or soft-back.   Pocket-editions or pocket books
Objective Printed in order for the readers to have the same reading experience they have with hardcovers but without the heavy cover. Printed to appeal to the public at the lowest cost for the largest distribution.
Font Size Large types of fonts may be seen. Mass market paperbacks may prefer smaller fonts given its comparatively smaller size.
Price Price of trade paperback is comparatively higher from Mass market paperback.  Price of Mass market paperback is lower as compared to trade paperback.
Selling Point Bookstores, book distributors, and book dealers, hence the name “trade paperback.”   Convenience stores, pharmacies, gift shops, supermarkets, airports, etc. and are displayed among items near checkout lanes.  
Distribution Trade paperbacks are distributed by companies specializing in the distribution of books to libraries and bookstores. Mass market paperbacks are distributed by magazine distributors in non-traditional locations. 
Quality Paper is thicker and heavier as compared to Mass market paperback. Paper is lighter and thinner when it comes to Mass market paperback.
Barcode UPC barcode is used in Trade paperback.   EAN barcode is used in Mass market paperback.
Nature They are not “strippable.” This means that the front cover cannot be stripped by the distributors when they remain on the shelf after a long period. They are “strippable.” This means that distributors can simply strip the front cover (or sometimes, the first few pages) and return them for credit.