A friend of mine reported that she went shopping and bought a Nora Roberts paperback – for $10. Some big splash on the cover said, “Specifically designed for comfortable reading.”
Alas, she reports, it doesn’t come with chocolate.
But what is this comfortable reading thing with the extra cost conveniently built into the purchase price? According to the explanation in the book, the new size is known as “Premium Format:”
The premium format is specially designed for comfortable reading, featuring REMARKABLE improvements on the interior design of the traditional mass market paperback. The book itself is larger, for easier handling. The type is also larger. The paper is brighter and there is more white space between the lines of text, creating a more pleasurable reading experience.
A more pleasurable reading experience. And yet, it doesn’t come with chocolate? Shame, I tell you.
After some cursory Googling, I found an August 2005 article from USAToday (aka McNews) which explains that sales of the mass-market paperbacks, aka the smaller ones, are down, and the folks quoted in the article attribute the decline to various sources, including the Oprah picks which are packaged in trade-paperbacks or hardcover.
So I have to wonder: does size matter? Does a larger trade-sized publication, by occupying territory between mass market and hardback, imply better quality of reading? Do we need a size of book between mass market and trade to make for more “comfortable reading?” Or do publishers need better sales to make themselves more “comfortable?”
In my humble opinion, I think it’s totally a marketing decision, and I think that size does matter. Packaging a book in a larger format does imply that it’s somehow “better,” though the better might be solely based on the idea that the publisher thought enough of the book itself to dress it up with bigger britches.
However, I will say that I’ve got terrible vision. I’m crosseyed and have worn glasses since I was 2. I loooove me some bigger print books. I loved the copies of books I’ve read in trade format that were large enough in print size that I could read them without my prescription glasses on. But I don’t look at the trade format and think “romance.”
So if Nora Roberts is publishing in “comfort format,” and the publisher is charging readers $9.99 for the comfort privilege, do you think people will jump on board? I already bitch and moan about how romance mass markets are $7+. Am I going to pay $9.99 for added “comfort?” Not really. I already paid for these expensive bifocals!