A New Paperback Size?

I received an interesting email and photo from Jean, who says she found a heretofore unknown paperback book size. It’s not the tall and thin “venti sized” paperbacks I saw a few years ago. This is a short and wider paperback. As Jean wrote,

I came across a beast that does not exist on the internet. A mass market paperback in a new format size for $9.99. But… Instead of being the same width as a MM, just taller, this one is a smidge taller but an inch wider…. Specifically, 5.125 x 7.125

Harper/Simon & Schuster/Pocket/Avon…

It has a different ISBN number than the regular MM version, and no amount of googling or scanning or searching all the usual places revealed anything about where this came from.

What, huh? Maybe a WallyWorld special edition? Pretty much everything I buy is e, these days, but I can’t help look at the cheap p when I’m at Target or WallyWorld.

Photographic evidence attached…

Have a look – click to embiggen.


Mass markets, correct me if I’m wrong, are 4.1 x 6.6 – but according to Jean’s figures, this one is definitely wider. I didn’t see any size like this one on Amazon or BN – perhaps she’s right and it’s a brand new, Walmart-only size experiment.

Jean also asked at a local BN about the new size: “No one knows. I talked to a B&N manager last night and He was just as confused as me.”

So, time to name it! Jean votes the “Grande” size – I agree with her. Definitely not a “tall.”

What do you think? Have you seen these? I confess, I do not have a WalMart near me, but the next time I’m in Target, I’ll peek in the book section there, too. Anyone seen these? Are they a WalMart exclusive?


Random Musings

Comments are Closed

  1. Chelsea says:

    I saw one at Walmart and thought I was hallucinating. When I showed my friend and said “Look, this book is plus sized!” She couldn’t see the difference. It’s more obvious when compared directly to another mass paperback. I hope they don’t become common, it would really throw off my shelving system.

  2. LG says:

    What does this size accomplish, exactly? Does this edition feature larger print? Or is the print the same size, but there are fewer pages? I think I saw a Jim Butcher book at Walmart in this size, but I don’t think this size is anywhere else, so I’m guessing it’s a Walmart thing.

  3. Joanne says:

    From USA today in 2005:  http://tiny.cc/fiahg so I wonder if those books were older pub dates?

  4. Aimee says:

    I’ve seen this size in some middle grade books at Borders. I picked one up to test it out and the dimensions are pretty unpleasant if you like to hold your book one-handed. It actually irritated me enough that I bought a different book—it was a gift and if it annoyed me so much, how would someone with 9 yr old hands feel? I’m seriously hoping this isn’t going to catch on.

  5. [blink]

    Fascinating.  This is not an entirely new size, but I am mightily amused at its use at the steamier end of the romance spectrum.  Because there are lots of books this size in B&N, and Borders, and so forth…

    …in the “middle grade” section.

    Trust me, go look.  This is exactly the size used for things like the Boxcar Children series and Beverly Cleary’‘s “Ramona” stories and the “junior” Babysitters Club titles and the Magic Treehouse books and so on and so forth.  (I am even more amused that one of the photographed books appears to be bylined to “Eloise Jarvis”, who is probably not related to the late award-winning children’s author Eloise Jarvis McGraw.)

    The format is also similar to the old-line SF and mystery magazines (Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Analog, etc.), such that it may be correct to label it a “digest” size.  Why it’s being invoked for grownup books at this point is a mystery to me, although my first guess would be that at “grownup” type sizes, it’s cheaper to print a digest-size paperback than a traditional mass market.

  6. Susan says:

    Yes, they are at Walmart.  They cost more than the regular paperbacks. Target doesn’t have them so I am assuming they are for Walmart only.  Frankly, they cost more and I would rather have the regular sized paperbacks on my bookshelves.

  7. Christine says:

    It’s a “husky” sized book… Isn’t that the euphemism for “fat” in children’s clothes?

  8. Milena says:

    In my days of working in a large publishing house, I was told by designers that “squareish” books look more inviting for reluctant readers, particularly young ones, so that explains the use of the format for middle grade. They’re not for experienced readers, though, which makes it strange that the format is used for steamy romances. Which are definitely intended for experienced readers… and I won’t even go into the one-hand reading bit.

  9. kim says:

    I saw these for the first time a couple of weeks ago at WalMart.  I’ve never seen them anywhere else.  They are a weird, kind of uncomfortable size…. and, more expensive, so no… not for me.  I’m not sure that I “get” the point of them(?).

  10. Jean says:

    A couple points of clarification:

    1. Yep. The print is larger and the margins are wider, just like the Ventis.
    Priced like a Venti, though.

    2. The format was not limited to steamy romances. I saw two UF’s, and one thriller in addition to 3 Avon romances.

    3. I found it less awkward to hold than the Venti.

    The strangest thing about this discovery is the ISBN. The number is different from the mass market paperback. However, I’ve never seen a legit ISBN that Google could not find… What’s up with that? ISBN’s are usually assigned well in advance of the book hitting the shelf

    In the meantime, the unknown beast sits on my desk as evidence of my find. I’ll buy the first book in the Adrian Phoenix series on my nook…

  11. Kay says:

    Yes, it’s a Walmart thing and if you look at the copyright page you’ll see two editions: Digest printing and mass market printing. This caught my eye because my book club is reading Lorraine Heath’s Waking Up with the Duke (wonderful!) in mass market. To see it otherwise at Walmart caught my eye. So I asked about it.

    I thought perhaps when the venti didn’t work, publishers were going to try something else which could cost more than mass market but not as much as trade.

  12. No surprise that the ISBN for a “digest size” paperback differs from that of the mass-market edition; ISBNs are specific to a given edition of a book.  Thus the same title may have several ISBNs—one for the hardcover, one for the trade paperback, one for the mass=market paperback, one for the e-text, possibly another for a large print edition and another for a library-bound edition.  This can be especially important if a book is released in multiple formats simultaneously.  (I can remember finding copies of books such as Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time in both middle-grade digest format and “YA” traditional mass market format side by side on a shelf.)

  13. One further thought, in a different direction:

    Were I an author, I’d be curious about how sales of these digest-sized paperbacks were being reported for royalty purposes.  If they’re being printed specifically for Wal-Mart distribution, there may be special discounting going on at one or more points in the distribution chain, and depending on the relevant contract terms, the author might be receiving a lower-than-usual royalty for copies sold through that channel.

  14. I too saw these a couple of weeks ago at Walmart and was surprised, especially at the higher price. The font doesn’t seem that much larger than a mass market paperback (I checked b/cuz I thought maybe it was a large print edition), so I have no idea what’s up with this, other than making more money. The books I saw were UF and Historical.

    I live in a small town and other than the college bookstore, Walmart is my only option for buying books (other than Amazon), so I’m not thrilled about this new size and price if this is going to be a trend.

  15. Brian says:

    The first book I know of that came out in this format was Queen of the Night by J.A. Jance which came out this way back in March.

  16. tralalah says:

    They’ve been doing this in mysteries for years.

  17. AgTigress says:

    There are so many paperback formats, American, British and Continental, that I am not sure I would have noticed yet another.  But if the increased width leads to American publishers actually providing proper margins, it can only be a good thing:  some small US paperbacks are printed incredibly close to the page edges, which seriously undermines both readability and durability.  White space in relation to print is just as important as point size for comfortable reading, and too little clear margin in the gutter (between facing pages) is what forces readers to strain the binding, leading to the untimely disintegration of the whole book.

    I fail to see why a fairly small variation in paper size should have a noticeable effect on printing and production costs, and thus on retail price.  There are so many other factors, such as the quality of the paper and the binding, and of course the size of the print-run, which have a significant effect on unit cost.  Selling the wider format at a higher retail price seems to me a move that will condemn it to failure anyway.

  18. minna says:

    I’ve been getting books in this size (and all the other sizes) for a few years now.  I’m in Australia and buy my books all over and the occaisional airport when I’m lucky enough to get away, so I can’t recall if these were from a discount store, but all the different sizes (I think I have 5) sure do make my shelves look messy.

  19. Brandy says:

    I noticed the new sized paperbacks at Wally World this past week. I had already purchased the book in MM at B&N, and noted the price difference along with the size difference. I didn’t like it. It was hard to hold in one hand and the higher price wasn’t welcome, either.

  20. Jean says:

    @Kay – I’m not surprised that there’s a different ISBN. I expected that. What I did not expect was an ISBN that comes up non-existent when Googled. Furthermore, the only ISBN’s in the front matter of the book I bought are for the book itself (with no reference to it being a “digest” size) and the ebook. The copyright page makes no mention of any other ISBN’s hardcover, audiobook, library binding, or otherwise.

    I did flip through the thing last night and came to the conclusion that the discomfort of holding it comes from the fact that I’m so used to holding my nook STR, which weighs nothing by comparison.  Viva La E!

  21. Lynn says:

    I saw these at Wal-mart (the only place to find books in my town) a few days ago—both my sister and I could not see the logic for them.
    The USA Today article states—Premium type size is slightly larger; words and lines are more loosely spaced for easier reading. But as one of the soon-to-be Baby Boomers they are targeting, I could not see any difference in font size or readability.
    And, of course, I don’t like the higher price tag—since I feel that you don’t receive anything different from the mass-market.
    I, for one, will not be purchasing any.

  22. Kiersten says:

    I noticed these editions when at Walmart last week. In some cases, both the standard MM and the “digest” sized-MM were side by side for the same book. For a new Sandra Brown MM release, all three MM sizes were in play, the standard, the grande, and the venti selling side by side.

    I think size-wise, this new version would fit better in my hands as opposed to the venti, which I found problematic. That said, I don’t see myself buying one, even for curiosity’s sake, especially now that it seems limited to Walmart. I don’t like when they start dicking around with size and price in MM. I’m never sure whether the author is even being compensated for the price differences (which it sounds like they aren’t). And then for it to be limited only to Walmart, that smacks of yet more narrowing of the market, which I really don’t like.

    I do find it interesting tho…

    spamword: into68 – oh so close!

  23. kylie says:

    I have several of that size floating around- primarily because we collect old sci fi magazines.  I find the sizing irritating in the shelving process (particularly when you shelve 2-3 rows of books on the one shelf) but it is useful for instant id as a book of that type in the dark.
    Perhaps some bright spark at one of thepublishers/walmart thought “hey sci fi, mystery and romance are all genre areas, lets see if we can find a new format to confuse them with.

  24. Karmyn says:

    I haven’t seen the wider books, but my copy of Naked Heat is taller than a mass market book. Makes it a bit harder to hold while lying in bed.

  25. Heather says:

    I saw these at Wal-mart. The price was seven buck plus change so not as much as the venti (sorry I think that name is as stupid as the the book format). I thought that they where large print until I opened it up. I flipped through and thought they were easier to hold then the tall thin ones, but I’m not sold. I still buy paper even though I have a Kindle but I’m not really hot to trot about a new format


  26. JoAnn says:

    (I am even more amused that one of the photographed books appears to be bylined to “Eloise Jarvis”, who is probably not related to the late award-winning children’s author Eloise Jarvis McGraw.)

    Eloise Jarvis McGraw has been one of my favorite authors since I was 10. I would never confuse her with a more recent addition to my favorite author list, Eloisa James, author of Potent Pleasures and a shelf’s worth of other wonderful books.

  27. Yes No Maybe says:

    ‘digest edition’? Sounds like a mass market book that over indulged. An extra-wide trailer keeps coming to mind.

  28. GrowlyCub says:

    Yup, saw them at wallyworld.  The Anderson rep said it’s for those older women who think their eye sight is going, except the print isn’t really larger (I’m paraphrasing her, she was pretty derogatory about the whole deal).

    Seems yet another effort to raise book prices.

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