Trade Paperback books: My least favorite format

I admit it. I'm a format snob. I'll buy mass markets without a thought. I'll pay hardcover prices for a book I don't want to wait for. But I rarely, if ever, even LOOK at trade paperbacks.


Part of it is the price vs. value proposition for me. Trade paperbacks are still paperbacks. They are not made sturdier (in general) than a mass market paperback. They are simply bigger. And are, in some cases, double the cover price of a mass market. There's no additional value for the increased price.

The size is also a factor. Trade paperbacks are uncomfortable for me to hold. Hardcovers can generally be rested on my lap. They stay open easier. (Not to mention that they do not suffer the insta-damage of spine creasing that paperbacks do.) Trade paperbacks must be held open. And I have small hands.

The biggest reason, though, is that I tend to mentally equate trade paperback books with literary fiction. It's most likely a leftover reaction to all of those Oprah books I had to shelve when I worked for B&N, but I don't think of genre fiction when I see a book in trade paperback.

Even knowing how inaccurate that assumption is (Chick Lit and Erotica have long been in TP format), I can't seem to overcome it. And I don't think I'm alone in this knee jerk reaction, either. Although big box stores like Walmart and Target are starting to stock trade paperbacks, most grocery stores in my area are still mass markets only. Which makes sense given that mass markets were designed for mass sales while trade paperbacks were originally intended to be a bookstore exclusive format.

Publishers seem to be pushing mainstream authors increasingly in the trade paperback direction. Nora Roberts's Bride Quartet series is the first time I can remember her books being released as trade paperbacks first instead of hardcover or mass markets. (Reissues of her books through Silhouette have been available off and on in trade paperback for over a decade).

I'm not sure if the increase in the use of trade paperback formats is an attempt to recoup mass market losses due to ebooks or if it is simply a trend that has evolved on its own. Another possibility is the use of trade paperbacks to gain market share in indie bookstores who largely shun genre fiction--in part due to the returns process of mass markets (stripping). But I do know that without the book blogging community, I likely would have missed out on some great books by mainstream authors: including Jill Shalvis's wonderful Wilder brothers series because I just don't buy trade paperbacks.

Unfortunately for me, I can't see myself changing my behavior anytime soon. $15 is just too high of a price for me to pay for a paperback unless I *know* I am going to love a book. I'd rather pay $25 and get a hardcover that can withstand multiple readings.


  1. I know a lot of romance readers who opt to buy trade paperbacks as ebooks because then they get the price break. I would say that could lead to eroding sales of trades, but honestly? That format plays so well with the lit/fic and book club crowd, that I don't think it's going anywhere any time soon.

    I don't buy a ton of trade, but I will buy it. Mostly because if I want the story, I want it. Regardless of the format. That said, I buy maybe a dozen trade titles a year? Maybe that? Not many at all. A lot of times, if I'm on the fence about a trade pb, I'll try and get it from work. If I love it, I end up buying my own copy down the line.

    Re: Nora's trades - what I like about them is the quality of them. I mean, they're beautiful books. I read somewhere (not sure where now) that Nora told her publisher something like, "If we're going trade we better make those books look nice." And they are. I have no problem with paying higher prices for books that LOOK like quality. Like the publisher didn't have them printed, bound or glued using slave labor.

  2. I dislike them too, mostly because of the "feel". Or what's worse is those ones that are almost like mass markets, but are about 2" taller. Hate those. They don't fit on our shelves right and they don't feel right either. Yup, I'm a format snob too.

  3. I never buy trade cause like you, I'm not paying twice the price of a MMP. They don't fit in your purse (an absolute must for me as I always have something to read), they don't fit as nicely on my shelves while waiting to be read( I can stack MMP two deep), and again- they cost TOO much. I don't care if they LOOK like quality, I read a book and then pass it on so who cares what it looks like on a shelf. I'm a reader, not a collector. I also never buy hardbacks, hey, that $25 equals at least 3 1/2 MMP. The only way I have a trade or hardback in my TBR pile is if it comes from a swap site (which then costs me more to mail the damn thing out) or it was a gift. And the quickest way an author loses me when it comes to purchasing their books is to start a series in MMP and then switch to trade or hardback. She can kiss my money goodbye cause it will go to an author of MMP. I probably buy close to 100 new books a year and they are all MMP. That same amount of money would only buy 46 trades or about 28 hardbacks. I don't know about you but 100 beats out 46 or 28 any day of the week.

  4. @Wendy

    I agree with the Bride Quartet quality. It IS nice. I especially like the flaps that look like a HC dustjacket.

    I think ebooks were a good alternative to trades, but with Penguin et al changing the pricing structure, I'm not seeing those books discounted anymore.

    I also think that it's partially the subject, too. I have no problems buying trade size paperbacks that are nonfiction. Huh.


    I know that the size leads to some serious shelving issues in the bookstores I frequent. Shelf height in romance is especially important to squeeze as many books in as possible. BN files the trade paperbacks at the top of the bay where they would belong--out of strict alphabetical order. Borders puts all of the trade paperbacks at the end of the romance section.

    Which means authors who have both mass markets and trade paperbacks have their books split in two different areas!


    Oh I hate it when an authors switches midseries to hardcover or trade format. I realize it's the publisher's decision, but grrrrr. It's an obvious attempt to capitalize on the series' popularity and that just feels like gouging to me.