What Are Mass Market Paperbacks? Here’s All You Need To Know

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A bookstore with mass-market paperback books

Printed books are mostly produced in three fundamental formats: Hardcover, Trade Paperback, and Mass Market Paperback.

A hardcover (also known as hardback or hard-bound) is a type of book that is bound with hard and rigid protective covers and the pages are often strongly held together with stitches and staples. They are the most expensive of the three formats.

A trade paperback (more commonly known as paperback) is a type of book characterized by a thick paper or paperboard cover. Their pages are often held together with glue rather than stitches or staples.

Trade paperbacks are cheaper than hardcovers but costlier than mass market paperbacks.

(For more information on Paperback & hardcover and their differences, you may refer to this article: Paperback vs Hardcover)

What are Mass-Market Paperbacks?

Mass Market Paperbacks are basically small sized books printed on a lower quality paper with an inexpensive binding. They are cheaper to produce and mostly sold in non-traditional bookselling locations such as drugstores, supermarkets, railway stations, and airports, as well as in traditional bookstores.

A man reading a mass-market paperback book

Mass-market paperbacks are produced to target a bigger market. Due to their low production cost they can be made available to a large mass of people at cheaper and affordable rates.

Mass-market paperback books are smaller in size (usually about 4 inches wide and 7 inches tall) and their font size is also comparatively smaller.

Besides, these format of books mostly does not have any illustrations (pictures, diagrams, and other decorative features) that may be present in the hardcover or the paperback formats of that same book.

Another very important feature of mass-market paperbacks is that they are mostly strippable books. ‘Strippable’ simply means that a book’s cover can be torn off (or stripped off) by the book retailer or distributor, and then sent back to the book publisher for a credit or refund.

So, when the booksellers notice that some mass-market paperback books have been in stock for a while and are not selling, they can simply strip off the covers of those books and return them to the publishers for credits or refund.

The part of the book left after the cover is stripped off are illegal to sell and has to be pulped and/or recycled.

Paperback vs Mass-market paperback

Here are some of the key differences between paperback and mass-market paperbacks (MMPBs). Most of these points are already discussed above for the latter. So here we will only see the differences in brief.

  • Mass-market paperbacks are generally printed on lower quality paper, which discolors and disintegrates over a period of time. On the other hand, most paperbacks are printed on better-quality, acid-free papers.
    Besides, the book cover and binding of the trade paperbacks are of better quality.
  • Due to the use of lower quality papers, the production costs of MMPBs are lower. That makes them cheaper than the Paperback books.
  • Paperbacks may include illustrations like pictures, diagrams, or other decorative features, while mass-market formats do not have any such illustrations.
  • Mass-market paperbacks usually have a smaller dimension than the paperbacks. And due to their smaller dimension, they usually have more number of pages.
    Here’s an image of paperback and mass-market paperback format of the book ‘Rich Dad Poor Dad’. Smaller one is the mass-market format.
Paperback and mass-market paperback of the book 'Rich Dad Poor Dad'
  • Paperback books can be bought from traditional bookstores, book dealers, distributors, and resellers. While Mass-market paperbacks are mostly found in non-traditional book-selling locations like drugstores, supermarkets, gift shops, railway stations, and airports.
  • As discussed earlier, mass-market paperback books are ‘strippable’. That means, their covers can be stripped off and returned by the booksellers to the publishers for a credit or refund.
    Paperback books, on the other hand, are non-strippable, which means, if the booksellers want to return a book for refund or credits, they will have to return the entire book and not just the cover.
  • Paperbacks are normally released either between the hardcovers and mass-market paperbacks, or at the same time with the hardcover. While the mass-market editions are usually published after hardcovers and paperbacks.
    However, there is no hard and fast rule for this. Most new authors usually go for paperbacks and mass-market paperbacks. And established authors go for hardcovers first, and then paperback and mass-market formats.

Besides, Mass-market paperback have rough textures, and their print quality is also not that good. They have lesser spaces between the letters and lines and that may strain your eyes while reading.

However, because of their smaller size and lighter weight, the mass-market formats can be more convenient to carry while traveling. Plus you can have them at cheaper rates.

I hope this comparison of Paperback vs Mass-market paper was helpful to you. If you have any more questions, please comment below. I would love to answer them if I know.

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