What is a :Mass Market Paperback"?

I was at amazon, shopping for murder mysteries and ran into this
“Mass Market Paperback” term. I’ve seen this before, but have no idea what it means. Is it a cheapo binding? Low grade paper? Printed with disappearing ink?

The English Breakfast Murder and Through the Grinder (Coffee House Mysteries) are two Mass Market Paperbacks. Any suggestions as to what the term means?

It’s a standard sized paperback - about 4" x 7" or so. The term is used to differentiate from trade paperbacks (which are maybe about 6"x9").

I’m sure someone will be along to correct me, but I believe mass-market paperbacks are the smaller, pocketbook-sized editions. “Trade paperbacks” are larger, the same size as the hardcover vbersion.

Mass Market may indeed have cheapo binding and low grade paper, but I think the determining factor is size.

The publishing definition is this:

A mass market paperback is one that, in order to be returned for credit, the cover is stripped and returned to the publisher and the rest of the book destroyed.

A trade paperback is one where the entire unsold book is returned.

Mass market books are usually smaller, but you can have trade paperbacks of the same size (IIRC, the Dragonlance books, though the same size as mass market, are actually trade).

Mass market generally do have cheaper paper, but ultimately, it’s the returnability that determines what it is.

Ah, that explains why my mass market paperbacks have the note saying “If you bought this book without a cover,” blab blab blab fraud warning.

If I may piggyback on this thread…

So then what’s the difference between a mass market paperback and a trade paperback, besides size and return procedures? Why print two different types of paperback?

I seem to recall hearing that a lot of trade paperbacks come from the same print runs as the hardcovers, but they put on a paper binding instead. Whereas a mass market paperback is a new edition with smaller pages and type.

Trade paper is usually larger, better binding, better paper, and costs more, around $12-$16. There are many people who don’t care for the disposability of a $7 paperback (very few are well made), but balk at paying $35 for a hardcover. Enter the trade paperback.

Different markets. Mass market paperbacks are designed for the mass market – not just bookstores, but spinner racks in airport gift shops, supermarkets, newsstands. That’s one reason why they set up the system of stripping – it’s the cheapest way to return things. You just give the covers back to the rack jobber for credit.

People who buy at such venues are usually interested in something quick and convenient to pick up for light reading. And, of course, the racks are a standard size, so the larger books aren’t going to fit (though that’s the cart going before the horse).

Trade paperbacks are designed for bookstores (Not that mass market books aren’t in bookstores, but they are also on the racks, so it’s easier to make just one format). Note that the mass market paperback is an older form than trade paper: back in the 60s and 70s, they were rare. But as book prices increased, there became a need for a book that cost less than a hardcover, but which was more durable than a paperback.

Thanks! :slight_smile:

I can confirm that this happens. I have several books whose copyright page shows the ISBN for the hardcover while the back wrap has the “proper” paperback edition number.

To interject a historical note, in the mid-90s, the mass-market distribution system collapsed, and hundreds of jobbers, who were charged with going from store to store, distributing MM paperbacks, were fired.

The whole story can be found here.

In short, what it means is that “mass-market” paperbacks no longer exist. Paperbacks, yes, but not the kind that were printed in the hundreds of thousands and distributed to retailers.

I should think that about does it. Maybe I’ll buy a MMP just to own one.

But off the subject…

Recently in another thread, a Doper kind of goaded me (et al) into reading Raymond Chandler. Finding myself in Borders Books soon after, I decided to go for it and picked up Chandler’s The High Window.

It happens that this particular paperback felt very good in one’s hands - it evoked almost a sensual pleasure to hold. All in all, it actually enhanced the joy of reading. Which was fortunate, because I didn’t like the Chandler novel at all.

However, I just acquired a used book of his short stories - The Simple Art of Murder - and maybe this will win me over to Raymond’s camp.

Anyway, in case you want to try a book in this collection it’s

Vintage Crime/Black Lizard
Vintage Books
A Division of Random House, Inc.


They’ve got some wonderful writers besides Chandler - Dashiell Hammett,
Andrew Vachss, Ruth Rendell and more. (At $12 a pop, they ought to.)

No, I’m not whoring for Random House. Just sharing something I think is nice. Fact is, I’m a retired rum runner with no connection to any legitimate business. :dubious: