Writers frequently ask about the differences between mass market paperback (MMP) books and trade paperback books. There are three major differences: size, quality and how they are treated once they are removed from the bookshelves. Those differences result in other differences, too, like pricing.
Today we'll address size and quality. Tomorrow we'll deal with what happens when the book is removed from the shelves.
Before we begin, let's review the early history of the mass market paperback. According to Wikipedia, the first paperback books were produced by Albatross Books in Germany in 1931. "British publisher Allen Lane launched the Penguin imprint in 1935, with 10 reprint titles; this started the paperback revolution in the English-language book market."
According to USA Today, "the traditional paperback is usually 43/16 inches by 63/4 inches," or approximately 7" x 4". They retail for around $8.
In recent years, publishers have been experimenting with a premium-sized mass market paperback. The premiums are 41/4 inches by 71/2 inches with slightly larger type and more loosely spaced words for easier reading. This move is prompted by Baby Boomers and their aging vision.
As I mentioned at the outset, the first major difference between mass market paperbacks and their trade paperback cousins is size. Trade paper books are approximately 8" x 5" with larger printing and a price around $14.
The second major difference between the two is the quality of the paper. The paper quality is much higher in a trade paper. This is important because, with heavier paper, a trade paper book will have a longer life than a MMP. The pages will not yellow nor tear as easily as they will on a MMP. The paper quality in a trade paper is more similar to that of a hardback book than it is to a MMP.
I did some research to find out when trade paperbacks first made an appearance. The only date I'm sure of is that Putnam Berkley (the same group that debuted the first English mass market paperback) introduced Perigee Books, a trade paperback imprint, in 1979. I don't know if another publishing house had an earlier version but, from this date, we can conclude that the trade market paper has been around for at least twenty-five years.
Tomorrow we'll talk about how publishers dispose of MMP, trade paper and hardback books.