The Mass-Market Paperback
Once upon a time, it was common practice to pick up a cheaply made paperback from the bargain bin of a supermarket simply to pass the time, as a sort of impulse buy. The practicality and disposability made the paperback versatile, cheap and convenient. However, sales are declining sharply, due to two main reasons.
The shelves in most bookstores are being filled with hardbacks. Why? Hardbacks are more cumbersome, more expensive and take up more room on your bookshelf. Some do prefer a hardback collection for their personal library, and the coffee table book serves as decor as much as something to read. The pros, however, come mostly from the book manufacturers.Hardbacks have a much larger profit margin, and can increase the amount of money made if a bookstore has them stocked to a larger extent that paperbacks. Therefore, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to even find a paperback copy of books like Twilight and Philosophy - Vampires, Vegetarians, and the Pursuit of Immortality. But our own tastes have a hand in the fall of paperbacks as well.
Something more convenient than the paperback arrived: the ebook. Coupled with an ebook reader, the ebook has become the most practical way of reading a book on the move. Not only can you take your ebook with you wherever you go, without needing to worry about creasing or tearing the pages, but you can take an entire library’s worth of books with you, in case you want to read something else, or refer to something you’ve read in The Hobbit. In fact, ebooks even help the authors as well, promising more royalties for every book downloaded when compared to every paperback sold. Ebooks could also have a hand in the fall of the ‘traditional’ bookstore, with less shelf space being required and less books being bought from suppliers.
So are the days of picking a book from a bookstore shelf purely because of its title or book cover long gone? I think so. The days of the mass-market paperback have been numbered since the mid-1980s, and there doesn’t seem to be any encouraging signs that those numbers will ever rise again. Customers simply don’t want to wait to save up for their favourite author’s new paperback when they can download it, and loads more, for a much lower cost.