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A Beginners Guide to Paperback Books

Saturday 30th July is a memorable day for bibliophiles – it’s global Paperback Book Day. It marks the memorable day in 1935 when the very first Penguin paperback book was published in England.

Paperbacks had of course been in circulation prior to 1935, but they were generally thin, of poor quality and were easily ripped, pages were often lost and after reading had a tattered appearance.

The Penguin paperback changed all of that, with the new-look tomes being carefully designed, made from a sturdier yet light material and boasting a well-designed branded cover, perfect for displaying on a bookshelf.

If you’re a devotee of hardback publications, you may well ask yourself the question, are paperback books good?

The answer to that is a resounding yes. It may be that you want some large, luxurious book to have lying on your coffee table – where it becomes more of a room accessory than something to read – but when the emphasis is on something that is convenient to use, easily carried, and low cost, a paperback can’t be beaten!

What is a paperback book?

A paperback book is a soft cover book commonly made using a sturdy and long-lasting paperboard cover. It’s also known as a softback and is characterised by its thick paper cover yet is soft enough to gently bend without breaking. The outer cover is flexible, making paperback books considerable lighter than the classic hardback and therefore a popular option for people wanting to take their book out and about with them.

History of the paperback book

The launch of the paperback revolution meant almost all members of society could now afford such books. On the plus side, they were more accessible, not just by price, but because they were light and portable – and fitted into jacket or coat pockets. Their success was also sealed because the first paperbacks were written by well-known authors, including Agatha Christie and Ernest Hemmingway, ensuring they appealed to the masses. In 1935, Penguin produced ten paperbacks to test the waters and measure their popularity.

They were a huge hit and were sold for sixpence each, significantly cheaper than the price of a hardback book at the time which was usually priced at around seven or eight shillings.

Allen Lane published the very first Penguin books, Sir Allen was the genius behind Penguin, and he was very keen to achieve his dream of creating quality books that would be available to all at low prices. The paperbacks were colour-coded to show their content: orange books represented fiction, blue for biography and green for crime.

The first ten Penguin paperback books to be published in 1935 were:

• The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie
• The Bellona Club by Dorothy L Sayers
• Ariel by Andre Maurois
• A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
• Carnival by Compton Mackenzie
• Gone to Earth by Mary Webb
• William by EH Young
• Twenty-Five by Beverly Nichols
• Poet’s Pub by Eric Linklater
• Madame Claire by Susan Ertz

What does a paperback book look like?

A paperback book is typically rectangular, with a soft cover sandwiching hundreds of pages of text. Typically a paperback is held or bound together by a special paper bonding glue rather than the sturdier sewing or staples. The very opposite version of a paperback is a hardback copy – which cannot be bent.

How Much Does a Paperback Book Weigh?

The weight of a paperback varies, depending upon how large the book is and how many pages it contains. A standard paperback novel measures around 6 by 9 inches. Assuming that the book averages 300 pages, that roughly equals a book weighing 15.6 ounces.

What Size is a Paperback Book?

A typically sized paperback book roughly measures six inches by nine inches. This has been calculated by the publishing industry to be the most popular size to sell as larger heavier books are harder to hold, carry and put on a shelf. Modern-day mass market paperbacks are also available sized at 6.75 inches by 4.25 inches (171x108mm). This size is especially popular with publishers as it saves on production and shipping costs.

Are Paperback Books Cheaper than Hardback Books?

Paperback books tend to be slightly cheaper than hardback books. Hardback books are likely to be more expensive by virtue of their nature, but you can also get competitively priced hardback books and, by the same token, premium paperbacks.

Paperbacks are not just for novels. They are a highly effective and professional way to promote your own business to customers and clients. Nothing looks slicker than a high-quality detailed booklet, brochure or book that delivers your own message, facts, ideas and designs to the world in the ultimate impressive package.

It’s never been easier than to bring your novel, how to book or memoir to life so why not use Global Paperback Day as your inspiration and choose it as the time to start telling your story? And the good news is….you don’t have to find a publisher or agent – you can do it all yourself!


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