Mass market paperbacks seem to get a certain amount of derision from the bookish community. They’re too thick, the typeface too small, they fall apart easily, the spines always break, and the covers tear off with little provocation. And I own hundreds of them.
Look. I can see why mass market paperbacks get the hate. They’re cheap and disposable while the words within are things to keep and treasure. But I love the mass market paperback, sometimes for those very reasons.
Let me explain why.
There is something wonderful about mass market paperbacks. They’re everywhere, found in places that don’t usually carry books. Supermarkets, convenience stores, gift shops, train stations, airports – they all have a shelf filled with mass market paperbacks in a vast array of genres. My local library often has a cart full of old mass market paperbacks that have been donated which they give out for free. Other library sales I’ve gone to have sold me a whole box full for only dollar. No one seems to want these beat-up old beauties, and it leaves me scratching my head. Whenever I see them, I can’t help but bring home one or two or a bag full. (Yes, the librarians at the local library do hand me a plastic shopping bag whenever I’m there.)
I’ve always had mass market paperbacks. Even if I couldn’t convince my parents to buy the newest hardback, a simple mass market paperback wasn’t a very hard sell. And so, they started piling up. I still have dozens of mass market paperbacks from my childhood sitting on my shelves. They’re damaged now – broken spines, torn corners, pages missing – but they’re well loved. They’re full of warm childhood memories and full of stories that helped shape the person I am today.
Aside from nostalgia, what is there to love about the mass market paperback?
Honestly? A lot.
For one, they’re the perfect size. They’re small enough to fit in a purse, or, more importantly the back pocket on a pair of jeans – an important quality when carrying around your breakfast and coffee. If I don’t have an e-reader with me, I have a mass market paperback. You can always fit them in your luggage. The threat of losing your book on the train or bus isn’t so great when it’s less than ten dollars and probably won’t last long anyway.
Speaking of e-readers, a standard size mass market paperback clocks in at just a few centimeters larger than my e-reader. Sure, you can’t enlarge the font size, but the physical size is still just about perfect if you’re on the go.
As a fan of science fiction and fantasy, mass market paperbacks are also pretty perfect price wise. Look. I love the Discworld books, and I want to collect them all. But purchasing forty plus books is a little less intimidating – and a whole lot cheaper – when they’re all priced between six to eight dollars. (What can I say? Mom was on to something.) And that’s just one of the extremely long running fantasy and sci-fi series I want to read.
So, sure. Maybe the mass market paperback isn’t the most aesthetically pleasing book. They don’t make for very good bookstagram photos. They’re more often seen bent and torn than good as new. But they’re always there for you. They don’t mind getting beaten up a little. And I can’t wait to get more of them.