The Heavyweight Champion of Arguments

March 16th, 2005 · 1 Comment
by Booksquare

In this corner, we have publishers citing evidence that consumers want to pay more for bigger books (The Reading Glasses Argument). In the other corner, we have a study that suggest readers want to pay less for books, size not mentioned (The Books Are Expensive Argument). Sure, your first reaction might be that the British are cheap, but that argument doesn’t hold up for long.

Publishers, noting the decline of mass market paperback sales, are legitimately alarmed, and of course it makes sense to think that aging eyes are responsible for a decline of of approximately 30 million units over the past several years. Wow, this actually gives us pause: baby boomers alone account for such a huge swing?

Publishers, meanwhile, are scrambling to come up with a new format. Several — including Penguin, Pocket Books, and Harlequin Romance — have announced new lines of boomer-friendly paperbacks in the past few weeks, which some in the business have dubbed “mass upperbacks.” Other publishers are watching closely before joining in.

“We decided we should change the mass-market design, for the first time in a very long time,” said Leslie Gelbman, president of mass-market paperbacks for the Penguin Group. “We’ve decided to make the size a little taller and slimmer, and the paper is better.” The type size is also larger, with more space between the lines. The price will be $9.95, up from the typical $7.99 for the standard size.

Okay, sure that makes perfect sense. Until we turn to the next tab in our browser, only to discover that, despite the wealth of reading options, non-voracious readers, call them bantam to middle-weight readers, can’t find anything to read. There are many reasons for this, but this group also suggests

More than half of non-buyers say they would buy books if they became cheaper, and if they became more accessible. The research clearly shows that discounting expands the market, with cost the most quoted reason why non-buyers are rejecting books: 21% say new books are too expensive. The high-priced fiction hardback comes in for particular abuse from non, light and medium buyers. Supermarkets emerge with credit: more than half of all adults say they would buy more books if supermarkets stocked larger ranges.

If you look at the headline of The Bookseller article this second quote was taken from, you’ll realize it’s not always about price (though cose overcomes some barriers). The other day we suggested that there’s a reason (though unfathomable to us — and we’ve read the darn thing) that The Da Vinci Code remains a strong seller. Soul searching is never fun, but maybe it’s time.

File Under: Books/Mags/Blogs

1 response so far ↓

  • Susan Gable // Mar 17, 2005 at 7:37 am

    I learned about the Harlequin Large Print program when a fellow Super author discovered her book in large print on Amazon. (Yes, this is how we discover important stuff like this, or that cover prices are going up – we find out on Amazon.)

    My July Super is going to be offered in the Large Print – and the best thing about it (at least for now!) is that the price is only .25 different. The book is 80 pages longer (again, given facts discovered at Amazon) but only .25 more. So, a regular Super is $5.50, and the Large Print goes for $5.75, which I think is a pretty good deal.

    On the other hand, I’m not sure how well they’re getting the word out there that these books will be available. Will they be in all the same outlets as the regular versions? Must they be special ordered by the customer?

    I called my local Waldens, and the woman there wasn’t aware that HQ was starting this progam. I asked her if she had people who came in looking for books in large print, and she assured me that she did – but that sometimes expense was an issue. I hope Harlequin keeps the cost down – that will be a huge factor in the success of this venture, IMHO.

    As to the whole supermarket thing – I agree. (G) Of late, I’ve been grabbing a lot of my books at the supermarket – fortunately my store of choice has a pretty decent selection of the books I love. (G) (Not just the H/S but loads of romance novels.) I haven’t abandoned my bookstores – its just that I love the convenience of grabbing a book when I run in for milk and stuff.