Blank paperback book

A paperback is a type of book characterized by a thick paper or paperboard cover, and often held together with glue rather than stitches or staples. In contrast, hardcover or hardback books are bound with cardboard covered with cloth. The pages on the inside are made of paper.

Inexpensive books bound in paper have existed since at least the 19th century in such forms as pamphlets, yellowbacks, dime novels, and airport novels. [1] Modern paperbacks can be differentiated by size. In the U.S., there are " mass-market paperbacks" and larger, more durable " trade paperbacks." In the U.K., there are A-format, B-format, and the largest C-format sizes. [2]

Paperback editions of books are issued when a publisher decides to release a book in a low-cost format. Cheaper, lower quality paper; glued (rather than stapled or sewn) bindings; and the lack of a hard cover may contribute to the lower cost of paperbacks. Paperbacks can be the preferred medium when a book is not expected to be a major seller or where the publisher wishes to release a book without putting forth a large investment. Examples include many novels, and newer editions or reprintings of older books.

Since paperbacks tend to have a larger profit margin, many publishers try to balance the profit to be made by selling fewer hardcovers against the potential profit to be made by selling more paperbacks with a smaller profit per unit. First editions of many modern books, especially genre fiction, are issued in paperback. Best-selling books, on the other hand, may maintain sales in hardcover for an extended period to reap the greater profits that the hardcovers provide.[ citation needed]


The early 19th century saw numerous improvements in the printing, publishing and book-distribution processes, with the introduction of steam-powered printing presses, pulp mills, automatic type setting, and a network of railways. [3] These innovations enabled the likes of Simms and McIntyre of Belfast, [4] Routledge & Sons (founded in 1836) and Ward & Lock (founded in 1854) to mass-produce cheap uniform yellowback or paperback editions of existing works, and distribute and sell them across the British Isles, principally via the ubiquitous W H Smith & Sons newsagent found at most urban British railway stations. These paper bound volumes were offered for sale at a fraction of the historic cost of a book, and were of a smaller format (110x175mm) aimed at the railway traveller. [5] The Routledge's Railway Library series of paperbacks remained in print until 1898, and offered the traveling public 1,277 unique titles. [6]

The German-language market also supported examples of cheap paper-bound books: Bernhard Tauchnitz started the Collection of British and American Authors in 1841. These inexpensive, paperbound editions, a direct precursor to mass-market paperbacks, eventually ran to over 5,000 volumes. Reclam published Shakespeare in this format from October 1857 [7] and went on to pioneer the mass-market paper-bound Universal-Bibliothek series [8] from 10 November 1867.

20th century

The German publisher Albatross Books revised the 20th-century mass-market paperback format in 1931, but the approach of World War II cut the experiment short. It proved an immediate financial success in the United Kingdom in 1935 when Penguin Books adopted many of Albatross' innovations, including a conspicuous logo and color-coded covers for different genres. British publisher Allen Lane invested his own financial capital to launch the Penguin Books imprint in 1935, initiating the paperback revolution in the English-language book-market by releasing ten reprint titles. The first released book on Penguin's 1935 list was André Maurois' Ariel. [9]

Lane intended to produce inexpensive books. He purchased paperback rights from publishers, ordered large print runs (such as 20,000 copies—large for the time) to keep unit prices low, and looked to non-traditional book-selling retail locations. Booksellers were initially reluctant to buy his books, but when Woolworths placed a large order, the books sold extremely well. After that initial success, booksellers showed more willingness to stock paperbacks, and the name "Penguin" became closely associated with the word "paperback".

In 1939, Robert de Graaf issued a similar line in the United States, partnering with Simon & Schuster to create the Pocket Books label. The term "pocket book" became synonymous with paperback in English-speaking North America. In French, the term livre de poche was used and is still in use today. De Graaf, like Lane, negotiated paperback rights from other publishers, and produced many runs. His practices contrasted with those of Lane by his adoption of illustrated covers aimed at the North American market. To reach an even broader market than Lane, he used distribution networks of newspapers and magazines, which had a lengthy history of being aimed (in format and distribution) at mass audiences. [10] This was the beginning of mass-market paperbacks.

Because of its number-one position in what became a very long list of pocket editions, James Hilton's Lost Horizon is often cited as the first American paperback book. However, the first mass-market, pocket-sized, paperback book printed in the US was an edition of Pearl Buck's The Good Earth, produced by Pocket Books as a proof-of-concept in late 1938, and sold in New York City. It has since become very collectible.

Through the circulation of the paperback in kiosks and bookstores, scientific and intellectual knowledge was able to reach the masses. This occurred at the same time that the masses were starting to attend university, leading to the student revolts of 1968 prompting open access to knowledge. The paperback book meant that more people were able to openly and easily access knowledge and this led to people wanting more and more of it. This accessibility posed a threat to the wealthy by imposing that it would be turned upside down, as the masses were now able to access almost all of the knowledge the wealthy previously had access to. Treating the paperback as any other book drastically weakened the distinction between high and low culture. The paperback revolution essentially broke this relationship by redefining it through access to knowledge. [11]

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Sagteband
dansk: Paperback
Deutsch: Taschenbuch
Ελληνικά: Κάλυμμα
Esperanto: Poŝlibro
français: Livre de poche
Frysk: Paperback
한국어: 페이퍼백
Հայերեն: Կազմ
हिन्दी: अजिल्द
Bahasa Indonesia: Sampul kertas
íslenska: Kilja
italiano: Libro tascabile
Nederlands: Paperback
norsk: Pocketbok
português: Livro de bolso
русский: Обложка
Simple English: Paperback
slovenčina: Paperback
српски / srpski: Меки повез
suomi: Taskukirja
svenska: Pocketbok
Tagalog: Paperback
українська: М'яка обкладинка
中文: 平裝書