Give me books, fruit, french wine and fine weather and a little music out of doors. --John Keats

Monday, September 13, 2010

Trade Paperback Snobbery

I'd been hoping for a quaint little store like this one
This weekend I snuck off to a local used bookstore. I didn't even know the place existed until Lydia and Renae told me about it during Book Club last month. (Didn't know a local bookstore existed? What kind of book lover am I??)

I was pretty sure I wasn't in for a wonderful surprise like the Tattered Cover in Denver which kenpen blogged about last week (though I must admit I kind of hoped), and I wasn't looking to buy any books. This was just a recon mission. I already have plenty of books in my Leaning Tower, and I arrived at the store just five minutes before closing time. I know, I know, people like me should be shot, but I made a quick spin through the store and was out of there in four.

Only four minutes in a bookstore? What could it mean? Other than the fact that I was determined to allow the shop girls to close on time, unfortunately it also meant I was a bit disappointed in the store. I think the Friends of the Library bookstore in Los Alamos has spoiled me. They always have an incredible selection of used books. I want (and buy) at least a third of the books I touch in there. Good thing I only visit it about once a year.

I didn't put my finger on my main problem with the local store until I perused the most recent link list at Farm Lane Books. One of the links was for an article about the difference between trade and mass-market paperbacks. I'd never really thought about how I prefer one over the other. Maybe it's common knowledge that a trade paperback is more likely to be a quality book--they sure cost more, anyway--but I'd never noticed how I gravitate towards them and away from mass-market paperbacks. It's not as if it's impossible to find quality among the mass-markets, but there's a lot of dross to wade through.

Have you guessed why I was disappointed? The local used bookstore was wall-to-wall mass-market paperbacks. Of course I didn't even walk through the Romance section, which seemed to take up half the store (why waste precious seconds?), but the other half looked like it could be all James Patterson and Clive Cussler. Granted, if I'd had more time to browse, it's possible that I might have come across a few treasures. That's why I'm not telling you the name of the store--I ought to give them another chance first. But judging by what I saw during my four minutes, it didn't look promising. (There was also a marked dearth of hardcover books, but I didn't find that so surprising.)

The realization of my prejudice against mass-market paperbacks caused me to take a good look at my own bookshelves. I noticed that, though we do own a fair number of mass-market paperbacks, most of them are hiding their squatty little spines behind cabinet doors where you can't see them unless you're looking for them. This forces me to admit that it's not just a matter of a difference in quality of content. I am also an unrepentant cover-judger.

How about you? Are you a Trade Paperback Snob who snubs the poor little mass-market paperbacks?


kenpen said...

Thanks for the link!

I only have a few mmps.Most are Carl Hiaasen or Agatha Christie books.

Melody said...

I prefer the Trade Paperbacks to mass markets, and hardcovers even...unless the hardcovers are cloth bound or vintage. I really can't stand those mass-markets: the feel of the paper, the look of the ink, the small size that begs for cracking the spine. I am unabashedly biased. I was thrilled to pieces when the Trade Paperbacks started becoming standard!

Lisa R/alterlisa said...

All I can say is you girls don't know some of the treasures you are missing by turning your nose up at MMPB's. Rachel Vincent, Laurell Hamilton, Maggie Shayne, Lynsay Sands, I could go on for days and days with the list. The quickest way an author will lose me is to have her series that has been in MMPB suddenly jump up to trade size. Now not only do I not buy it at all, I get it on a swap site or at the library so she gets zip from me. It's about the dollar, girls, for twenty dollars, I get 1 HB, 1 1/3 trade, or 3 3/4 MMPB. Ding, ding, ding! I get books to read and pass on, not collect so I want my money's worth. And a trade size or HB, try sticking that in your purse. Oh, and the covers--if it don't have it between the pages, what difference does it make what the cover's made out of or who's on it. I don't buy books for show only for content. But I guess it's a good thing that we all like different types or we'd all be eating vanilla or chocolate ice cream instead of the 100 different flavors out there that makes life so exciting.

Jessica said...

I know exactly what you mean by this, sometimes Ill walk into a 2nd hand bookstore and there will be loads of books but I walk right by and when I look closely they are all James Patterson and Clive Cussler. I dont feel bad about this, its not like these people are struggling writers desperate for my money is it?

Lesa said...

Only the story matters to me-- not the size or cover. I appreciate nice cover art but it isn't critical.

Anonymous said...

I prefer the trade paperback size as well. Now that I have a Kindle, I am able to get most of the mass market books that I wanted on that device. It helps with the font size and lays flat. LOL

Yes, you can call me a trade paperback junkie!

Anonymous said...

I was afraid that store would be disappointing - which is why I hadn't even been there yet - it would probably make me cry.

Looking forward to book club this week! :D

~ Renae

Kathy said...

kenpen--my pleasure! And, I LOVE Agatha Christie. Haven't had so much luck with Carl Hiaasen; what is your favorite of his?

Melody--I definitely agree--there is so much to be said for the sensory experience of reading. MMPBs feel as cheap as they are.

Lisa--I think that's one of my problems--I try to avoid getting into a series. I guess it's mainly because there are SO MANY books I want to read. I've become really picky about what I add to my TBR, and adding a whole series at once seems overwhelming.

Jess--you're certainly right--authors like Cussler and Patterson have plenty of buyers--we few who turn our noses up at them aren't hurting them a bit!

Lesa--I reread my post and I guess I wasn't clear that I mostly meant quality in regard to the story and writing, not so much the quality of the physical book itself (although a pretty cover can only help, in my case). It's been my experience that a greater percentage of trade paperbacks are worthwhile reads as compared to mass-market paperbacks. (Of course, that depends on my own opinion of what is a worthwhile read.)

Kay--I have been strongly considering getting a Kindle--I have a lot of classics on my wish list and the thought of getting them for free is just so exciting! (I do have the Kindle program on my computer but it's just not all that convenient to read a book that way. I want to curl up on the couch or in bed with a book! Even a laptop doesn't facilitate curling up very well.) Did you look at other e-readers before you decided on the Kindle?

Renae--I'm not sure if you meant it to be funny, but I sure laughed when I pictured you crying in the bookstore. If that sort of thing makes you tear up, I definitely think this bookstore will . . . but I think Bertha would love it! ;) See you Friday night!!

Brenna said...

You're right! This is the opposite of The Strand! It sounds... gross. And yes, I am a total trade paperback snob. I hate mass markets. I hate them with a passion. They shouldn't even be considered books.

Kathy said...

Yup, gross is a good word for this bookstore. :(