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    Wednesday, August 17, 2005

    Megabacks: Hot New Trend or New Coke?

    Just last Friday, the New York Times ran a piece on the new trend in paperback publishing. (Here's a link to the NYT Article, so kindly provided by Manuelita over on the Avon Authors Board.) Disturbed by the aging of the baby boomers (and their vision) and the declining sales of mass market paperbacks (even though they still vastly outsell every other format available), several publishers have begun to market a new format for mass market paperbacks. These "megabacks" are exactly the same width as normal mass market paperbacks, but 3/4 of an inch taller. (To me, they resemble travel guides.) The longer page allows for an increased type size and more importantly, more white space between the lines to assist with ease of reading. The books will be marketed at a slightly higher cover price of $9.99. (Which as most of you know will probably be discounted in several venues.)

    One of the main selling points of these books for the distributors is that they are designed to fit into the same racks as the regular-sized mass market paperbacks. But I already ran into a problem with that theory at my local drugstore. The first 2 Bestseller shelves were tall enough to display the new Sandra Brown megaback, WHITE HOT. But the next 2 shelves were too short, so both the new Catherine Coulter and Clive Cussler books were LYING FLAT ON THEIR BACKS, which means you couldn't see their covers, which is Every Author's Nightmare and is obviously not conducive to healthy sales.

    I inspected several of these books at my local Borders this weekend. I liked the way they felt in my hands. They felt a little heavier, a little more durable and expensive. (Hey, if I'm going to pay more, I WANT more!) The print did look more pleasant to read. But one of my friends is already complaining because they don't fit as easily into her purse.

    Several of the book distributors (including Wal-Mart) are taking a wait-and-see attitude, ordering limited quantities of the new look. I think only time will tell if this new trend is going to catch on, but Sandra Brown's WHITE HOT is going to be the first Megaback to debut at #1 on the NYT paperback bestseller list!