Fine For Macchiatos, Not So Much For Books

I didn’t realize that they actually had their own name, but those skyscraper paperbacks that have begun appearing in book stores seem to. They’re referred to as “venti,” the same name given to a “supersized” selection at Starbucks.

I’m not a fan of these venti paperbacks. They’re about an inch taller than those traditional paperbacks we all know and love. And they cost about two bucks more. The cost by itself is enough to turn me off. I am still old-fashioned — or is it cheap — enough to think that $7.99 is too much to pay for a paperback as it is. I remember when a five-dollar bill could get you at least one, sometimes two paperbacks. Though I doubt dime novels were still around when I was born, I’m sure it was during my lifetime that five bucks could buy five paperbacks.

Ten bucks for a paperback? I can get a hardcover from my book club for that!!

As I get older, I might one day hope for larger type in books. But despite the size, there’s no real difference in font size. The difference in these books seems to be a little more white space on the pages. So we’re upping the price and wasting paper at the same time! Nice.

Tess Gerritsen and Bookseller Chick also have mentioned these ventis recently. Tess says that a book store employee explained that they’re all on the top shelf — and getting some nice exposure — because “that’s the only place where the damn things fit.” Bookseller Chick adds that the larger size forces her to adjust her shelving which means that she loses valuable space.

And for aspiring novelists like me, that is a concern: less book shelf space means that someone’s books are going to lose out. And who do you expect would lose out: an established author with lots of fans or newer authors who are battling for every single sale?

But wait…it gets better! Gerritsen adds that even for the established authors who get the prime real estate in the book stores, all is not well:

“Sure, it’s nice to be on the top row for a week or two. But what happens when the next shipment of titles comes in? Where do bookstores and drugstores and supermarkets put those ventis, if they can’t fit them on a lower row, where older releases usually go?”They return them. That’s right. They don’t get the prolonged stay of execution a normal-sized mass market may enjoy, sitting on a lower rack for a few weeks beyond its pull date. If the store doesn’t have room on the lower rack, those ventis are kicked out. Or they’re laid on their sides, spine out. They may have had their time in the sun, but it’s a briefer moment of glory.”

I’m sure the publishers have their marketing research to conclude that people will buy these books and be thrilled with them; perhaps they have marketing research that also indicates that this “briefer moment of glory” will be enough to make up for any lost sales that will result when those awkward-sized books lose their top-shelf position.

But I think I’ll stick with the normal mass-market paperback size…the size that fits on my bookshelves.