Saturday, February 19, 2005


About the Size of It

Nicholas Blincoe gives a handy primer in the Daily Telegraph about book sizes:

The smallest standard size, "A" format, is easy enough: the size of the ordinary, now rather quaint-looking, paperback. "B" format, slightly larger, is used for trade paperbacks, where "trade" means: "Let's hope we can get away with charging £10 or £11, rather than £6.99, like a proper paperback." After A and B come Demy and Royal, often used for hardbacks. It gets more confusing when Royal and Demy are cropped to make squarer or slimmer-looking formats, something that Bloomsbury like to do, thereby creating the popular publishing industry game of "Guess the Size".... The one format no one ever forgets is known as "French flaps", a paperback edition with folded flyleafs. It is attractive, but so expensive it is almost never approved.

I'm fond of those smallish paperbacks that designer Edward Young created for Penguin in 1935: they fit nicely in a coat pocket. It's a size that one now tends to see in supermarket displays of carb-counting lists and used car price guides, but it would be good to see it brought back for literature -- and sold, as it originally was, to commuters.

Young himself, incidentally, went on for a harrowing tour of duty in the submarine service in World War II, and not only survived to return to publishing, but lived to a ripe old age before passing away a couple years ago.

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