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E-Books, Recession Dent Sales of Mass-Market Paperbacks

The format of John Grisham and Michael Connelly continues to take a hit as e-books take their sales and more expensive editions claim their retail space


As the publishing industry and booksellers continue to adapt to the medium’s digitization and a country still mired in an economic slump, the ever-popular mass-market paperback is the latest casualty, according to the New York Times.

In an article published in Saturday’s paper, Julie Bosman writes that sales of the mass-market paperback, which one often sees in a supermarket or an airport, have taken a hit as bookstores are devoting more of their shrinking retail space to hardcovers and trade paperbacks.

While sales of the mass-market paperback have been sliding for a few decades, the slump has worsened significantly over the past couple of years.

The reason for this seems to be twofold.

For one, e-books have decreased the demand for the latest John Grisham novel in retail spaces. Instead, customers buy their favorite crime, mystery and romance novels digitally.

On top of that, there are the nation’s continued economic troubles. While consumers may have been more likely to buy a cheap book or two without knowing anything about it a few years ago, now it appears they are more likely to see retail shopping as a more significant decision or investment.

Rather than buy a string of the latest steamy romance hits, consumers will purchase a more expensive trade paperback or hardcover.

This does not spell the end for writers like Grisham or Michael Connelly. They actually earn higher royalties on e-book sales and, in some instances, will see their work shift to the trade paperback form.

So as the publishing industry insists, the market for books lives on. But where the money comes from continues to shift.