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The Lowdown: Book Formats

The Lowdown: Book Formats

Here's a cheat sheet every bookworm should know. Get to know your books a little better as we put together a quick guide on book formats. Check it out below.

Standard Formats

There are three standard formats (plus one special format) used by most publishers. These are just guidelines, of course, particularly for fiction and nonfiction books. as different books come in different shapes and sizes.


Ranging from 6" x 9" to 8.5" x 11", this is the premium format that's usually used for new releases and special editions. Hardcover formats also typically use top-quality paper that can last long in your library collection.

Book Formats: Hardcovers

Paper over board

This format is a hardcover book that has a photograph printed straight on its front cover. And yes, you have guessed it right, paper over board books forgo the dust jacket since it is in favor of printing the cover design directly onto the board binding. 

Export Paperback

The Philippines is an export market for US and UK Publishers, which means export paperback format is available in our country. For key titles, publishers can make an export paperback format available together with a hardcover format as an initial release. Export paperbacks are usually the same size as a hardcover but with a paper cover instead. 

export paperback sample: my dark vanessa

Trade paperback

This is the regular paperback you see on most of our shelves. It's a little bigger and a little fancier than pocket books, usually measuring 5.5" x 8.5" to 6" x 9". Most fiction and non-fiction books come in this format.

Book Formats: Paperbacks

Mass market paperback

More commonly known as the pocket book because, as the name suggests, it should fit nicely in your pocket. (The big kind anyway.) At around 4.25" x 6.87", it's compact and usually affordable—the perfect companion for the on-the-go reader.

Book Formats: Mass market paperbacks

(Photo from Books by the Foot)

Pro tip: Most fiction and non-fiction books are first released as hardcovers. If the book is received well, they would usually come out as paperbacks the following year; and if it continues to be successful, as mass market paperbacks the year after.

However, some books—mostly those who have a lot of buzz even before it comes out—would be published in two or all formats simultaneously so that readers can have options.

Made for Kids

Board book

Made for the youngest readers, ranging from ages 0-2. The pages are made of thick cardboard so that our little ones can play with them as much as they want without causing too much damage. They usually don't have much of a story to tell—perhaps just simple rhymes or even just words and pictures to help with a child's early learning. However, some classic children's stories are also made into board books for easy storytelling.

Book Formats: Board Books

(Photo from Lu & Bean Read)

Soft book

Soft books generally have the same content as board books; these are just made of fabric, or sometimes a soft plastic. These are again made for the youngest readers, and are probably safer since they are not as hard as board books and therefore less likely to hurt kids. The little ones can play with these anywhere—even during bath time!—and parents can just pop it in the wash after.

Some soft books also have extra components like a teether, buttons that make sounds when pressed, and other materials stitched in to provide different textures that the babies can explore and play with.

Soft books


A Little Extra

For a bit of fanciness, some books have this thing called deckle edges. Deckle edges are the ragged ends of pages you see on the side opposite the spine. In book printing, this was once considered an imperfection. Book Riot explains it well:

Papermaking began in China during the Eastern Han Period (25–220 CE), where it began to spread through Asia. In Japan, a deckle was added, which is a frame that fits inside of the papermaking mold. By the 11th century, this process traveled to Europe: in fact, the original papermaking molds in Europe were likely still made of bamboo!

The deckle doesn’t seal perfectly into the mold, which means that as the slurry of pulp and water sits in the mold, some gets trapped under the edges of the deckle. This is what creates the “deckle edge.”

Deckle and mold

(Photos from Paper Slurry)

Another point in history that deckle edges hark back to is a time when readers had to literally cut open their books to read them. C. Max Magee explains on The Millions:

The printing happened on large sheets of paper which were then folded into rectangles the size of the finished pages and bound. The reader then sliced open the folds. Paper knives, variants of letter openers, were used for this purpose.

Deckle edges

Now, many publishers do this for stylistic purposes, so no need to worry when you see these frayed pages. They're not damaged, just nostalgic. And pretty.

There are also some books that have gilded or inked edges. These are the books whose pages are painted gold or silver or any such color on the side. Some even have words or illustrations on them. Again, just the cherry on top of an already beautiful masterpiece.

Gilded edges

Here's a guide to more standard booksizes:

Book sizes

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