The other day I had to go somewhere that I knew would involve a wait. I’ve always thought of waiting as a theological problem—time is very limited and I don’t have it to squander while dallying about for my turn. That’s why I take a book. The problem is that many books I read, I feel, require explanation. That’s because many of them are the 6-by-9 format preferred by publishers these days. The idea behind the paperback that fit into your pocket—the “mass market paperback”—was that it was essentially disposable. Cheap, easily printed in large quantities, it was handy for taking along while on a bus, plane, or submarine. It didn’t take up too much space. It was easy to keep private. I miss the mass market paperback.
The majority of my books—fiction as well as non—are larger than the mass market. That’s the price you pay for reading books that don’t sell in those quantities. If your interests aren’t the lowest common denominator, you have to buy a copy that won’t easily slip into a pocket. And everybody can see what you’re reading. I work in publishing, so I get it. The idea is that the book cover is a form of advertisement. The thing is, reading is generally a private activity. I post on this blog most of the books I read (but not all!). I want to support those who write and actually manage to find publishers to advocate their work. But I’d really like to be able to put the book into my pocket between appointments.
The waiting room is a kind of torture chamber of daytime television and insipid magazines. Most of the people in here are looking at their phones anyway. I have a book with me, and I’m vulnerable with everyone freely able to read my preferences. I want to explain—“I’m writing a book about demons, you see. It’s not that I believe all this stuff…” and so on. It would be so much easier if the book were small enough to be concealed by my hands. If others want to know what I’ve been reading, they can consult this blog. Well, the stats show they haven’t been doing that. They might, however, if my own books had been published in mass market format. Available in the wire-rack at the drug store or vape-shop. Then the readers could easily hide their interest by putting it into their pocket. None would be the wiser.