My bookshelf wants to know why books come in so many different sizes

My Bookshelf

There are few sights more pleasing in your home than that of the neatly arranged bookcase. It is our own personal library, our tiny little bookshop; a place we can peruse and browse for adventures and new friends. Even if you don’t get around to reading all of the books on your bookshelf (a task that would be a lot easier if you stopped buying more) a bookshelf is like a display cabinet, the spines are its ornaments, a feast for the eyes, titillation for the imagination.

There is, however, one slight problem. Even the most untidy of us has our own little way of being organised. Someone whose floor is obscured underneath a hundred takeaway pizza boxes can still get angry at people squeezing the toothpaste tube in the middle. The person happy to eat crisps in bed would have an aneurysm at the mere thought of doing so in their car. And myself, not the tidiest of people as my fiancée will happily testify (as soon as I can remember where I put her), loves making sure my books are displayed neatly.

Book manufacturers, however, appear to be the original trolls. Forget the internet, book printers have been winding us up for generations. Because they have decided that, rather than having a few standard sizes of book, absolutely anything goes. Why not get the latest fantasy epic in A4 format? Let’s print one Terry Pratchett book in one size and the next in the series a few millimetres bigger. And all those rectangular books are looking a little too uniform. Let’s re-release The Lord of the Rings with triangular pages.

And even when you do find books that are the same height, there’s no guarantee they’ll be the same depth. Because book manufacturers couldn’t possibly have you arranging a nice shelf of even books who’s spines are all flush against each other. I feel sorry for bookshop owners. Us at home may only have to struggle with 50 or so books. They have thousands to work with.

Even self-published books hold the same problem. It took me a hell of a long time to decide what format to go with for Fallen on Good Times. Amazon gives you a choice of about eight different sizes. Incidentally some of the sizes are unrecognised by other printers. Lulu has its own sizes as well, I believe.

Of course there should be different sizes of book. Personally my favourite format is a hardback, and I like these when they are bigger than their paperback counterpart. But hardbacks still come in many different sizes, as do paperbacks. It’s a wonder anybody tries to organise their books at all. Why, printers, why?

I’m hoping someone out there has a clever workaround to this problem. Share solutions (or tales of organisational woe) in the comments section!

4 thoughts on “My bookshelf wants to know why books come in so many different sizes

  1. And then there are the frequently art-related books with such preposterous height and width that even the coffee table looks at them askance. What are /those/ all about? Are we supposed to hang them over the mantelpiece?

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