Mass-Market Paperbacks in the Classroom
Mass-market paperbacks can be useful in classroom instruction in a variety of ways. Although the texts of these books are interesting in their own regard, the instruction plans below will focus on the information we can learn from mass-market paperback covers. This cover-centric model is useful for a few reasons. First, since mass-market paperbacks needed to grab their audiences through their covers, there is so much we can understand about audiences and genre expectations from covers alone. Secondly, since these texts were often printed on cheap acidic paper and bound using glue and paper bindings, our mass-market paperback collection is highly fragile due to the deterioration of their physical components; as such, our collection is limited to bibliographic study.
Below are suggestions for how you can incorporate mass-market paperbacks into the classroom. We have given a brief introduction to using these texts for visual analysis, content analysis, bibliographic & author studies, and genre-specific exercises.
Lesson Introduction: Books as Cultural Objects
Whether your students will be working in-person with paperbacks or using images found online, it can often be useful to give students an idea of why it is important to use these paperbacks in the first place.
In order to give more context on how popular and cheap print can be helpful, we recommend having students watch the following videos:
Part 2: Book Size
Part 3: Book Covers
Part 4: Typography
Part 5: The Book Spine
Part 6: Paper Quality
Part 7: Compare & Contrast
Lesson Plans and Additional Resources
Follow the links below for lesson plans, unit sequences, and more inspiration for incorporating mass-market paperbacks into the classroom.
Quick Tips: Brainstorming Lesson Ideas
Tracking Multiple Editions/ Bibliographic Histories
The prolific amount of mass-market "literary" paperbacks also allows for the potential for students to research what particular editions of famous authors' works can show us about an author's career, identity, and audiences. Activities like the visual analysis activity (linked above) can be adapted to be author specific, and can present these editions alongside other editions of interest.
Any of the activities above can be done in regards to specific genres studied in a classroom setting. You could also think about things like film adaptations versus book covers in specific genres, state of the genres now versus then, etc.