Friday, June 1, 2007

Page totals

Perhaps it has always been this way in non-fiction publishing, but I am noticing more and more the variance between the book page totals on various publishing and online bookselling websites. For a given title, it is not uncommon to see a different page total at every venue visited; and the differences can be quite striking. Additionally, the retail version of a particular book can often be found in reality to have far fewer pages than the publisher's 'official' total. Whether this is an intentional marketing move ("page inflation") or an unfortunate consequence of the workings of the publishing pipeline, I don't know. Perhaps publishers submit the totals to retail websites & distributors from early galleys, and final formatting, font changes, etc. cut the page total down substantially. On the other hand, I've never discovered a book in my hands to be lengthier than advertised!

Somewhat annoyed at all this, you might have noticed that I've been rather guilty of creating my own page total convention. For the reviews on this site, I take the number on the last page of the main text and add the notes and appendices to arrive at my own number. This is more of a 'reading total', and assumes that you are like me and always read the notes and appendices.

This was never made clear, but I wanted to mention the new change. From now on the convention I will use will involve two numbers "Pages: Total/Main Text".


  1. I think your reading total approach makes sense, but no matter what approach is taken, page total can be misleading in several ways. Not only is it important to discriminate between the main text, notes, preface, introduction, appendices and the index; but there is also the problem of photoplates and maps or other graphics not being included in the standard page count of some works. Then there is the little matter of effective word count per page--and this has much to do with spacing, font, page size, and presentation style (including graphics.) A 200 page work can exceed a 300 pager in content rather easily.

  2. I think this mainly has to do with one of the scenarios you mentioned. The publisher does a "castoff," or estimate of the page length based on a final version of the manuscript, sends that out with early marketing information, and then various things come into play during production to change the total (as your other correspondent mentioned). Lots of publishers use standard designs now, however, and are able to do a fairly accurate castoff.

    But booksellers, by and large, should be using the publisher's official page count once the book is released. Usually you see those kinds of discrepancies in book reviews, because different reviewers and publications seem to arbitrarily assign page counts (some count the front matter and back matter, for example, and some don't).

    You should always include the roman numeral front matter pages in your total page count, particularly since they may include a lengthy introduction or preface.



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