John Lindsay, v-p of marketing for Levy Home Entertainment, said he has seen a general softening in the mass market category in 2004. "Things are tougher than in past years," he said. Sales are strongest in what he termed "subcategories" such as romantic suspense that blend elements of two genres.

To give the segment a spark, Lindsay said, mass market houses "need to be more promotional." Levy noted that too many racks "look all the same," and suggested that publishers spice up displays with promotions and different authors. Finding a way to better highlight new authors would also boost sales, Lindsay said, and Levy hopes to launch such a merchandise program early next year.

Lindsay said Levy is a "big supporter" of Penguin's new format test. "I like the idea of making books more readable," he said. Lindsay said that the bigger format should attract visually challenged baby boomers, and could draw young adults who grew up reading books like Harry Potter in hardcover and trade paper and who don't want to deal with the smaller print of mass market.