May, 2021

Book Sizes in Publishing

Books are found in different sizes and determining your book size is one of the most important decisions to make. Since there are many book sizes available in the market, guidance is needed to help determine which is the most appropriate book size for your project.

Book size is the physical dimensions used for each page in a book. They are used in the publishing industry for books of a particular genre or type. For instance, for school books, the decision on the size should not be based on what you like or prefer, but it should be based on the economic factors for providing knowledge to children and how to do so more cheaply and efficiently.

Different sizes and margins

The most widely used standard book sizes for school books include:

  1. A4 – 210 x 297 mm
  2. A5 – 148 x 210 mm
  3. B5 – 176 x 250 mm
  4. European Book Size standard – 210 x 280 mm.

When determining your book size, factors to take into account include; if the book is going to have diagrams, pictures, illustrations among others that will have a major impact on the page count. Other factors include margins, font type and size, and line spacing.

Margins are the blank spaces that are found between the content and the edge of the page. Margins ensure that the content remains at the center of the page and also provide a space for the reader to hold the book when open.  It is always recommended to have a margin of 15mm on top, 15mm on the bottom, 15mm on the outside and 10mm on the bound (inner margin). The bound is the space between the two pages when a book is opened.

Usable page size

To calculate the usable paper that you can use for text and pictures for the book, you need to look at the ratio between the usable size (paper size minus the margins) and paper size. When using an A4 paper size, it is possible to use 79% of the total surface of the paper, with the European book size it is possible to use 78% of the paper, with B5 you can use 75%, while with A5 you can only use 60% of the paper’s surface.

Printing A5 is a huge waste of money and knowledge

Printing in A5 for educational purposes will not be economical. In any project, we are not providing number of books or number of pages to children, we are supposed to provide knowledge, on a certain surface that is available on a page. It is therefore important to maximize the usable surface, compared to the cost of paper that is incurred.

Thus, the decision on size for school books is not based on what one likes, what looks nice or what one prefers, but it is related to several factors that provide knowledge to children in the cheapest way possible. For every size in the usable surface of a page, there is a different level of paper consumption. Paper means costs. If the book size is smaller, more pages will be required for the content and this means that more paper will be used.

The high costs of paper consuption

Paper is an expensive raw material in book production and it accounts for 50% of the total cost of the books. When the paper consumption for a book increases by 20%, it means that the cost of the book will increase by 20%. Additionally, when more paper is consumed, bigger machines will be used as well as an increase in transportation costs and labour hours. All costs incurred in the production and distribution increase by at least 20%.

Font and illustrations

Font type and size are also very important for the readability of a book. The font type and size should be one that readers able to read easily.

In an A5 book size for children, it is difficult to work with the recommended font size for the body text and high-resolution illustrations because the useable surface of the paper is smaller. This means that the font & illustration size will reduce making it difficult for children to read. In an A4 book size, you can easily work with the recommended font size and also have high-resolution illustrations since the total usable area on the page is larger.


Adhering to the above factors will guide the organizations implementing reading programs in selecting the most suitable book for their project. The size of the book is important since this will determine the final cost of the book. A4 size is highly recommended as illustrated above since it will be more economical compared to other sizes.


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Social enterprise in the global book supply chain whose mission is to enhance access to affordable, quality books for children in low-income countries