Some paperback editions have a front cover which is a centimetre or two shorter than the actual book. I first noticed this on House of Leaves, where I thought that it's just part of the whole experimental deal (representing the house whose inside is larger than the outside, and/or just putting the book firmly into uncanny valley), but since then I've seen a couple of other books which do this, like this paperback edition of Ken Liu's The Paper Menagerie:

House of Leaves and The Paper Menagerie paperbacks

So I'm assuming this is actually a thing that is done for some books, and googling confirms that. However, I haven't found any good sources on why this is done.

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    It is fundamentally an artistic choice, but I am wondering whether that sort of answer actually answers what you're asking for. Do you also mean to be asking what about the text prompts that choice?
    – user80
    Commented Nov 24, 2017 at 18:10
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    @Zyerah If it's really a purely artistic choice, the reason why someone might make that choice would definitely be interesting. The reasoning from House of Leaves doesn't generally apply to other books. Commented Nov 25, 2017 at 7:28
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    @Zyerah if it's fundamentally an artistic choice, then that's answer, even if that choice has nothing to do with the text of the book.
    – user111
    Commented Nov 25, 2017 at 13:34
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    The technical term is a "stepback cover". Other examples include those with centre cut-outs (to make windows) and romance novels with a second interior-double-spread.
    – Valorum
    Commented May 26, 2021 at 23:38
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    If you google "stepback cover" you'll find various discussions, but no explanation other than "it looks cool" or "it's a fad".
    – Stuart F
    Commented Jul 6, 2022 at 22:20

1 Answer 1


I was told by a bookseller that these were books that had not sold and were “remaindered” by trimming the front cover. This prevents them from being resold at their full value.

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    The books presented in the question were initially made this way, though, not mutilated after production
    – bobble
    Commented Jul 5, 2022 at 13:53
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    – Community Bot
    Commented Jul 5, 2022 at 16:06
  • I can remember buying discount bin paperbacks like this from WH Smith in the 80s and I was also told this was prevent full price sale. Commented Jul 8, 2022 at 19:16

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