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That may be off topic, but what is this two-row book layout called in Japanese? And to what extent is this format common?

double-row book

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This layout technique is called 段組み【だんぐみ】, or specifically 2段組み (two-column layout). 段落 (paragraph) is a different concept.

Newspapers and magazines almost always use multiple-column layout. It's not very common in novels, but we sometimes see this layout especially when it's a long, hard-covered one with a lot of short lines.

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    Many periodicals published by government and academic organizations also follow this format. I just skimmed through some today, including the 学士会会報. – Halfway Dillitante Mar 17 '17 at 0:21

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