On this date in 1935 Sir Allen Lane published Andre Maurois’s Ariel, a biography of Percy Shelley. What made this publication date memorable was that it was the first paperback edition by an established British publishing house (Penguin). The book trade, as one can understand, was against Penguin beginning to make paperbacks available because of the competition to the hardbound format. But SO many readers have benefitted from being able to own books that we otherwise would not have been able to afford.
I bought my first paperback books in the early 1960s when I was in 4th grade. Part of our class regimen was that each student received a copy of Weekly Reader, a four- to six- page newsletter introducing current events in simple terms. Sometimes, the current offerings of Scholastic books would be included in the Weekly Reader, along with an order blank. Students could select which titles they wanted, bring the money in the next week, and the teacher would mail the class request. This was such a gift for those of us who were regulars at the school and public libraries; imagine being able to OWN a book for 35 or 45 cents! My allowance didn’t stretch very far, but I could get four or five paperbacks a year. It was an exciting moment when the Scholastic box came later that month and those of us who bought one could claim our new book, open it carefully, and take it home to keep at the end of the day.
Since then, paperbacks have become the format of choice for many of us who prefer print materials. One of the Bellevue University Library’s former technical services staff members did a year-long study to access the format that our patrons prefer: a paperback, a hardbound book with a cover containing a summary of the plot of the book, and a hardbound book without a cover. Samples of each format were placed on the library tables, and patrons were encouraged to check them out. As one can imagine, the paperback format won most months.
If you are still a print reader and a book owner, take a moment today to reflect on the many benefits of paperbacks (less cost, smaller, lighter, etc.), and celebrate Paperback Book Day! Let us know what your favorite paperback titles are.
For more on Weekly Reader, please read: https://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/07/24/the-final-bell-rings-for-weekly-reader-a-classroom-staple/