Published: 30th July 2021
#ThrowbackToday: Penguin prepared for the paperback revolution 86 years ago today
It's National Paperback Day today and for very good reason! In today's #TBT, we tell you how paperback novels came to be and which publishing house started promulgating the idea way back in 1935
Paperback novels weren't new back then, oh no. But you ought to have looked at the titles available in paperback, also known as softcover meaning a book that has a paper cover as opposed to the cardboard or hardcover ones. Despicable! Forget classics or contemporary, paperbacks were usually the bottom-of-the-rug books printed on fading yellow paper with terrible binding.
Book publisher Allen Lane was at the Exeter station in England when he came across these paperbacks and was appalled. Shouldn't good quality literature be available to all and not just in fancy and expensive hardbacks in equally fancy and expensive bookstores? That's how Lane began Penguin Books and invariably launched the paperback revolution with ten paperbacks available in just sixpence each on July 30, 1935. In its first year itself, Penguin sold three million paperbacks! Author George Orwell exclaimed that it was such a good idea and that “if other publishers had any sense, they would combine against them and suppress them.”
And this is how the Paperback Book Day came to be observed on July 30 of every year.
Paperbacks made literature so much more accessible and easy to carry. Soon even authors like Ernest Hemingway and Agatha Christie's book started appearing in paperbacks. And aren't we grateful for that?