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Beatnik Wanton, unidentified paperback cover
image sourced here.


Paperback may refer to a kind of book binding by which papers are simply folded without cloth or leather and bound - usually with glue rather than stitches or staples - into a thick paper cover; or to a book with this type of binding. (Contrast hardbound or hardcover.)

One of the first publishers to exploit the potential of paperbacks was Penguin Books, and since then paperbacks have become commonplace.

Paperbacks include cheap mass market paperbacks, in the standard "pocketbook" format generally printed on newsprint or other low quality paper, which will discolor and disintegrate over a period of decades, and more expensive trade paperbacks in larger formats printed on better quality paper, sometimes acid-free paper. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paperback [Jun 2005]

Mass market paperback

A mass market paperback is a small, non-illustrated, and relatively cheap version of a book, usually coming out after the hardback and often sold in airports and supermarkets as well as in bookstores.

Mass market paperbacks are distinguished from hardbacks also by the different business practices that publishers and booksellers apply to them. When booksellers note that books have been in stock a while and have not sold, they may return them to the publisher for a refund or credit on future orders. However, in the case of mass market paperbacks, this "return" usually means stripping the front cover, returning that for credit, and pulping the book itself. Changes in the costs of printing relative to the costs of shipping have led to the creation of trade paperbacks, which are similar in format to mass market paperbacks, but larger (near hardback size) and with different returns policies applied to them.

The mass market paperbacks sold in airport newsstands have given rise to the vaguely defined literary genre of the "airport novel", bought by travellers to while away the hours of sitting and waiting. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mass_market_paperback [Jun 2005]

Penguin Books

Penguin Books is a British publisher founded in 1935 by Allen Lane. Lane's idea was to provide quality writing cheaply, for the same price as a pack of cigarettes. He also wanted them to be sold not only in bookshops but in train stations, general stores and corner shops. Its most emblematic products are its paperbacks. The first Penguin paperbacks were published in 1935, but as an imprint of Bodley Head. It is now owned by Pearson PLC. Penguin books were originally distributed from a church crypt. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Penguin_Books [Sept 2005]

New American Library

New American Library (aka NAL) began publishing paperbacks in the 1940s. After Allan Lane began his Penguin imprint in the UK in 1935, he launched an American branch, Penguin Books, Inc. (PBI), in 1945, hiring Kurt Enoch and Victor Weybright to manage the American division.

In 1948, Enoch and Weybright branched off from Penguin to establish their New American Library of World Literature, Inc. Weybright headed the company as Chairman and Editor-in-Chief (1945-1947), while Enoch served as President and Chief Executive Officer (1945-1947).

With its two leading imprints, Signet and Mentor, NAL authors included Erskine Caldwell, William Faulkner, Ian Fleming, James Jones, D.H. Lawrence, Mickey Spillane and John Steinbeck. The company quickly built a huge readership for inexpensive popular fiction, circulating over three million copies of James Jones's From Here to Eternity in its first year of publication.

Ownership has changed several times. The Times Mirror Company of Los Angeles bought NAL in 1960. Odyssey Partners and Ira J. Hechler purchased NAL from Times Mirror for more than $50 million dollars in 1983. In 1987, NAL was acquired by the Penguin Publishing Company, its original parent company. Today, the NAL imprints -- Signet, Onyx, Signet Classics and Roc -- publish over 400 titles each year. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_American_Library [Jan 2006]

Airport novels

Airport novels represent a literary genre that is not so much defined by its plot or cast of stock characters, as much as it is by the social function it serves. An airport novel is typically a fairly long but fast-paced novel of intrigue or adventure that is stereotypically found in the reading fare offered by airport newsstands for travellers to read in the rounds of sitting and waiting that constitute air travel. Perhaps it will be finished in the hotel room that awaits them at the end of the journey; perhaps it will be saved for the return trip.

Considering the marketing of fiction as a trade, airport novels occupy a niche similar to the one that once was occupied by pulp magazine fiction and other reading materials typically sold at newsstands and kiosks to travellers. This pulp fiction is one obvious source for the genre; sprawling historical novels of exotic adventure such as those by James Michener and James Clavell are another source. In French, such novels are called romans de gare, "railway station novels," suggesting that writers in France were aware of this potential market at an even earlier date. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Airport_novel [Jun 2005]

1939: first paperback

Publishers gleefully compared the 1939 beginning of the contemporary American paperback revolution to that earlier French revolution. And students of the late 1950s and early 1960s were duly labeled “the paperback generation” – a baby boom of masses raised on Dr. Spock’s “The Pocket Book of Baby and Child Care” and inspired by copies of “Catcher in the Rye” that seemed engineered to fit in blue-jean pockets.

“You’ve got a business that hit a wall; it’s still a business, but no one can figure out how to make it grow,” said Jack Romanos, the president of Simon & Schuster, which owns Pocket Books, the paperback publishing house that started the business in 1939 with the experimental publication of “The Good Earth” and “Wuthering Heights.”

The contemporary history of the mass-market paperback in the United States dates to 1939, when Robert de Graff, an ambitious publisher, introduced a line of plastic-laminated books that sold for 25 cents each.

Within a few years, Mr. de Graff’s company, Pocket Books, and its kangaroo mascot, Gertrude, ushered in the paperback revolution, creating an alternative mass distribution network. It moved beyond the elite carriage trade of existing bookstores and turned to a sprawling network of magazine distributors who took books to where Americans walked – thousands of newsstands, candy stores, cigar shops and food stores.

So, if today’s readers are buying fewer paperbacks, where has there attention been diverted? One prevalent theory is that they are spending more time on competing diversions such as exploring the Internet. Albert N. Greco, as associate professor of business at Fordham University who follows the publishing industry, said there were indications some readers might be finding more entertainment on videotapes. In 1997, for the first time, consumers spent more on home videos than books, a narrow gap projected to increase through 2001, according to figures from the Statistical Abstract of the United States.

--Doreen Carvajal, New York Times, via http://archive.1september.ru/eng/1999/eng36-2.htm [Jul 2005]

In 1935 paperbacks made a comeback in England with the launching of the Penguin line, and four years later Robert de Graff, a New York publisher, started Pocket Books. Most publishers saw little threat from these upstart paperbacks and thus de Graff and others were able to obtain reprint rights to hardcover volumes for next to nothing. Among his first ten titles was the industry's first movie tie in. 'Wuthering Heights' was released simultaneously with Laurence Oliver's film. These were soon followed by the 1935 best seller 'Lost Horizons', Agatha Christie's 'The Murder of Roger Ackroyd', Shakespeare's 'Five Great Tragedies', and 'Bambi.'

Production costs were held down with large print runs and cheap glued-on binding. Each Pocket Book, complete with the Kangaroo logo, could consequently be priced at a bargain 25 cents. Even more important was de Graff's innovative distribution system, which placed his paperbacks through magazine wholesalers giving him access to drugstore, newsstands, variety stores, and bus and train stations throughout the country. The days of a special trip to the bookstore for reading material were over.

The publishing industry was astonished at the popularity of Pocket Books, as they practically sold themselves and helped to popularize reading in the United States. Indeed, the self-help classic, 'How to Win Friends and Influence People', became the company's first million seller. Interestingly enough, Dale Carnegie's hard cover edition sold equally well at bookstores for $1.96, demonstrating the existence of two distinct readerships. De Graff's books sold so well that for years to come all paperbacks were referred to as "pocket books." --http://www.paperbacks.com/history.htm [Jul 2005]

see also: 1939 - USA - paperback - publishing - books

Under cover: An illustrated history of American mass-market paperbacks (1982) - Thomas L Bonn

Under cover: An illustrated history of American mass-market paperbacks (1982) - Thomas L Bonn [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

The author, Thomas Bonn, starts out with a nice, reasonably succinct history of paperback publishing. Then, knowing full well that you can't judge a book by its cover and yet how else can you judge it until you've read it, he goes on to detail the always entertaining ways of marketing the books via their garish covers and other hype. There are lots of examples of classic, collectible and just plain weird covers (such as those seen here), many in black and white but with three separate color sections. If you’re a collector, a reader or especially a longtime bookstore employee, you need to find this long out of print book, one of only two I’ve ever even seen on this particular subject. -- via BOOKSTEVE'S LIBRARY [May 2006]

Pulp magazines

Pulp magazines, often called simply "pulps", were inexpensive text fiction magazines widely published in the 1930s - 1950s. The first "pulp" is considered to be Frank Munsey's revamped Argosy of 1894. Most of the few pulps still thriving today are science fiction or mystery magazines.

The format eventually declined (most dramatically in the 1950's) with rising paper costs, competition from comic books, television, and the paperback novel. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pulp_magazine [Dec 2004]


Carnal Captive (1965) - Tony Calvano
Nightstand Book NB1767
image sourced here.

These are some of the publishers I'm interested in:

Adult Book — After Hours — All Star — Beacon — Bedside — Bee Line Belmont — Boudoir Classics — Brandon House — Candid Reader Companion — Corsair — Dollar Double — Ember Library — Evening Reader First Niter — Idle Hour — Kozy — Late Hour Library — Leisure — Midwood Monarch — New Chariot Library — Newsstand Library — Nightstand Pad Library — Publisher's Export Company (PEC) — Phantom — Playtime Pleasure Reader — Private Edition — Rapture — Raven — Royal Line Saber — Sundown Reader — Unique — Vega — Wee Hours

any of the Corinth/Greenleaf or Parliament family of imprints --http://www.strangesisters.com/strangesisters_buy.htm [Sept 2005]

See also: Strangesisters.com Google gallery

See also: 1950s - 1960s - lesbian

Queer Pulp: Perverted Passions from the Golden Age of the Paperback (2001) - Susan Stryker

Queer Pulp: Perverted Passions from the Golden Age of the Paperback (2001) - Susan Stryker [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

This pair of paeans to the paperback offers two diverse focuses, with some crossover. Culture historian Lupoff's heavily illustrated account traces the paperback's roots to the 1800s but focuses primarily on the era from 1920 onward, with emphasis on the many players who took the penny dreadful and morphed it into a legitimate publishing form to create empires. Stryker, executive director of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society in San Francisco, focuses on the tawdry side of paperback publishing, which in some cases was an extension of the pornography trade tailored for the reading middle class. Though some of these pulp books were penned by serious scribes trying to elevate writings with a homosexual focus into a legitimate art form, most failed to get beyond the sleazy cheap thrills for which they were intended. Many of the trashier ones e.g., Hot Pants Homo, Lesbo Lodge were so bad that they have become kitschy collector's items. Both volumes are profusely illustrated with loads of covers from the sublime to the ridiculous, making them quite browsable. Libraries needing a straight (no pun intended) history of paperback publishing should consider Lupoff's title, strangely available as a pricey hardcover, while those serving gay communities will do well with Stryker. Michael Rogers, "Library Journal" --Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

SIN-A-RAMA: Sleaze Sex Paperbacks of the Sixties (2004) - Lydia Lunch, Adam Parfrey

SIN-A-RAMA: Sleaze Sex Paperbacks of the Sixties (2004) - Brittany A. Daley, Adam Parfrey, Lydia Lunch, Earl Kemp, Miriam Linna, Jay A. Gertzman, John Gilmore, Michael Hemmingson, Robert Silverberg, Lynn Munroe, Stephen J. Gertz [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

"Earl Kemp edited smut and went to prison for it..." (more)

From Publishers Weekly
Older readers may remember the lurid soft-X-rated paperbacks-titles like Topless Waitress, Lake of Lust, Casting Couch and so on-that crowded the shelves of newsstands and candy stores but more often adult bookstores in the 1960s. What most distinguished these paperbacks wasn't their narratives but their frequently amazing covers, swashes of erotic eye-candy that, as surely as a Warhol soupcan, now define an era. And so the emphasis in this first-rate celebration of these paperbacks is on the covers, with hundreds reproduced in what looks like accurate (i.e., soul-shocking) color.

Most of these reproductions appear in the editors' grouping of sex paperbacks into various themes (Asphalt Jungle, Sex at Play, Butch Swish, etc.) but more show up in the startling essays and profiles that precede these groupings-startling for the several well-known authors profiled (Donald Westlake, Ed Wood, Lawrence Block) and for the praise-going by the illustrations, well justified-for a handful of the star cover artists.

The book opens with overviews of the history of softcore paperback publishing by Jay A. Gertzman and Stephen J. Gertz and, most notably, by acclaimed SF author Robert Silverberg, who in "My Life as a Pornographer" recounts how by 1962 he was "turning out three Nightstand books a month" and earning enough money to buy "an enormous mansion in the finest residential neighborhood of New York City." A catalogue of "sleaze publishers" and a list of author pseudonyms (Miriam Gardner: Marion Zimmer Bradley; Paul Merchant: Harlan Ellison, etc.) close this informative and giddily entertaining book. Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Boston Globe, March 20, 2005: The Golden Age of Sleaze
Deeply satisfying...a lavish tribute to the courageous authors, illustrators, and editors...There is much to admire about SIN-A-RAMA.

see also: Jay Gertzman - 1960s - sin - sleaze - pulp - exploitation -

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