Reading for all: pocket paperbacks

Paperback fiction

Improvements in the technology of printing and papermaking in the early nineteenth century, including the introduction of steam-powered printing presses, made it commercially possible to mass-produce inexpensive paperback books. The railways provided the means to distribute them and convenient locations to sell them to suburban and provincial readers. By the early 1930s, classic titles such as those in the Everyman series and lurid romances and thrillers were widely available. In 1935, the publisher Allen Lane spotted a gap in the market for paperback editions of high-quality works of fiction and non-fiction at 6d. for the mass market. Penguin Books, with their straightforward but sophisticated cover designs, were an instant success, selling over one million copies in the first year.

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