The Soldiers’ Pocket Books That Legitimized Paperbacks

Nicholas C. Rossis

Even though pamphlets and softcover books have been available in Europe since the 16th century, US readers looked down on them until well into the 20th century. As a recent Atlas Obscura post by Cara Giaimo explains, without a mass-market distribution model in place, it was difficult to make money selling inexpensive books.

Although certain brands succeeded by partnering with department stores, individual booksellers preferred to stock their shops with sturdier, better-looking hardbacks, for which they could charge higher prices. Even those who were trying to change the public’s mind bought into this prejudice: one paperback series, Modern Age Books, disguised its offerings as hardcovers, adding dust jackets and protective cardboard sleeves. They, too, couldn’t hack it in the market, and the company folded in the 1940s.

Wartime Reading

Armed Services Editions | From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's books Soldiers in Virginia wrangle with hardcover books donated through the VBC. Image via Atlas Obscura.

Then, war came. In September of…

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“image is everything”: literary sensibilites

“All good and true book-lovers practice the pleasing and improving avocation of reading in bed … No book can be appreciated until it has been slept with and dreamed over.”
― Eugene Field, The Love Affairs of a Bibliomaniac

literary sensibilites

if image is “everything”

does that not judge

the book by the cover

so many books

have nestled snugly

in my grip

from the tattered

paperback

to the pristine

hardback

in a designer

jacket

truth be told

the smoothly worn

paperback

well loved by

a previous reader

dog-eared pages

notes penciled in

make it evident

the love shared

with another reader

kindle be dammed

intimacy with words

demands pages I can turn

kindle will not

soak up my tears

nor dribbles of café

and will not sit quietly

on a shelf

awaiting discovery by

future generations

it will lie in a landfill

with other toxic “disposables”

a casualty to latest technology

bisous,

léa

In Memoriam: George Whitman

“Be Not Inhospitable To Strangers Lest They Be Angels in Disguise” – George Whitman

Today, this blog is dedicated to the man who made this Mecca for writer’s and reader’s  all that it could be. George Whitman, an Angel in Disguise, died on Wednesday at the age of 98 years young.

No doubt, his spirit will linger on in every corner of the shop, between book and page now safely in the hands of his daughter and those entrusted with Shakespeare & Company’s care. The highlight of my first trip to Paris was when they accepted my first poetry chapbook and added it to Poet’s Corner. The receipt is safely tucked in the journal I carried around France.

Recently, on my other blog: foundinfrance.wordpress.com, I focused on Shakespeare & Company. It is a place that holds fond memories and I shall return.

If you have not experienced a visit to Shakespeare & Company, it is an unforgettable experience. When you cross George’s threshold, you enter another world. This is a world of books, writers, readers and a remarkable chapter in Literary History. George and Shakespeare & Company are each legendary in their own right.

Sleep well. Your rest is well earned and know you have made a difference in countless lives. To George’s daughter Sylvia and the many others who are dedicated to continuing George’s legacy, I offer my sincere condolences.

Bisous,

Léa