All Things Printed & Recorded: Paperbacks – Judge Them By Their Cover

EDITOR’S NOTE: This year in our HPB calendar, we’re celebrating all things printed and recorded—and played, solved, watched, etc. In other words, all the cool stuff we buy and sell in our stores. For July, we’re going way back to cover the history of the paperback.

Penguin Waugh

DID YOU KNOW?

  • The modern paperback was born in 1935 with the hit debut of Penguin in the United Kingdom. Founder Allen Lane’s goal was to sell affordable, high-quality books to the masses in places like train stations. Their minimalistic, type-driven cover designs, color-coded by genre, became iconic.
  • Inexpensive paperbound books called dime novels were published in the US starting in 1860. Their British counterparts were called penny dreadfuls.
  • In 1939, Pocket Books launched in the US with 10 titles priced at 25¢ each. By comparison, a hardback might cost a few dollars. Pocket sold their books in subway stations, newsstands and drugstores, reaching new readers and forever changing the bookselling industry.
  • Soldier in circleSmall enough to fit in a uniform pocket, paperback books were carried by soldiers in World War II. One writer noted that “if the back trouser pocket bulged in that way,” it indicated that the soldier was a reader.

TIMELINE
17th cent.  Early softcover books are printed in Europe.
1935  Penguin publishes its first paperback, Ariel, a biography of Percy Shelley.
1938  The first US paperback, Pearl Buck’s The Good Earth, is released by Pocket and sold at Macy’s as a test.
1950  Using the brand Gold Medal Books, Fawcett begins publishing original fiction in paperback, as opposed to reprinting titles originally released in hardback.
1960  Sales of paperbacks pass those of hardcover books.

stack of paperbacksWant to dive deeper? Check out these great products!

book Reading the West: An Anthology of Dime Westerns, ed. Bill Brown
book Classic Penguin: Cover to Cover, by Paul Buckley, ed.
book Penguin By Design: A Cover Story, 1935–2005, by Phil Baines
book When Books Went to War: The Stories that Helped Us Win World War II, by Molly Guptill Manning
book Two-Bit Culture: The Paperbacking of America, by Kenneth Davis & Joann Giusto-Davis
book Paperbacks From Hell: The Twisted History of ‘70s and ‘80s Horror Fiction, by Grady Hendrix
slate_film-512 Paperback Dreams , directed by Alex Beckstead

 

Meet the Bibliomaniac: Tony Warmus

June is Great Outdoors Month, which made us think of HPB Regional Manager, Tony Warmus. When he’s not overseeing stores in Indiana, Kentucky, Georgia and Missouri, Tony is outside hiking, skiing the Canadian Rockies or tending to his bee apiary. In this edition of Meet the Bibilomaniac, Tony shares his favorite books, movies, outdoor adventures and more. Take it away, Tony! 

hiking

When did you start working at HPB?
1991

What is your favorite part about working here?
The people I work with, some of whom I’ve known for over 20 years. That and the fact that I can always discover something new to read when I visit each of my stores.

What are you reading right now?
Well, I’m reading more than one book. It’s hard to have only one going at a time! For fiction, I’m currently reading a collection of short stories by Ottessa Moshfegh called Homesick for Another World. She was recommended by David Sedaris when we saw him give a reading at Butler University here in Indianapolis. To say her humor is obtuse is putting it mildly! I love the voice of her characters and the odd details she describes. I haven’t laughed out loud while reading a book in a quite a while. I’d highly recommend her book.

For nonfiction, I just picked up The Earth Moved: On the Remarkable Achievements of Earthworms by Amy Stewart. It’s basically about what the title says, and it’s full of so many interesting facts about earthworms that I can’t put it down. For example, did you know that after the glaciers retreated after the last ice age, the exposed ground would have remained free of earthworms for nearly 1.5 million years if it hadn’t been for the spread of agrarian culture around the world? I just think that’s incredible! It’s a very readable book. Amy Stewart also wrote The Drunken Botanist, another one of my favorites.

If you could write a book about yourself, what would the title be?
It would be one of those long titles, probably something like Pour Me Some Wine and I’ll Tell You My Tale. As that title may suggest, I’m fond of a good glass of wine, particularly during what I like to call my “attitude adjustment” hour between 5-6 p.m. every day.

What is your all-time favorite book, movie or album?
My all-time favorite book is The Direction of Time by physicist Hans Reichenbach. I guess that gives me away as being a bit of a nerd. That book is the classic work on the underlying nature of time, part philosophy and part advanced physics. Hans Reichenbach was the first scientist to help really clarify the notion that entropy ensures time moves in one direction, what we perceive as forward.

My all-time favorite movie would be Aliens, at least judging by the number of times I’ve re-watched it. That movie is good on so many levels, but I really love watching the transition of Ripley from meek, science consultant to confident leader of the surviving group of soldiers.

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Celebrating the Undiscovered: Inspiration for Aspiring Writers

Author and journalist Gene Fowler once said, “Writing is easy; all you do is sit, staring at a blank sheet of paper until the drops of blood form on your forehead.” Novelist P.G. Wodehouse said, “I just sit at a typewriter and curse a bit,” and author and sportswriter Red Smith said, “There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.” In other words, writers know that to create something out of nothing but a thought and put it down on paper in an engaging, exciting or maybe humorous way requires patience, commitment, sacrifice and pain.

So why do it? Because you must.

At Half Price Books, we celebrate not only the wonderful books that have already been published, but also those that are still waiting to be discovered, or written. How? Well, there are several ways.

Just getting started? We have journals, research materials, inspirational quotes, writing style guides (if that sort of thing interests you) and nice little nooks where you and your laptop can get lost for a while. I once startled an HPB employee while sitting in the floor of the fiction section, writing a murder mystery under the watchful eye of Ernest J. Gaines’ A Lesson Before Dying. I though it apropos.

Stuck? We have writing prompts for those of you who need a jumpstart, not to mention the shelves and shelves of escapes and reboots just waiting to be discovered.

Ready to submit? We have guides to help find publishers and agents, as well as books about the publishing business and novel proposals. Don’t forget to look at the acknowledgements in your favorite books to see who published, edited and represented those authors.

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Need encouragement? Throughout the year, Half Price Books stores across the country hold writers workshops or (in November) National Novel Writing Month Write-ins, where you can sit and talk to other writers about the creative process and the struggles of writing. We’re also partnering this month with Scribbler, the only subscription box for novelists! The purpose of the box is to help writers improve their craft and reach their publishing goals. Subscribe to the June Scribbler box and get a special coupon from Half Price Books.

Kate 20Half Price Books is also proud to be the place where many talented writers and artists have started out. Did you know that the Newberry Award-winning novelist Kate DiCamillo once worked in our Coon Rapids, MN store? Check out other authors who have worked or still work for us in our “Meet the Bibliomaniac” series, Brian Douglas and Dayna Ingram.  (And maybe one day you’ll see my name there!)

So no matter what you write, where you write, how you write or what you need to write, Half Price Books has you covered.