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Paperback Fiction

Ken Gelder

Subject Literature
Communication and Media Studies » Communication Studies
Media System » Media History

Key-Topics fiction

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405131995.2008.x


There have been several “paperback revolutions” in fiction publishing, the first of which unfolded during the first half of the nineteenth century in the United Kingdom, Europe, and the United States (→  Fiction ; Fictional Media Content ). Cheap bulk postal costs encouraged American publishers to print royalty-free foreign novels (those of Charles Dickens, for example) in lightweight large quarto or newspaper formats, offering cheap installments to subscribers. They could thus be claimed as periodicals, gaining access to third-class postal rates and railroad distribution across the country. Schurman (1996 , 63) notes that by the mid-1840s in the United States, “paperback novels could be had through the mails at six cents each or sixteen for one dollar.” Park Benjamin had in fact issued what is generally taken to be the first paperbound full-length novel in June 1840, Charles Lever's Charles O'Malley , a military romance. Smaller paperback quarto-sized books followed, usually as part of an ongoing series of publications, like the Beadle Dime Novels of the 1860s and 1870s, with their sewn spines and woodcut cover illustrations. The first dime novel , published by Irwin P. Beadle in June 1860, was a story first serialized twenty years earlier in 1839, Ann S. Stephens’ Malaeska, the Indian wife of the white hunter – reflecting the ongoing taste for frontier adventure fiction. ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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