Photo: Samantha Simpson, Flickr
I have not been able to track down the origin of Paperback Book Day, but it takes place on July 30th every year in celebration of those wonderful little 4x6 bundles of paper originally named Pocketbooks. It all started in 1939 with Robert Fair de Graff, who convinced Simon & Schuster to back his idea for a small, inexpensive book design that would only cost .25-cents.
Within two years de Graff sold 17 million paperback books despite frowns and leers from the literary elite. Much of the success, aside from the low price, was his ability to get them sold in places that never before carried books, including grocery stores, drug stores and magazine kiosks.
The rest, as the saying goes, is history. Paperbacks, the kind that actually fit in your pocket, are still around but not as popular as they once were. Now they sell new for an average of $7.95, though you can still find them used for about a dollar. Like hardcovers, they are also giving way to e-books and the larger, trade paper sizes such as the popular 5.5x8.5 (half a sheet of typing paper) that sell for $14-$16. Modern publishers would never sell anything for $7.95 if the thought they could get $14.95.
Ah, progress. I am curious about one thing. Is it just coincidence that July 30 is also National Cheesecake Day?