How the Paperback Saved Civilization

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With America gripped by the Great Depression, booksellers found that $2.75 put hardcover books out of reach for most readers. (A movie ticket then cost just 20 cents.) In 1939, with a full-page ad in the New York Times and ten titles, Robert de Graff changed the industry with the introduction of 25-cent paperback books. Mental Floss looks at the history of the paperback book from the introduction of de Graff’s mass-market books to trade paperbacks a few years later.


Ian MacAllen is the author of Red Sauce: How Italian Food Became American (Rowman & Littlefield, April 2022). His writing has appeared in Chicago Review of Books, Southern Review of Books, The Offing, 45th Parallel Magazine, Little Fiction, Vol 1. Brooklyn, and elsewhere. He tweets @IanMacAllen and is online at IanMacAllen.com. More from this author →