“Portable and relatively cheap, paperback books were to the 19th century what ebooks are to today.”
– Me, 20 minutes ago while thinking of what to write in this post
Close your eyes and imagine… Wait. This isn’t going to work, you need your eyes to read.
Leave your eyes open and imagine yourself in the 1800s. You’re at a railroad station somewhere in Iowa or Illinois and you are bidding friends and family farewell as you prepare to board a train bound for Silver Bow, Montana. That’s where your great Aunt Minnie lives with her two tomcats, Trevor and Leroy, and you’re going to stay with her for the summer… but we’re getting off topic. The trip is going to take somewhere in the neighborhood of 3 weeks. There won’t be much to do. You’re going to need something to read.
But books are expensive and heavy. What are you to do? Wait! What’s this? Paperback books for sale! Cheap, comparatively light and portable, and fun (not a lot of stuffy academic stuff makes it to paperback). Thank goodness, your sanity is saved!
A couple of hundred years later, the story is still largely the same. Perhaps ebooks have stolen some of their thunder and maybe you won’t be putting them out to impress company with how fancy and well read you are but paperback books are still cheaper and lighter than their hardcover counterparts. And they are still fun to read, mostly anyway (some of that aforementioned stuffy academic stuff has started to turn up as oversize paperbacks, but to each there own). Somewhere along the line we have all read and loved a paperback, whether it was picked up at the last minute before catching that long flight or passed on to you from a friend that said you really, really needed to read it. So let’s all take a moment today to appreciate the importance of the paperback, not just in literary history, but to each of us.