Paperback books are the mass market solution for ensuring revenue and instilling the art of reading, irrespective of any social or cultural discretion. The invention of paper and print is definitely a milestone, included in the chapters of the history textbooks in our school curriculum. That was long ago, recorded in history. But the paper trail continues to create revolution. The changes that have occurred over the years in the fields of printing, publishing, packaging and reading are subjects of study.
The waves that paperback books created half a century ago is similar to what e-books did to publishing industry a decade ago. While reclaiming a habit which was believed to be on the decline, the e-book revolution hasn’t reached up to its full potential. We face winds or rather hurricanes of change. Our phones have become our wallets, a filtered version of the outside world and we are acquainted to the swift version of the lives we led a decade ago. The e-book revolution could have been a new habit handed over to us as a result of the digital age taking over our lives. With reading still a popular activity, the digital versions are just the new kids on the block. The dynamics may or may not change in the years to come but would it revolutionize reading as much as what paperback books did.
Literature was considered a serious, elite act until 1937 with the launch of Pelican books. Paperback editions were synonymous to Pelican books aimed at introducing serious, non-fiction material to the working layman at affordable prices. Reading till then was not equated to affordability not meant for the working class. The infinite possibilities that books offered was understood after making reading accessible through these editions. Pelican then found their market in the US with double the population of Britain. Catering to the needs of a different readership, the existing publishers were rebranded and new competitors entered the market. Affordability of these helped people pick their areas of interests. These were evident in the statistics of selling different genres in the market which varied with people and places.
Paperback editions have encouraged reading by making it more accessible. Many of the regional writers have asserted that it was the translations of the Russian and European literature that widened their horizons into world literature. What else, other than accessibility to novels from across the world give writers the courage to create prototypes of the cities they have never seen, the culture they have never experienced before.
Though Kindle versions of almost every book are available, the interest for the digital version is restricted to a niche audience. The norms of editing, reading and designing will change with time and affordability could be replaced with convenience, marking the next revolution which is yet to gain full momentum.