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Pocket Books Pocket Books i(A53980 works by) (Organisation) assertion (a.k.a. Pocket)
Born: Established: 1938 New York (City), New York (State),
United States of America (USA),
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Established by Robert de Graff in 1939, Pocket Books became the first mass-market, pocket-sized paperback books in America and subsequently revolutionized the publishing industry in that country. The emergence of the much cheaper and more easily-produced pocket book format at this time was ultimately well-timed due to shortages in paper and other materials brought about by the Second World War. Indeed, the New York Times prophetically announced the arrival of this significant publishing event on 19 June 1939, noting:

Today is the most important literary coming-out party in the memory of New York's oldest book lover. Today you 25 cents piece leaps to a par with dollar bills. Now for less than the few cents you spend each week for your morning newspaper, you can own one of the great books for which thousands of people have paid from $2 to $4 (ctd. Greco p. 61).

De Graff's decision to introduce the pocket book format to Americans followed on from the research he had conducted in the United Kingdom and Europe. Realizing the market potential and possibilities of distributing the books by non-traditional means, but lacking the funds to set up his US operations he approached Richard Simon, M. Lincoln Schuster and Leon Shimkin, who headed Simon and Schuster. The company agreed to purchase 49 percent of Pocket Books, thus allowing de Graff the capacity to purchased paperback reprints from other publishers without generating conflict of interest for Simon and Schuster (as minority partners).

Pocket Books' editorial policy of reprints of light literature, popular non-fiction, and mysteries was coordinated with its strategy of selling books outside the traditional distribution channels. Indeed, de Graff put into motion an aggressive marketing campaign built around mail promotions and highly visible advertising. He also stressed art and design while at the same time undertaking cost-cutting innovations. The famous Gertrude the kangaroo logo (named after the artist's mother-in-law) and the fact that the books were glued rather than stitched were among the more noticeable strategies.

In 1944 Pocket Books was purchased by Marshall Field III, owner of the Chicago Sun newspaper. Following his death in 1957, Leon Shimkin (then still a director of Simon and Schuster) and James M. Jacobson bought Pocket Books. Simon and Schuster eventually acquired the company in 1966, and subsequently turned it into an imprint. In the late 1970s Pocket Books revitalised its image and actively promoted its writers, noticeably such as Morris West. Some of the imprint's titles are the best-selling books of all time including Dr Spock's Baby and Child Care.

Most Referenced Works


  • Pocket Books was not the first publisher to explore the mass market format. German publisher Albatross Books had pioneered color-coded paperback editions as early as 1931, while Britain's Penguin Books had refined the concept by 1935. In 1936 the company printed more than a million books.

  • Further Reference:

    • Greco, Albert N. The Book Publishing Industry. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1997, pp. 61-64.
Last amended 7 Oct 2010 13:45:11
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