Rebecca Graf is a seasoned writer with nearly a decade of experience and degrees in accounting, history, and creative writing.
Many people have never heard of Beadle and Adams, but their publishing company helped to push the sale of books to an all-time high back in the mid to late 1800s. It was through them that books began to sell at numbers never seen before. Their influence still affects us today.
The early years of the publishing company were like many companies as it changed ownership slightly and adjusted to the times and life in general. In 1851, they started out as Beadle & Vanduzee. After a couple of years, it became Beadle & Brother. It changed names a few more times with Beadle at the heart of it.
It found its niche in publishing mass productions of books for women at only a dime. These stories could be produced cheaply with the new technology available to publishers.And Beadle and Adams took advantage of it.
The first dime novel came out in the middle of 1860.The focus? Romance for those women who needed some good books to pass away the time. And they rushed to get these books. Beadle and Adams were onto something. Was it the fact they were able to make so many books available? That and that people were looking for an escape.
The Dime Novel Explosion
The timing of the dime novel was perfect. The public needed a distraction. Remember that in America at this time things were tense on all levels. The American Civil War was exploding across the land. People wanted to escape more than ever. It was perfect timing.
The fact that it was low cost and cheap wasn’t the driving force for the explosion. Other publishers were able to deliver low-cost books, but not quite so low cost. Beadle and Adams priced theirs at 90% cheaper or more than the other authors. That got the attention of the masses, and the dime novel exploded onto the scene. (http://chnm.gmu.edu/dimenovels/the-publishers/beadle-adams)
Who read them? Many of the early dime novels were romances. That meant a lot of women were picking these books up. This was a time where more women were literate and many who had the time to read took advantage of it. Even those who were working from sun up to sun down would look to read them or have them read to them to escape the reality of life.
Another group were the soldiers. Think about the time period. It was the start of the American Civil War. Young men were flocking to the front. They would have many days and nights of nothing to do as they marched, camped, and waited. The dime novels would be a welcome diversion from the tension of pending war they felt all around them.
Impact on Literature
The impact on literature was so huge that it impacts us today. The mass production of print books opened the door for more readers demanding more books. What was once reserved for the rich was now more commonplace. Thanks to these publishing houses we have the mass amounts of books today as “These late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century publishing successes laid the groundwork for the mass marketing of popular romance with which we are familiar today.”
Romance novels aren’t just the most popular books today. They have been for a few hundred years. Why not? Romance has ruled the world since the dawn of time. They were some of the most popular dime novels in the 1800s. Women bought them as soon they were available for purchase.
From there publishers found the ability to print more books for the public. The dime novel brought mass paperbacks to the public and opened the door for more authors to publish their works. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
Give Us More!
The public loved what the publishers were giving them. They were getting entertaining stories at a price they could afford. It was revolutionary, and the demand grew. These publishers opened the door for the public to read more and more. Thanks to these publishers, books grew in popularity. We thank them for what they have given us today.
© 2016 Rebecca Graf