Saturday, September 3, 2011

Penguincubator: 1937 Vending Machine for Books

I love 'odd' article sites, and  (Where Knowledge Junkies Get Their Fix) is one of my favorites. Erin Faye alerted me to this post.

Sir Allen Lane, the creator of Penguin Books, credited with poularizing high-quality mass-market paperbacks, also invented the "Penguincubator," a vending machine for paperbacks. 1937.

Don't you just love it? Not surprising that the booksellers resented the Penguincubator. Reminds me of Food Trucks in front of restaurants, and I won't even go into the Amazon vs Indie Bookstores conflict or ebook vs hardcopy.

From Publishing Perspectives:
Lane's Penguincubator was first installed outside Henderson’s (the “Bomb Shop”) at 66 Charing Cross Road, which signaled his intention to take the book beyond the library and the traditional bookstore, into railway stations, chain stores and onto the streets. It is worth noting, given publishers’ frequent timidity in this area, that this really annoyed booksellers. (Lane’s lack of trepidation is an important part of this story; worth noting, too, that he was the first English publisher of James Joyce’s Ulysses, at the Bodley Head, despite the widespread contemporary fear of prosecution for obscenity.)

And from the Penguin Company History Page:
After a weekend visiting Agatha Christie in Devon, he found himself on a platform at Exeter station searching its bookstall for something to read on his journey back to London, but discovered only popular magazines and reprints of Victorian novels.

Appalled by the selection on offer, Lane decided that good quality contemporary fiction should be made available at an attractive price and sold not just in traditional bookshops, but also in railway stations, tobacconists and chain stores.

Read more of the story here:


Anonymous said...

What a cool post! I especially love that he thought it up after a weekend visiting Agatha Christie.

Janet Rudolph said...

Yes, I thought that was cool, too.