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posted by martyb on Saturday February 07 2015, @11:53AM   Printer-friendly
from the future-reading dept.

Clay Latimer writes at IBD that Ian Ballantine, called by many the father of the mass-market paperback, helped change American reading habits in the 1940s and '50s founding no fewer than three prestigious paperback houses — Penguin USA, Bantam Books and Ballantine Books. But Ballantine's greatest influence on mass culture was publishing science-fiction paperback originals, with writers including Arthur C. Clarke, Ray Bradbury, Philip K. Dick, Theodore Sturgeon, and Frederik Pohl and publishing the first authorized paperback editions of J.R.R. Tolkien's books. "These were great classics of world fiction," says Loren Glass. "He published in original form some of the greatest works in the golden age of science fiction. One of the interesting things about Ballantine is that he was not only a businessman trying to make money in books; he was a student of literature and publishing, and something of an intellectual."

Turning serious science fiction into a literary genre ranks among Ballantine's greatest feats. Prior to Ballantine Books, science fiction barely existed in novel form. He changed that with the 1953 publication of "Fahrenheit 451," the firm's 41st book. "That was obviously a key moment in the history of science-fiction publishing," Glass says. In 1965, when Tolkien's rights to his "Lord of the Rings" trilogy lapsed, Ace Books published his books without paying royalties and Tolkien responded by conducting a personal campaign against Ace. Tolkien began to urge the fans who wrote to him to inform them that the American copies were pirated: "I am now inserting in every note of acknowledgement to readers in the U.S.A. a brief note informing them that Ace Books is a pirate, and asking them to inform others." Ballantine quickly bought the rights and included Tolkien's back-cover note: "Those who approve of courtesy (at least) to living authors will purchase it and no other."

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CNN Money reports:

The book publisher Penguin is printing more copies of George Orwell's dystopian classic "1984" in response to a sudden surge of demand.

On Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning the book was #1 on Amazon's computer-generated list of best-selling books.

[...] "We put through a 75,000 copy reprint this week. That is a substantial reprint and larger than our typical reprint for '1984,'" a Penguin spokesman told CNNMoney Tuesday evening.

[...] According to Nielsen BookScan, which measures most but not all book sales in the United States, "1984" sold 47,000 copies in print since Election Day in November. That is up from 36,000 copies over the same period the prior year.

When the submitter visited, the book was ranked #3.

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  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by PizzaRollPlinkett on Saturday February 07 2015, @04:59PM

    by PizzaRollPlinkett (4512) on Saturday February 07 2015, @04:59PM (#142238)

    How things have changed! Now almost-perpetual copyright has turned this into courtesy to long-dead authors and people milking their work for film franchises and licensed properties. Tolkien's work will basically never enter into the public domain. At least not in my lifetime. His grumbling about "pirates" seems kind of quaint. (Do we know how much money he lost to them?) These days, corporations have hijacked the social contact that we allowed for authors to benefit from their work for a limited time in exchange for later contributing it to the public domain. Now everything is a licensed property owned in perpetuity by corporations. Funny how Tolkien's sources, like Beowulf and the Edda (and Last of the Mohicans, people forget about that one), aren't licensed properties and he could use them to shape his own mythological world. Kind of like how Apple and Google build walled gardens on top of "open source" software, I guess.

    I keep waiting for Christopher Tolkien to publish an annotated volume of grocery lists written by JRR Tolkien. I think every other scrap of paper the man ever wrote has been published by now. The Tolkien franchise knows no bounds.

    (E-mail me if you want a pizza roll!)
  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 07 2015, @05:53PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 07 2015, @05:53PM (#142249)

    Ian Ballantine's son Richard wrote about bicycling, most notably Richard's Bicycle Book from 1972. This was an important book during the 70's bicycle boom in the USA. []

    • (Score: 3, Informative) by Nuke on Saturday February 07 2015, @11:48PM

      by Nuke (3162) on Saturday February 07 2015, @11:48PM (#142325)

      Ballantine's son Richard wrote about bicycling, most notably Richard's Bicycle Book

      Yes I browsed through that book once. It seemed a pointless book because the advice he gave was to do the sort of ham-fisted bodges that chimpanzees would have done anyway without the book; and anyone who knew better would have ignored it

      His father was a publisher - so that explains how it got published.