Friday, February 3, 2012

Armed Services Editions

Published during World War II by the Council on Books in Wartime and distributed to soldiers overseas, these downsized books were made to be  carried easily and were wildly popular among service members.  The titles ranged from classics like Wilkie Collins' The Moonstone to bestsellers of the day, nonfiction works, and genre fiction.  Though some books were "condensed for wartime reading," many were unabridged and over 100 million copies were printed and distributed for free.

The ASEs were for the exclusive use of "members of the Armed Forces" and not to be "resold or made available to civilians." Since the Council was in part made up of commercial publishing houses, presumably this prohibition helped protect their bottom line and subsidized the cost of each ASE.  This and the low production standards helped to keep the cost per book extremely low.  The widespread adoption of the small format by GIs may also have helped promote the spread of paperback printing in the United States after the war - a boon for the publishing industry.

A list of the Armed Service Edition titles held by Rauner is available in the library.

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