Albatross Books was a German publishing house based in Hamburg that produced the first modern mass market paperback books.
Albatross was founded in 1932 by John Holroyd-Reece, Max Wegner and Kurt Enoch. The name was chosen because "Albatross' is the same word in many European languages. Based on the example of Tauchnitz, a Leipzig publishing firm that had been producing inexpensive and paperbound English-language reprints for a continental market, Albatross set about to streamline and modernize the paperback format.
Produced in a new standardized size (181 x 111 mm) that approximated an esthetically pleasing ratio called the Golden Mean, using new sans-serif fonts developed by Stanley Morison among others, color-coding its offerings by genre (green for travel, orange for fiction, etc.), and prominently featuring an albatross as a logo, the series was so successful that Albatross soon purchased Tauchnitz, giving itself an instant 100-year heritage.
The oncoming war brought the Albatross experiment to an end.
Pocket Books produced the first mass-market, pocket-sized paperback books in America in early 1939 and revolutionized the publishing industry. The German Albatross Books had pioneered the idea of a line of color-coded paperback editions in 1931 under Kurt Enoch; Penguin Books in Britain had refined the idea in 1935 and had 1 million books in print by the following year.
In 1944, the founding owners sold the company to Marshall Field III, owner of the Chicago Sun newspaper. Following his death, in 1957, Leon Shimkin, a Simon & Schuster partner, and James M. Jacobson bought Pocket Books. Simon & Schuster acquired Pocket in 1966.
Penguin's success inspired entrepreneur Robert de Graff, who partnered with publishers Simon & Schuster to bring it to the American market. Priced at 25 cents and featuring the logo of Gertrude the kangaroo (named after the artist's mother-in-law), 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. The format size, and the fact that the books were glued rather than stitched, were cost-cutting innovations.
The first ten numbered Pocket Book titles:
- Lost Horizon by James Hilton
- Wake Up and Live by Dorothea Brande
- Five Great Tragedies by William Shakespeare
- Topper by Thorne Smith
- The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie
- Enough Rope by Dorothy Parker
- Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
- The Way of All Flesh by Samuel Butler
- The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder
- Bambi by Felix Salten
The edition of Wuthering Heights hit the best-seller list, and by the end of the first year Pocket Books had sold more than 1.5 million units. Robert de Graff continued to refine his selections with movie tie-ins and greater emphasis on mystery novels, particularly those of Christie and Erle Stanley Gardner.
Pocket and its imitators thrived during World War II because material shortages worked to their advantage. During the war, Pocket sued Avon Books for copyright infringement: among other issues, a New York state court found Pocket did not have an exclusive right to the pocket-sized format (both Pocket and Avon published paperback editions of Leslie Charteris' The Saint mystery series, among others).
Pocket is still known for publishing works of popular fiction based on movies or TV series, such as the Star Trek franchise (owned by corporate sibling CBS Television Studios, while former corporate sibling Paramount Pictures owns film and DVD distribution rights) and formerly Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The author credited for one of the Buffy products is Gertrude Pocket, a reference to the company's kangaroo logo (The Buffy novels are now published by Simon Spotlight Entertainment, another division of Simon & Schuster). Since first obtaining the Star Trek license from Bantam Books in 1979 (with a publication of the novelization of Star Trek: The Motion Picture), Pocket has published hundreds of original and adapted works based upon the franchise. Pocket Books is also the division that currently owns publication rights to the well-known work of James O'Barr, The Crow.