The ASE's Conquer


 THE ASE'S NOT ONLY had an impact on readers, they made publishing history as well. The paperback industry was just getting off the ground before the war, first with Penguin Books in England and then with Pocket Books in America. That such a massive operation had been pulled off helped deepen publishers' faith in the possibilities of mass-market paperback publishing.

By numerical standards alone, the ASE project was an astounding success. By the end of its operation in late 1947, the Council on Books in Wartime had produced almost 123 million books. The project had confirmed that the mass production of paperbacks was not only feasible, but most likely profitable as well.

Although it is impossible to determine how many GI's developed a liking for the paperbound format during the war, the ASE's undoubtedly contributed to the postwar boom in the paperback industry. Ian Ballantine saw the sales of his newly-formed Bantam Books soar after the war.

Michael Hackenberg, who wrote in 1984 on the impact of ASE's, concludes: "Designed like most truly massmarket products to be digested and discarded, the ASE volumes added impulse to a publishing development that was to revolutionize American bookbuying habits."

The popularity of Penguin Books increased in the United States after the war. Writers whose work appeared in ASE's gained visibility and recognition. After all, any single title included in the ASE's was guaranteed to be handled by tens of thousands of GI's. Pocket Books, which expanded its operations enormously after the war, published many ASE authors both living and dead.

Matthew Bruccoli points out that more copies of the ASE Great Gatsby were distributed in a single year than the total number of copies that Scribner's (the original publisher of the novel) had sold between 1925 (the date of Gatsby's original publication) and 1943.