||Little Blue Books are a series of small staple-bound books published by the Haldeman-Julius Publishing Company of Girard, Kansas (1919-1978). They were extremely popular, and achieved a total of more than 300 million booklets sold over the series's lifetime.
Emanuel Haldeman-Julius, a socialist reformer and newspaper publisher, and his wife, Marcet, set out to publish small low price paperback pocketbooks that were intended to sweep the ranks of the working class as well as the "educated" class. Their goal was to get works of literature, a wide range of ideas, common sense knowledge and various points of view out to as large an audience as possible. These books, at approximately 3 1/2 by 5 inches (8 1/2 by 12 3/4 cm) easily fit into a working man's back pocket or shirt pocket. The inspiration for the series were cheap ten cent paperback editions of various classic works that Haldeman-Julius had purchased as a 15 year old (the Ballad of Reading Gaol being especially enthralling). He would later write:
“ It was winter, and I was cold, but I sat down on a bench and read that booklet straight through, without a halt, and never did I so much as notice that my hands were blue, that my wet nose was numb, and that my ears felt as hard as glass. Never until then, or since, did any piece of printed matter move me more deeply...I'd been lifted out of this world - and by a 10C booklet. I thought, at the moment, how wonderful it would be if thousands of such booklets could be made available." ”
They purchased a publishing house in Girard, Kansas in 1919 from their employer Appeal to Reason, a socialist weekly which had seen better days and that Haldeman-Julius edited. Though the Appeal to Reason was not the influential newspaper it had been, its printing presses (and more importantly the 175,000 names on its subscriber lists) would prove to be crucial. Haldeman-Julius, before anything had even been printed, sent an appeal to the Appeal to Reason's subscribers to send him a prepayment of $5; at 10 cents a pamphlet, he would then send them at staggered intervals 50 pamphlets which he would be able to print with the advanced monies. Things went very well:
“ "Five thousand readers took me up, which meant I had $25,000 to work with. I hurried through the 50 titles (and they were good ones, too, for I haven't believed in trash at any time in my life) and got many letters expressing satisfaction with the venture. Encouraged, I announced a second batch of 50 titles, and called for $5 subscriptions...Meanwhile, the booklets were selling well to readers who hadn't subscribed for batches of 50." ”
They began printing these works (at a rate of 240,00 a day) on cheap pulp paper, stapled and bound with a blue or yellow paper cover that first sold for 25 cents apiece but quickly were dropped to only 5 cents. The name changed over the first few years, at times known as the People's Pocket Series, the Appeal Pocket Series, the Ten Cent Pocket Series and the one that took, Little Blue Books.