Imagine going to the book store in search of a classic literary work, antiques guide or cookbook. To keep costs down, the search is narrowed to paperback titles only. Now, imagine the available selection is limited to poorly-produced detective stories.
In today's bookselling climate, this scenario may seem unbelievable, but 60 years ago it was the norm. Back then, the paperback book market consisted mainly of cheaply made fiction books that sold for approximately a quarter. Not until Hayward Cirker, co-founder of Dover Publications (www.doverpublications.com), decided to remedy this disservice to readers, did the market undergo a transformation.
"Cirker had the idea to produce paperbacks that were more like hardcovers and sell for $1," says Clarence Strowbridge, president of Dover. "This was an astounding price back then. But they were well-manufactured, sewn and printed on high-quality papers."
The idea not only paid off for Cirker but for readers as well. Dover flourished under the leadership of Cirker and his wife, Blanche, who together oversaw the company up until his death at the age of 82 in March 2000. "The company was really an important part of his life. He loved coming to work every day," recalls Strowbridge. "He was really proud of reprinting useful books."
The ideals set forth by Cirker—to produce inexpensive, well-made paperbacks in a variety of subjects—still exist today. Dover employs more than 180 people and has approximately 8,000 titles, 75 percent of which are paperbound. More than two thousand books are reprinted each year, in addition to 500 new titles. Dover keeps production costs down by, "taking advantage of every efficiency in print production," states Leonard Roland, vice president of production. "We print multiple titles of books that have the same paper and trim size. We gang them up and produce them in quantity. As many as 16 covers on a sheet may be ganged-up for activity books."