Emanuel Haldeman-Julius : Pocket Series and the Little Blue Books

How the Pocket Series Are Made

The following is a reproduction of an article which originally appeared in the April 30, 1921 issue of the Appeal to Reason. Special thanks to Sharon E. Neet, Professor of History, University of Minnesota, Crookston for providing this article to haldeman-julius.org!

When a volume of the Appeal's Pocket Series comes to you in its completed form, ready for you to read, perhaps you do not reflect upon the careful and complicated labor necessary to produce this varied literature and place it in your hands. A brief description of the process through which the Pocket Series must go before its finished knowledge and entertainment is placed before you, will surely make these volumes more interesting. It will supply a vivid background of workaday reality to the Appeal's Pocket Series.

The first thing a volume in the Pocket Series has to do, like most of us, is to be born. First, that is, there must be the idea that a certain book should be published. It is the business of E. Haldeman-Julius, editor of the Pocket Series, to give this original impulse of selection. He is constantly thinking of new titles that will add to the interest and value of the Pocket Series. He balances two considerations, both vital—what is the best in literature, and what the people want. He finds this tack greatly simplified in one respect, because the evolution of the Pocket Series has revealed the fact that the people want the best. It is still quite an undertaking, however, to pick out the very best literature when one does not confine himself in time nor space, but draws upon all the ages for his material. Mr. Haldeman-Julius, being something of a critic as well as a writer and producer of literature, performs this labor with efficient discrimination.

When the idea of a certain book is born the infant candidate for the Pocket Series is placed upon the machine, and then it is the job of the faithful linotype operator, who is known to his fellow workers as "Nick," to set up the copy for the book. To err is human, and of course "Nick" makes a few mistakes—he leaves out a word, or he gets a wrong letter here and there. So in the Appeal as in all well regulated printing offices, there is a proof-reader whose duty is to carefully read the proofs of the book, marking the errors for correction. Then the proof goes back to the linotype machine, and "Nick" makes the corrections indicated. When the proofs are "o. k.'d" by proofreader, they are turned over to "Heck" whose job it is to "page up" the book. "Heck" says he has "paged up" so many books that he feels like a bookworm. He lays out his form on a big stone, and proceeds to put in this single form sixty-four pages—the standard size of the Appeal [sic] Pocket Series. After the book is "paged up" it is given the "once over" to see that there are no lines misplaced nor pages mixed, and then it is "shot" down in the elevator to the pressroom where "Bill" has skillful charge of the big book cylinders. These big cylinder presses turn out thousands of books an hour, and they run night and day. "Bill" sees to the "make ready"—sees that the form is printing clearly and uniformly, with a sufficient and even distribution of ink. Then the large sheets are fed to the greedy cylinder, and then the book is ready for the next process of gathering, folding and stitching. This is done by folding and stitching machines, tended by girls. After the book has been folded and stitched, it has to go through one more process before it becomes a completed volume. It is taken to "Doc," the blond giant who operates the mammoth cutter, and there it is trimmed—the top of the book, which is folded together, is lopped off so that you can turn the pages and read the book conveniently. The book is now finished. The job of production is complete. Then comes the big job of distribution. The main object of the Appeal [sic] Pocket Series of course is to get the books to you. So the thousand of volumes of this book which have been edited, set up, proofread, paged up, made ready, printed, folded, stitched and trimmed, are taken down to the large book department, which is presided over by the matronly Della. There is a separate shelf for each title, and the first edition of this new book is placed on one of these shelves, which is labeled, so that Della or one of her girl helpers can instantly place her hands upon any volume desired. Upstairs are a score of girls who write down the book orders that come in by the thousands in each day's mail. These orders are carried to Dell, who superintends the wrapping and addressing of the orders. Then the mail wagon come and carries away a mountain of packages containing a most amazingly varied assortment of literature, and from then on it's exclusively up to Uncle Sam to see that these books are delivered to you.

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