Books: Paperback Recession

Some of the best and worst books ever written can be picked up at most U.S. newsstands for 25¢ to 50¢. In the past two years, about 250 million paperbacks, from Plato to Kathleen Winsor.

have been sold annually, many of them to people who had seldom bought a hardcover book. Quickie publishers went into the business with the plain intention of out-trashing the trashiest. As business boomed, prices for reprint rights were bid to extravagant heights: $20,000 for a novel became a commonplace. Some hardcover publishers accepted manuscripts that they would ordinarily have rejected, if they could be sure of a...

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