During World War II, one of the most unusual paperback imprints ever appeared. A non-profit organization called the Council on Books in Wartime wanted to assure that American fighting men and women had access to books. They first tried a massive donation campaign, and while that effort was successful, one part of it soon proved unwieldy: the donations were mostly hardbacks, which were too bulky and heavy for G.I.’s to carry easily, given how much they were already laden down with.
The Council came up with an ingenious solution: they created Editions for the Armed Services, Inc., a publisher that provided servicemen and women with cheap, lightweight paperback books. From 1943 to 1947, they put out over 1,300 titles, reprinting popular books from the classic literature, modern fiction, poetry, history, philosophy, and humor genres.
The books have a distinctive look: because of the printing presses used to produce them, they were bound on one of the shorter sides, creating oblong books. The size of the books varied slightly, but all could fit into a soldier’s jacket pocket with ease.
These books were intended for distribution only to those serving in America’s armed forces, but some titles are now highly sought-after by collectors.
The slogan of the Armed Services Editions was “Books are weapons in the war of ideas.” We couldn’t agree more.
We have a nice selection of these unusual little paperbacks, most priced in the $5-$10 range. You can peruse the Armed Services Editions in the Iliad’s stock here.