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Popularity of the Beadle's Dime Novel

Updated on January 20, 2018
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Rebecca Graf is a seasoned writer with nearly a decade of experience and degrees in accounting, history, and creative writing.

Each decade or so has it fad whether it be fashion, technology, or books. Some of these fads rise up and sputter out into a very short life. They are merely a bleep in the annals of history if they show up at all. They might not seem to have much of an impact, but even those short lived ones that are forgotten about over the years have huge influence on the future.

This is very true about the dime novel. It was a way to expand the availability of books to the masses and make some money. It opened door for publishers and readers that had never existed.

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The Dime Novel

Most people today have no idea what a dime novel is. It was the first mass produced paperback books. Technology had advanced to a degree that books were not always bound in hardcover or expensive covers such as leather. They were now more affordable to the masses.

What if you have been denied the privilege of reading a book just because they were more than you could afford? We don’t have the problem today, but before the mid-1800s, that was typically the case. And what would you do if you could get ahold of so many books like never before? You’d buy them up every chance you got because they only cost a dime.

Today we think a dime as being nothing. We can find dimes lying all over any parking lot. Back in the mid 1800’s that was a different story. The value of a dime during that time would be closer to $3 in today’s world. (http://www.minneapolisfed.org/community_education/teacher/calc/hist1800.cfm)

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How Beadle Got the Attention of the Masses

So, how did Beadle’s get the attention and popularity with the dime novel? Were they first ones to produce lower cost books? No, but they were ones to produce them at such low costs, about 90% less than other publishers. That would get my attention. Low cost and variety gets the attention of consumers any day.

Beadle and Adams were successful in finding ways to cheaply bring the printed word to the public. By passing it on to the consumer, they found a willing market. What happened next? Other publishers stood up and took notice. The more books on the market at cheap prices, the more popular they became. Publishers began to understand that there was a market for those who were not rich and catering to them would bring in the revenue.

The popularity of the Beadle’s dime novel helped the wonderful world of books advance to where it is today.

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Similar to EBooks

Think of the eBooks of today. They turned the book world upside down with the ability to get books out without excess cost. With the creation of electronic readers and eBooks, books became more accessible and cheaper. That was the way it was with the dime novels. They opened up more doors for readers than ever before.

Books with the dime novels were now cheaper to provide and easier to obtain. They were available to more in more locations. So much like the ebook in creating more availability to more readers. There are thousands of more books available now due to ebooks compared to a fraction of that ten years ago.

Increased Literacy

With more books available, more people had the opportunity to read. It wasn't that there was no reason to read since there was little to read aside from a newspaper. With the fact that more books could be had, people began to focus on learning to read. They encouraged their children to learn. Literacy exploded.

If there are fewer books to read, there will be less reading going on. If there are more books available, there will be more reading. We are talking more than just availability of books. We are talking about more titles. So there were more books printed of the Greek plays. Okay, I read them. So did a thousand other people. That is great that more of us could read it, but now what? Due to dime novels, we can pick up a western, a romance, or anything else that tickles our fancy. Literally more books were there for the choosing.

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