The ASEs were sent overseas in supply ships that carried essential military supplies. Small books meant more copies could fit into a shipment, more paper could be used for the military’s massive record keeping, and a soldier could more easily carry one on his person. The US government paid for all publication costs. As a contribution to the war effort printers reduced their fees, while authors and their publishers agreed to forgo royalties. But with millions of books to be published, the government wanted the most economical printing solution.
|An example of two ASE books before trimming. From collector Brian Anderson.|
The Army’s graphic arts specialist in the Special Services Division, H. Stahley Thompson, proposed printing books in pairs on magazine/catalog size paper, binding, then trimming them apart horizontally. Many mail order catalogs were discontinued during the war years, so this left the equipment open to use. These roll-fed letterpress rotary presses were ideal for the ASE’s large print runs (50,000 per title).
Presses used to publish magazines like Reader’s Digest (5½ x 7¾ inches) could produce two books, each 5½ x 3⅞ inches. This was the size used for ASE books up to 320 pages. Books up to 512 pages were 6½ x 4½, which was half of a larger magazine or catalog.
|5½ x 3⅞ inch ASE book from my collection.|
Illustrator/designer Sol Immerman was hired to create the covers of the Armed Services Editions. Sol ran a book design studio in Manhattan, and he was part-time art director at Pocket Books. His ASE book covers are interesting in that they were treated more like advertisements than actual book cover designs. The paperback cover depicted a photo of the hardcover’s jacket design with its title type treatment repeated to the side. The jacket photos were black and white, while the paperbacks’ background colors varied throughout the series. Sol earned $10 for each cover he designed. Unfortunately, I don’t know what his usual rate was.
|Cover of an Overseas Edition.|
American book publishers donated their titles to The Armed Service Editions (the publisher received only half a cent for each book printed). While, this contribution was in support of the war effort, I am sure that publishers saw these free books as promotion to future book buyers. If a GI enjoyed reading an ASE book, The Call of the Wild for instance, then it was hoped that he would buy the hardcover when he returned home. The fact that ASE book covers looked so similar to advertisements is probably no accident.
|Typical Armed Services Edition back cover.|
|Title page to The Armed Services Edition of The Call of the Wild.|
|Sample page from The Armed Services Edition of The Call of the Wild.|
Check out this website for a whole bunch of scans of ASE covers.
Schreuders, Piet. The Book of Paperbacks: A Visual History of the Paperback Book. Virgin Books, 1981. This book includes a bio of Sol Immerman, and a description of WWII era paperback book publishers.