Sir Allen Lane, founder of Penguin Books was a British publisher. He provided interesting books of good writers with very little price to the common people. But what happened after all that he had to make these penguin books?
Personal details of Allen Lane
Allen Lane was born on 21 September 1902 in Bristol of England ( United Kingdom). The name of his parent is Camilla and Samuel Williams. He studied at Bristol Grammar school.
Lane rose quickly at Bodley Head becoming managing editor in 1925 following the death of his uncle.
Beginning of the Story of Penguin Books
That was the time of the summer season in 1934. He came to meet with the famous writer Agatha Christie. He was going to London after meeting her. At the railway station, he thought to buy some cheap books for time pass in train. But he found nothing like that. There were only some novels of some unknown writers. Then, he was disappointed and sat on the train. On the train, he was thinking – “ how good it is that we can give elegant books of popular authors at a low price to the common people? I will sell the paperback edition of the famous books of popular writers for 6 pence per copy.
In those days, these types of books used to be expensive. That’s why common people could not buy these costly books.
Lane proposed his thought to the business partner of his company. They got angry and said, “ are you a fool? If we will sell the books at a low price then we will go bankrupt.” But Lane was stubborn. He proposed the same idea to his brothers John and Richard. Although they had no experience of printing books still agreed with his brother. Lane said, “ If we will print the paperbacks edition of some good books then it will increase the demand. I am just not thinking about today. I am thinking about tomorrow.”
John, Richard, and Lane started the work. John took over the sale and Richard took over the accounts. The size and the design of the books were fixed. Those famous books which were to be printed in paperbacks edition, now listed. It took weeks to all this. Then Lane went to publishers for taking permission for the printed paperback edition of their books. At first, they did not agree, some of them said, “if people would be interested in the books of paperbacks then they will not buy our original books.” But Lane explained to them that cheap books are only for those people who can not afford costly books. When they will buy the paperback edition then your books will be more famous. And then, those who can afford costly books will buy more.
On explaining more and more, a famous writer Jonathan Cape agreed to sell the copyright of his books for paperbacks.
Process of Printing Books
After getting copyright from publishers Lane and his brothers choose some popular books of world-famous writers like Ernest Hemingway, Agatha Christie, Compton Mackenzie, etc for paperbacks. After all this, they need a special name to identify their book. His secretary suggested the name ‘Penguin Books’. Peon of his office knew the drawing so Lane told him to draw a picture of a Penguin. He went to the zoo in London and drew a picture of a Penguin.
When this was done, Lane decided to print 20,000 copies of each book. They went many places to carry the book’s dummy. Besides London, they went to many cities of Britain, but they got only seven thousand copies of each book. Lane’s brothers said, “ we will have to print at least seventy thousand copies of each book to take the cost expenses but if booksellers are not ready to buy the books then why we print so many copies?
This was a matter of disappointment. But Lane didn’t disappoint. He said, “ don’t worry, I will find some other way to sell these books.”
There was a store named ‘Woolworths‘. Its branches were in other cities also. Lane met with the owner of this store. He showed him the dummy and the list of his books. The store’s owner did not understand but his wife who had great knowledge about the books understood. On telling his wife the owner of the store gave the order of ten thousand copies of each book to Lane. Lane was so happy.
Then Lane brothers made a company named ‘ Penguin books’. They kept around one dozen people for work in the company. They took permission to use the basement of a church for keeping the material of packing and books. After the preparation of all these in July 1935, the first ten books of Penguin paperback were published. The printing of books was beautiful and the covers were also strong. There was a different color for different subjects.
The books were not only cheap and good, but they were also very attractive to look at. Small and light enough to be carried in pocket easily. After that, when famous books of popular writers came into the market at a very low price then a lot of people began to buy. Right in front of eyes, the demand for books increased. Books of Woolworth store sold within one week.
On seeing the huge demand for Penguin Books, some other publishers were permitted to print their books in paperback to Lane. Gradually, Lane increased his work. Then, he hired some advisor for advising him about printing books
With increasing time, Lane opened the branch of his company in America, New Zealand, Canada, etc. The capital of Lane increased from hundred pounds to one crore.
Lane died in 1970. And now this company prints millions of books every year. Allen Lane is credited with making elegant books of famous authors available at affordable prices to the common people. For this, the whole world will be grateful to him.