The American "Dime Novel"
In 1860, Irwin O. Beadle & Company published the first paperback dime novel, "Malaeska, Indian Wife of the White Hunter" by Mrs. Ann S. Stephens. The series of paperbacks that followed -- Beadle's Dime Novels (1860-74), was aimed at adult readers, featuring historical fiction, biography, or stories of the contemporary American West. Lurid black and white covers illustrated booklets averaging 100 pages in length, costing between five and 25 cents.
By the late 1800s, rising literacy rates in the United States produced a huge demand for cheap reading material. The public soon craved the inexpensive dime novels, which were produced in massive editions sold at newsstands and dry goods stores. The physical format changed over the years -- novels became smaller and thinner usually costing five cents. In 1896, Tip Top Weekly became the first series with a colored over. Within a year most dime novels featured a color cover, an 8x11 inch size, and 32 pages of stories.
The Raymond A. Mengar Dime Novel Collection of the San Diego Public Library preserves nearly 800 dime novels with long runs from the most successful publishers, Frank Tousey and Street & Smith. The collection was acquired for the Wangerheim Room in 1970 with funds bequested by Edwin A. Benjamin.