What Work by James Hilton Became the First Pocket Book In 1939

What Work by James Hilton Became the First Pocket Book In 1939

In 1939, James Hilton’s novel, “Goodbye, Mr. Chips,” became the first pocket book ever published. This groundbreaking event revolutionized the way books were published, distributed, and consumed, leading to the popularization of pocket-sized books that are still widely loved and used today. Let’s delve into the history behind this significant literary milestone and explore the impact it had on the publishing industry.

The Birth of the Pocket Book:

Before the advent of pocket books, most novels were published in bulky hardcover formats that were not ideal for easy carrying or reading on the go. However, in the late 1930s, Sir Allen Lane, the founder of Penguin Books, recognized the need for affordable, portable books that could be enjoyed by a wider audience. This realization led to the birth of the Penguin paperback, which would eventually pave the way for pocket-sized books.

“Goodbye, Mr. Chips” as the First Pocket Book:

James Hilton’s “Goodbye, Mr. Chips” was chosen to be the first pocket book due to its popularity and appeal. This heartwarming story of a beloved schoolteacher touched the hearts of readers worldwide, making it an excellent choice for the inaugural pocket-sized edition. The book was published in a compact size, measuring approximately 4.5 by 7 inches, with a soft, flexible cover. The lightweight design and affordable price made it an instant success, captivating readers who had previously been unable to afford or carry larger hardcover books.

Impact on the Publishing Industry:

The introduction of pocket books forever changed the publishing landscape. It democratized literature, making it accessible to a wider audience. The affordability and portability of pocket books allowed people from all walks of life to enjoy reading, fostering a love for books and literature among millions. This accessibility also led to increased literacy rates and a surge in overall book sales.

Pocket books also played a crucial role during World War II. Their compact size made them ideal for soldiers to carry in their pockets or backpacks, providing much-needed entertainment and escape during challenging times. The popularity of pocket books among soldiers further cemented their place in the hearts of readers worldwide.


1. Why was “Goodbye, Mr. Chips” chosen as the first pocket book?
“Goodbye, Mr. Chips” was chosen due to its popularity and universal appeal. Its heartwarming story resonated with readers, making it an excellent choice for the first pocket-sized edition.

2. How did pocket books revolutionize the publishing industry?
Pocket books revolutionized the industry by making literature more affordable and portable. They democratized reading, allowing a wider audience to access books and fostering a love for reading among the masses.

3. Did pocket books have any impact on literacy rates?
Yes, the accessibility of pocket books contributed to increased literacy rates. With affordable books readily available, more people were motivated to learn to read and were exposed to a variety of literary works.

4. How did pocket books support soldiers during World War II?
The compact size of pocket books made them easy to carry for soldiers. They provided much-needed entertainment and escapism during the war, offering a temporary respite from the harsh realities of combat.

5. Are pocket books still popular today?
Yes, pocket books continue to be popular today. Their convenient size and affordability make them a favorite choice among readers who enjoy reading on the go or prefer compact book formats.

In conclusion, James Hilton’s “Goodbye, Mr. Chips” holds a significant place in literary history as the first pocket book ever published in 1939. This groundbreaking event revolutionized the publishing industry, making books more accessible and portable. Pocket books played a crucial role in promoting literacy, providing solace to soldiers during World War II, and continue to be beloved by readers worldwide.

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