Why do we love books? Is it because it is the most tangible aspect of holding the imaginative parts of our inner-self? It could be. On the other hand, some may say that books are outdated because of computers. I mean come-on, you’re reading this article on the Internet! I am here to tell you that real books and book-publishing history are still pretty darn important. So sit back, relax, and let’s take a look back in time before the Internet, iPads, Kindles, Nooks, and any other nifty hi-tech instant-access to information gadget you can think of. I am talking about the 1930s when radio and books were still the latest and greatest craze for entertainment.
During this time, the publishing industry is booming while the Great Depression is going on. So what the heck does that mean for rest of us today? We have phones that can talkback to us with directions to Barnes and Noble. Well, during those days people use to have to do things the ole fashion way. Back then folks couldn’t just jump on their laptop or smartphone to find the latest book. Nope, it had to be brought to them with the help of a traveling bookseller. Think of this bookselling practice as the grandpa version of Google Books or Amazon.
To help these salespeople, the publishing companies came up with what is called a “salesman’s dummy copy”. These are like books, but with some big differences. They had about 20 pages to read…a table of contents and a chapter or two. The rest was full of blank pages. Sometimes the back binding was blank or had a different color from the front cover to let the customer choose. Extra information was provided to show the neatest parts of the story to help with a sale.
Also the empty pages allowed the salesperson to take down requests, such as names of customers, addresses, and how many to order. With such little information meant criminals couldn’t break copyright laws. This was pretty smart for a time that didn’t have computer e-publishing protections.
Publishers did not produce a whole heck of a lot of these types of books, so like many things in life, salesmen’s dummy books gently faded away into human history, and as a result, these magnificent little gems are quite rare today. If you’re lucky enough to discover a dummy copy of a story from a famous author, for example John Steinbeck, it could be worth something. There is a special secret society of book collectors who pay big money for this kind of stuff, and they’ll collect anything from ancient books to your latest copy of Fifty Shades of Grey. If you have a dummy copy, it could be worth a fortune or a good paperweight. Either way, it is important to know this is a part of American history, and that is worth something by itself. Who knows, but real books may die out like the dummy book. What do you think?
Check out the cool pictures below of the Sea of Cortez. Can you guess which one is the salesman’s dummy copy and the real McCoy?
Written By Matthew Runfola