Yellowback books feature yellow paper covers printed on low-grade paper and bound with staples. Yellowbacks became widely popular during the 19th century due to being cheaper to produce than cloth-bound books, particularly at railway companies, and Victorian readers were looking for light entertainment. Dime novel companies often issued yellowbacks to promote travel; Victorian readers also found them popular as light reading material. Nowadays, yellowbacks have become collectors’ items, and some libraries digitize them so a wider audience may benefit.
Edward Lloyd published the first yellowbacks in London during the 1830s. He realized that people were likelier to buy books with eye-catching covers; therefore, to differentiate his books from competitors’ offerings, he printed them on yellow paper; his tactic proved successful, and yellowbacks became very popular.
Other publishers quickly followed suit, and soon, the yellowback became a standard format for paperback books in the 19th century. Many classic novels, including those by Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, and Arthur Conan Doyle, were first published as yellowbacks.
The yellowback cannot be understated as an essential milestone in book history and publishing, having enormously affected production and marketing strategies for published works. Publishers could reach a wider audience through more affordable books being made more easily accessible. Standardization was improved, making it easier for readers to locate what they were searching for, making life simpler.