Long before Everything, long before the internet there was the Little Blue Books. Created by Emanuel Haldeman-Julius in 1919 these were small low price paperback pocketbooks that were intended to sweep the ranks of the working class as well as the β€œeducated” class. The idea was to get works of literature, a wide range of ideas, common sense knowledge and various points of view out to as large an audience as possible. For a nickel anyone could purchase a volume of the collection of over 2,000 titles known as the Little Blue Books

In just nine years the idea caught on all around the globe. The Little Blue Books were finding their ways into the pockets of laborers, scholars and the average citizen alike. The St. Louis Dispatch called Julius β€œthe Henry Ford of literature”. Amongst the better known names of the day to support the Little Blue Books were Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia, Admiral Richard Byrd, who took along a complete set to the South Pole, Franklin P. Adams of Information Please and the thousands of average folks who purchased the Little Blue Books through a mail order system and latter in book stores.

Because the topics of the Little Blue Books covered political ideas and a wide scope of religious views as well as literature and general knowledge, the FBI viewed his achievements as a threat and landed him on their enemies list. At the time of his death in 1951 Emanuel Haldeman-Julius had done something that transcended the paranoia of the establishment, for a nickel he offered everyone access to a world of learning.

I have had the opportunity to actually hold a few of these. Its pretty humbling if you let the scope sweep over you. Here are these discrete chunks of knowing that were available for a few cents. The size of the books are such they could easily fit in a shirt pocket. A worker could have a few tucked in their shirt pocket ready for the reading at any spare moment. It was more accessible then the net is now for most people. Until we get affordable wireless PDAs with affordable access to something like Project Gutenberg or Everything we are still lacking the scope and penetration the Little Blue Books had. This is not to knock what we have done on the net, its just to point out that we are standing on the shoulders of giants and have miles to go before we sleep.

A great resource for learning more about the Little Blue Books is http://library.pittstate.edu/spcoll/ndxhjulius.html

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