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By From a bandit weekly The Jesse James Stories — A Weekly Dealing With the Detection of Crime (running through 1901–1903),Issue №113: “Jesse James’ Protector -or- Forced to Surrender”, Public Domain,

The History of Dime Novels and Magazines

In the development of today’s literature, two movements changed the course of reading — the dime novel and magazines. Few people know what a dime novel is and others take for granted magazines. But both of these were major players in the role of the literacy and book publications.

What is the Dime Novel

Logically, someone would say it was a novel that cast only a dime. I couldn’t say they were necessarily wrong, but I could argue they aren’t exactly right. The dime novel did start out at only a dime. Almost overnight they began to be charged fifteen cents for the same work by other publishers, but the name ‘dime novel’ had already stuck itself to these mass produced books.

It was a cheaply produced novel that the public received with open arms. Books were no longer limited.


The first dime novels were made popular by a publisher known as Beadle and Adams. They realized that books for the first time could be printed in bulk at extremely low prices. It was enough to make a grown business man whimper and salivate. It was something new and untapped which meant lots of money. They had to give it a try. It paid off.

Stories were now everywhere for people to purchase. Other publishers joined in, and the dime novel continued to grow.

Explosion of PopularityAnytime something becomes available to the masses that was limited to the wealthy it tends to be exceedingly popular. That was no different for the sudden availability of books. It was no longer consigned just within the reach of those with money.

Add that to the fact that new advances in machinery enabled these books to not only be published is mass but be able to be published more often. It was the perfect timing for this as the population’s literacy rate was higher than it ever had been. It was also a time to escape from reality.

The world society knew was being torn apart. The American Civil War was starting. The people needed an escape. Cheap books were just the answer for many people. They gathered them quickly and demanded more.

Impact on Publishing

How did the dime novel change the publishing industry? Did it have any impact? It had a huge impact. How did the internet help authors self-publish? The same explosive impact occurred with dime novels.

The ability to cheaply produce books and more books at that allowed more authors the ability to reach their audiences. Publishing a book was now open to more people which in turn produced more authors, more stories, and more books.

Impact on Today’s Literary World

How has the dime novel effected us today in the literary world? It helped to create the bookstores of today. Dime novels pushed the books out to the general public in a way that allowed more books in the hands of more readers. Bookstores would no longer be something for the rich. They could be many with books that were numerous. Books became something for the multitude. It paved the way for the mass production of paperbacks we take for granted today.


I honestly think we take magazines for granted. Who hasn’t had them in their lives? We read them in waiting rooms and on long trips. Shoot, some even use them as props for tables and chairs. They are virtually everywhere.

But have you stopped and considered this item that we take for granted? Where did it come from? Who started the magazine crazy? Will it go on?

The Early Magazines

Magazines have been around longer than you might realize. Since they have always been around for us, we do tend to take them for granted. The first one was actually published in Germany in the mid-1600s. About fifty years later, England had its first magazine published, The Gentleman’s Magazine. From there, magazines began to spring up all over Europe and across the pond in the colonies.

The first American magazine was created by….surprise!!!….Benjamin Franklin. Okay. Nope. That’s not right. He was intent on being the first but got sidelined by another magazine that beat him by a mere three days. So the American Magazine was the first one in the New World.

Women were determined not to let the men be the only ones to enjoy such publications. Another thirty years and The Lady’s Magazine was published which started a long line of magazines just for women.

From there magazines grew to become one of the largest media outlets.

How Magazines Reached More Readers

Magazines were books but in a different format which appealed to the masses. It didn’t include just one story. It held a variety of stories and more. It could entertain more than once as readers browsed through them over and over to find something new each time. In addition to that, they benefit other businesses.

Taking the attributes of books and newspapers, magazine publishers created a mixture of the two that reached the populace. Pieces were smaller to be read quickly. And they could be very appealing to the eye. Pictures were intermingled between ads and articles. Even books were published through them.

Types of Magazines

There is every type of magazine in the world available. Any interest, movement, or industry has a magazine published. They are typically broken out as

  • Consumer
  • Trade or Professional
  • Industry
  • Interest
  • Organizational

Originally they began featured toward the different genders. Then writers began to use magazines to push for reform. They pushed their noses forward until they “uncovered major corporate and political corruption, which in part had been blocking needed reform.” ( Thus was born the muckrakers.

Top Magazines Today

As of 2011, the top 25 magazines in the number of circulation is as follows (

AARP Magazine

The Costco Connection

Better Homes and Gardens

Game Informer

Reader’s Digest

National Geographic

Good Housekeeping

Woman’s Day

Family Circle



Ladie’s Home Journal

Taste of Home

Sports Illustrated



Southern Living

AAA VIA Magazine


AAA Living

O, the Oprah Magazine

AAA Going Places

American Legion Magazine



Notice a trend? The majority of these magazines have subscribers that are mature and looking for direction and guidance instead of just entertainment. Yet some like Reader’s Digest have been around for years and years since the early days of magazine growth and still provide quality entertainment.

Written by

Writer for ten years, lover of education, and degrees in business, history, and English. Striving to become a Renassiance woman.

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