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of good reading matter. The book store is not far-flung
enough or good enough to be given a monopoly.

The invaders have simply pushed into the breach in the
publishers' marketing system. They get readers first, then
books. The old-line houses brought out books first, then
sought readers. The crux of the matter for the well-wisher
of reading is what books will the newcomers send the
readers they have enrolled. How will they select? We
must also ask how the new system may lower the prices
for books and supplement the book-
sellers. We must consider the rather
remote danger of a new regimenta-
tion of the public mind by books
table d'hote. We must fight against
any crippling of the publishers and
the book-sellers. Let us look at the

Haldeman-Julius fired the opening
gun the day he took over the capa-
cious presses of the old Appeal to
Reason at Girard, Kansas. He be-
gan flooding the country with Little
Blue Books at a nickel, twenty for a
dollar, and his list has run to nearly
a thousand titles. He reprinted tons
of classics on which he spared him-
self any author's royalty. He had
books written for him, supplementing
his serious list with mystery and
romance and things that appeal to
the populace dream-books, we may
call them, sex books, and man-in-the-
street science. He ran editions into
scores of thousands and his total sale
must be well up toward thirty
million. He proved spectacularly the
basic law of the printing press its
bane and boon that the larger the
edition the lower the per copy cost.
Incidentally, he made a lot of money,
and that has not passed unobserved.

Wright's Circulating Library, Exeter Court,

Strand. From "English Women in Life &

Letters," Oxford University Press.

afraid in a new day as he was when he fought the seventy-
five cent reprint (like Burt's or Grosset and Dunlap's)
until Dodd-Mead took a chance and no cataclysm followed.
He did not think much of the lending library such as
Womrath's, yet Womrath's has ruined nobody, and is now
ironically enough lined up itself against the new barbarians.
Haldeman-Julius did not try the audience-in-advance plan,
but he inherited a radical reading group from the Appeal.
Moreover, his low price, his convenient pocket size, his list
of titles, and his mail-order advertising gave him a kind of
roughly stable nucleus of repeaters. He proved two things
that will guide much publishing in the future: (i) the bed-
rock costs of the huge edition; (2) people will buy books
from a mail-order check-list. That list will in somebody's
hands grow into a descriptive catalog, like in nature if not
in monstrousness to that justly famous compendium of
civilization edited by Messrs. Sears and Roebuck.

The Book of the Month Club took the next step. It
signed up an annual audience of members on the simple
promise to send each member monthly the "outstanding"
book, postpaid to the front door, at
the publisher's regular price. It
publishes no books and cuts no prices.
It is a service based on the idea of
the editorial committee. How does
the Club know the "outstanding"
book? The publishers submit all
their likely new books and these are
sifted, not by the managers, but by
Henry S. Canby, chairman. He
passes on a final twenty or twenty-
five to his colleagues, Dorothy Can-
field, Heywood Broun, Christopher
Morley, and William Allen White.
The five, by independent votes, name
"the book of the month." If the
subscriber does not like it, he may
exchange for one of a number of
others simultaneously recommended
by the Committee. The first book,
Lolly Willowes, by Sylvia Warner,
was mailed in April, 1926. One year
later the Club has 40,000 members.

Where did they come from ? From
Main Street, Park Avenue, and
Deadwood, South Dakota. The pub-
lishers did not have most of them,
and so, at first luke-warm, they now
sing benisons when the lightning
strikes their books, for it means
apparently about 40,000 additional
sales, not (Continued on page 48)


CAN we recapture the strain, the heart-search-
ings and challenge of ten years back? Can
we unravel again the knotted cords of those
days of decision and of the months succeed-
ing? Can we reconstruct how we felt? If
we will pause long enough to try to bring
our feelings then alongside some of the issues confronting
us now, and get others to do so, we shall be making the
most of this anniversary time.

This is the counsel of the man who has traversed wider
ground than any of his contemporaries in his study of the
war, and more than once has put what it has meant to him
to work. That man is James T. Shotwell. As scholar, with
collaborators in each of the warring countries, he is slowly
chiseling the stones that are going into the monumental
history of the conflict for the Carnegie Peace Foundation.
As citizen, with General Tasker H. Bliss, Professor
Chamberlain and others, he struck off in first draft the
most imaginative and constructive piece of statesmanship
of the post-war years the ill-fated but prescient Geneva
pact which for a few months held aloft the promise of a
new order to take the place of the old war system.

When we discuss Allied debts, Professor Shotwell would
have us recall our trepidations when we were so eagerly
pouring money into empty war chests. We did not sign the
treaty of Versailles but we were party to the terms of the
Armistice on a day of leaping hearts. Have we hewn true
to those terms with the New Germany? And last summer
he vaulted from his historian's desk to the poet's corner
to challenge our faith-keeping with our own men who had
carried burning phrases to the trenches and were buried
with them.

IN truth, the words of the old litany will serve us on
this anniversary. We can take stock not only of the
things we have left undone but of the things that we have
done that we ought not to have done for the sake of the
things we might do in the ten years ahead.

To some, the war-time stands free as the stage of a
supreme cause ; to some it was a time of disillusionment
and the shattered clay of idols. To some it was the great
adventure a rift in the drab of modern living; to some
a wound to the human spirit, self-inflicted, unhealed. How-
ever this may have been with us, we can now re-evaluate

our experiences in the light of subsequent developments
and re-examine their settings.

In place of a blur of film, huge, swift, inchoate, we can
piece together a panorama from the stills of many observers.
This is not an easy task. What is the upshot of the military
histories, diplomatic histories, autobiographies, intimate let-
ters, un-gagged correspondents, secret archives ripped wide
by revolution ? Charles and Mary Beard have fitted these
fragments into a whole. That they write in the past tense
is in itself a jolt to the lethargies of our minds. Is this the
way the detached historian of twenty-five years from now
will distill the things we felt and said and did? Theirs
is a picture with which readers and editors may or may
not agree but it may help provoke each one of us to overhaul
our own imagery and reconstruct on our own lines the
fundamental testimony we bear as witnesses to our times.

Two outstanding witnesses are among us this spring.
One is Alexander Kerensky, the Social Democrat who ten
years ago headed the new provisional government of Russia.
The overthrow of the Czar a few weeks before our entry
into the war had fired the New World with the spread of
republicanism in the old. We should like to have seen the
Beards explore more fully the failure of the greatest
republic to strike hands with the newest at that juncture in
giving reality to the "war for democracy."

The other visitor is Ramsay MacDonald, post-war
premier of England but in those days a labor leader who
was damned as pro-German as was Vandervelde of
Belgium and Longuet of France and the others who took
up the call of the Russian revolutionists for a fresh state-
ment of war aims which would scrap the secret treaties
and strip the Allied cause of its counter-imperialism. Ten
years ago this month several hundred of the social workers,
in attendance at the National Conference at Pittsburgh,
signed a petition to the President to answer the Russian
call. We were denounced as meddlers, if not traitorous, by
those whose sole thought was to get on with the war. Not
for nine months was that call heeded and then with what
reservations Versailles revealed.

The new provisional government of Russia was in a
sense engaged on three fronts with the German armies
in the field, with Lenin undermining them with his watch-
cry of peace and bread, and with the allied chancellories
which clung to their old bargaining as to the spoils of war.
They failed to uphold Kerensky's hands at home by a joint
statement consonant with the democratic spirit of the revolu-
tion and of a sort to convince the Russian people that they
were no longer fighting the Czar's battles. Came the




Bolshevik revolution, the overthrow of Kerensky, the
cave-in of the western front, Brest Litovsk. What answer-
ing the call of the Russian republicans before it was too
late would have meant in shortening the war, in prevent-
ing the mutilation of the peace, no man can tell ; but there
are witnesses to testify to what they believe might have been.
Kerensky for one ; MacDonald for another.

SUCH reconstructions have value in that they bring
home not only General Traub's point that under
modern conditions whole nations must wage if they war,
but Mr. Gibbs' point that responsibility is individual;
democracies must do their own thinking no less than their
own righting. They cannot afford to leave foreign policy
to their governments in peace time; they won't have a
chance at it once war breaks.

And however the seasoned American regular and the
young British veteran diverge on their programs, they are
at one in their opposition to drifting. Here it is that the
voices of non-professional soldiers, of the Allied nations,
men who knew the war in terms not of six months or a
year but of three and of four years, cry out with deadly
wrath at the thing that wrecked their generation. Thev
are the hope of the world if they can but count for peace
as they counted in war, before they in turn drop out and
a new generation learns it all over again. For however
one may defend a structure of preparedness as a means of
national defense in a world left at loose ends, the reliance
of the great powers on that formula is but a reincarnation
of the old tinder-box. And Europe, with all its ancient
animosities, its fresh wounds, its close quarters and its
competitions, knows this and has gone further in the direc-
tion of tying up those loose ends and giving substance to
that hope than have we in our isolated strength.

MORE, we can no longer successfully reconstruct the
picture of America we held to before the War, that
of a young free people, guarding its liberties against the
encroachments of huge and threatening empires. Not only,
as Professor Chamberlain points out, have we let our old
leadership for peace slip through our ringers, but as Pro-
fessor Moon shows, with our tremendous resources and our
economic expansion, the situation is reversed. Guard our
love for liberty we must but guard it increasingly against
ourselves for the sake of all mankind. The grave charge
upon American citizenship in the next decade is to so handle
ourselves, so curb the selfish and undisciplined forces within
us, that we prove to the world that a strong commonwealth
need not be a threat to its neighbors.

The present winter has laid that charge heavily upon us.
As this issue goes to press the members of Willard Straight
Post of the American Legion are asking the President to
take the public into his confidence as to the Latin-Ameri-
can policy of the administration ; and such men as Senator
Norris, Norman Hapgood and John F. Moors are organiz-

ing a national committee not only to stand against the
further glacier-like drift of our imperialism to the South,
but also against any such disruptive move as to lift the
embargo on arms to Mexico and throw that country back
into gruelling civil and religious war.

This last is our first close-up in terms of civil war of the
issue in terms of international strife which Professor Cham-
berlain raises. Are we to be the arsenal, the treasure chest,
the munition box of every nation that runs amuck and
breaks such treaties as Locarno? Or are we to throw our
weight for peace in the new "balance of justice?"

But, at the threshold of this new decade, why should
we limit ourselves to policies of restraint? There is op-
portunity for positive action. There is opportunity for new
initiative on our part in China, as the concession-laden
powers hold back. Why wait until the Chinese teach
themselves anew the lesson that only by force can a back-
ward people secure justice? And there is opportunity for
constructive friendship up and down the New Hemisphere.
So far as our relations to Europe are concerned, we may
have to wait for a new administration before the World
Court is again considered on its merits ; we may have to wait
two administrations before we can consider the League of
Nations free from partisan feeling. 'But Locarno set a
standard of treaty-making which excels anything we are
party to. Nation to nation, on the new level, shall we hold
back, or shall we strike hands as opportunity offers? Shall
we go out and seek the opportunity? That is the issue
before us on this tenth anniversary of America's entry into
the World War.

ON advice of the attorney-general that it was unconsti-
tutional, President Coolidge vetoed the McNary-
Haugen farm relief bill in the teeth of a gale of discussion
in which the main currents were that now the Constitution
has triumphed over class demands, now the President has
lost the West, now the farmer is irretrievably ruined.
Meantime the agricultural situation tends to improve
slightly. If the upward trend continues, as seems likely,
no serious political consequence will result from the veto
and there will be no agrarian revolution. The farmers
are angry, but only in spots. Eastern farmers, whose prod-
ucts do not for the most part flow into the world market,
are not concerned over the plight of western and southern
farmers. In short, there is no agricultural unity, and until
some sort of occupational unity comes into existence there
can be no powerful agrarian leadership. The fortunes of
farmers will continue to rise and fall in response to indus-
trial movements and not because of any intrinsic merits of
agriculture itself as a productive enterprise. All of which
means that we have become an urbanized and industrialized
nation. Those who live on the land and produce essential
goods have come to be the neglected sector of our popula-
tion. Those who are most dependent upon the farmers'
energies, city-dwellers, are most contemptuous of their wel-
fare. If we do not learn how to apply an element of states-
manship to this economic conflict, the final development will
be a top-heavy industrial and financial structure which in
its appropriate time will come to grief.


(Continued from page 45)

to mention prestige and a publicity slogan. The book stores
profit, too, as was proved 'by The Time of Man, certainly the
best American novel of 1926. The publishers ordered the usual
2,000. The omen fell: the Club took about 36,000 in a lump.
Then, lo and behold, the ordinary sales channels disposed of
18,000 more! The publisher sold 54,000 and the book stores
16,000 more than either had figured on. The author got her
reward and about three-score thousand of the public were in-
troduced to a noteworthy novel. To me, that seems all to
the good.

The question will not down: What books do they pick,
month by month? The list includes Teeftallow by Stribling,
O Genteel Lady by Esther Forbes, The Saga of Billy the Kid
by Walter Burns, The Silver Spoon by John Galsworthy,
Show Boat by Edna Ferber, The Time of Man by Elisabeth
Maddox Roberts, The Heart of Emerson's Journals. The
book of the month has been mostly a novel, you see, and two
of them, Galsworthy's and Edna Ferber's, were successes
without the Club's help. The subscribers have read better
novels than they might otherwise have done (and that helps
some), but the Club has not encouraged much serious reading,
even of serious novels. It explains its failure to offer much
non-fiction by the guarantee made readers that no book will
cost more than three dollars. Our Times, Story of Philosophy,
Microbe Hunters cost five dollars and were barred. Yet I
think that by long search the Committee ought to be able to
find a couple of non-fiction books at less than three dollars
to put iron in the soul of their charming list. The riddle is
this: Can the Club retain anything like 40,000 members on
any diet but a certain grade of entertaining book, usually a
novel? It would be an experiment worth trying, for the en-
couragement of better reading is what we seek of these new
sales devices. What does the Committee mean by an "out-
standing" book and by what criteria does it discover one?
The personnel (surely the touchstone of such a plan) is sincere
and certainly bridle-wise in modern literature, but is it not a
bit top-heavy in experts in the popular and entertaining?

Tie Club brings books to the front door, gives through its
editors better book guidance than most of the 40,000 would
get elsewhere, and teaches the reading habit. If it is not the
perfect instrument for spreading sweetness and light, it has
its own just uses. It will endure if it can keep up its member-
ship. The Club presumably makes its profits from publishers'
discounts. The book store gets from 20 to 40 per cent off the
list price, and orders of 40,000 may mean a larger discount.
On a two-dollar book 40 per cent means eighty cents, and
allowing 30 cents for postage and handling, brings the Club
revenue around $20,000 a month. That will surely pay the
Committee and leave a nice bit for the proprietors. If the
surplus gets too big, the Club can share its discounts with the
reader, though the publishers would object because that would
be price-cutting.

THAT in a sense is what the Club's rival, the just launched
Literary Guild of America, is trying to do give its readers
the saving on large editions. You pay $18 a year in advance
(or a dollar extra for deferred payments) and get a new
book each month, published in the Guild edition. Carl Van
Doren, editor-in-chief, and his associates, Zona Gale, Joseph
Wood Krutch, Elinor Wylie, Glenn Frank, and Hendrik
Willem Van Loon, select the book from manuscripts to be
submitted by the publishers. It is sent to subscribers the very
day the regular trade edition appears in the book stores. The
Guild edition will be at least as excellent as the trade format.
It will offer books for which you will have to pay from $2 to
$10 in the stores, totalling in cost for twelve books an average
of $36. In other words, it will cut the average $3 price to
$1.50. The Guild aims to print about half fiction titles. The
first offering on March I was a biography of Anthony Corn-
stock, Roundsman of the Lord, by Heywood Broun and
Margaret Leech. The Guild order was said to be for 5,000

But the publishers are not anxious to play the Guild's game

for they do not know whether it will hurt or help their busi-
ness. Some swear never to give them a book ; others watch-
fully wait; still others are willing but have to pacify the book
stores; some already accept the plan. Boni and Liveright had
accepted Anthony Comstock, but refused to let the authors
grant any rights to the Guild. It has now been published by
A. and C. Boni, a distinct firm. The publishers declare the
new plan is clearly price-cutting: people will be persuaded
half-price is all they should pay for a book and ask the
publishers awkward questions. The big book stores have
already built a fire under them for they, as other retailers in
the past, see their hard-won business ruined by mail-order

Can the Guild get good manuscripts to publish? One answer
is that it will direct from authors and from abroad and ;o
straight into publishing. This is done by the cooperative
publishing groups in Europe, where the idea is firmly estab-
lished. The German guilds print from four to twelve books
for annual subscribers, offer a regular list of thirty to fifty
titles, and finally add reprints of classics. Samuel Craig, who
established the American Guild after several years of effort,
says he did not, however, get the idea from abroad, but from
the New York Theater Guild which offers a season sub-
scription in advance for six plays to be selected and produced
by its managers. If the publishers of the United States refuse
scripts to the Guild it will have a hard time.

ITS second grave problem is to get enough subscribers to pay
$18 in advance to make the low-price plan work. The Guild
needs 50,000 members for a working basis and 100,000 to
show real profit. Its success will depend on assured large
editions with all the attendant economies of large buying of
paper and so forth, and upon reduced sales costs due to selling
one subscription a year instead of twelve separate books. The
Guild secured 2,500 members its first four weeks, but expects
intensive promotion soon to bring in 300 a day. It must reach
some minimum list or it cannot meet the price figure it has
set. Indeed, its own advertisements intimate that the present
rate will be raised, if found too low.

The Guild seems a good idea plus "if." If the editorial
board is sound and takes seriously its task of selecting books
for the democracy. If it offers good books by good authors.
If it does not steal the cream of the publishers' lists without
undertaking any of the expensive cultivation of authors, the
reading of manuscripts, and the general overhead and risks
publishers pay for. If it does not undermine our slowly rising
system of book stores needed and healthful centers of books
and culture that cannot be replaced by the parcel post. If,
finally, it does not degenerate into a mere commercial enter-
prise to provide ephemeral entertainment for the masses at
cut-rates for quantity. One expert said: "If it is serious, it
cannot get enough subscribers to live. If it isn't serious, what's
the use?" The editors may be in for a severe test.

The idea of entertaining books by the year is surely in the
air. Now comes the First Edition Society offering a preferred
membership which entitles you to twelve novels apparently to
be picked by a jury made up of Rex Beach, Professor Burton
(which one remains vague), Irvin Cobb, "Bob" Davis, Sophie
Kerr, and Burton Rascoe. Soon we can have an "all-American"
team of book-tasters from these rival institutions. This Society
works on the plan of the Book of the Month Club, but its
slogan is, "Tell me a good novel to read." Why stop here?
I think inevitably some corporation with enough money will
come to provide a dozen "best sellers" a year to a million
subscribers at conceivably $10 a head. It would need a dif-
ferent kind of editor to pick "best sellers" one Pollyanna,
one sex lure, one good "western," one detective tale, one
historical romance, one expose of high society, one dish of
domestic apple sauce, et cetera. Authors could be got at flat
rates or on royalty (10 per cent would be round $100,000 per
book) for the best-seller man is already deeply disposed to
take the cash and let the glory go. The commercial exploita-
tion of print is already upon us the printing press can make
good things cheap, and cheap things even cheaper. If some
way is found to stick 50 pages of ads. in a book, preferably
facing reading-matter (and why not?) the thing is as good
as done.


We already have publishing ventures organized by young
and go-getting chaps who bet they can pick best sellers or
create them by advertising. The next step is to seduce popular
authors away from their publishers by the offer of handsome
advance royalties. This sniping by guerilla publishers among
authors who have hit with a book has already put one careful
and conscientious literary firm out of business. The list left
them was entirely of good but not successful books which
could not support the firm. If any of the present experiments
promise to end in the ruin \>i good houses by these tactics it
should be damned and fought right now.

The counter-blast to such dismal commercialism is in the

Online LibrarySurvey AssociatesThe Survey (Volume 58) → online text (page 10 of 130)