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All about: The Penguin Group

The Penguin Group are well-known book publishers of fiction and non-fiction, which caters for both adults and children. Since its founding in 1935, it has gone on to be one of the most well-known names in the publishing world. Penguin now has offices in countries including: the UK, the US, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

The origins of Penguin

In 1934, Allen Lane was at Exeter station searching for something to read on the train. Shocked by the lack of interesting and affordable fiction available, he decided to set-up a business to address this problem. In the summer of 1935, the first Penguin Books appeared in print and were quickly made available for purchase at places like newsagents and train stations, as well as traditional bookshops. Each paperback cost just sixpence and were colour-coded according to subject matter: orange for fiction; blue for biography; green for crime. They also came with the symbol of the penguin, chosen by Lane as a fun and distinctive logo for the company.

Growth in popularity

By 1937, Penguin had sold over three million paperbacks. They expanded their range to include non-fiction and Shakespeare and set-up the first 'penguincubator' at Charing Cross Station, which allowed customers to purchase paperbacks via a vending machine. In 1940, the Puffin books, aimed at children, first appeared in print. When the immensely popular Penguin Classics were launched in 1946, it seemed that Lane's dream of bringing inexpensive and interesting paperbacks to the mass market had finally come to fruition.

Penguin in the modern era

Since its relatively humble origins, Penguin has expanded into a global brand. By the time the company celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2010, it claimed to have over 5,000 titles in print at any one time. Its range now includes both paperback and hardback fiction, audio books and downloadable e-books. The Penguin brand now markets a range of material such as: contemporary fiction, crime and thrillers, history and biography. Penguin Classics have a separate library of classic and modern classics, featuring authors from Dickens to Steinbeck. Children are catered for through the Puffin and Ladybird titles. In addition to their usual titles, Penguin has also owned the Rough Guides travel series since 2002.

Controversy

Penguin became the subject of controversy after its publication of Lady Chatterley's Lover in 1960. The company successfully defended a charge under the Obscene Publications Act, turning the book into a huge seller. Since then, Penguin has been embroiled in a number of controversies: 1980s - attracted criticism after publishing The Satanic Verses. 2000 - defended itself from a charge of libel from right-wing historian, David Irving. 2002 - published Michael's Moore's, Stupid White Men, after attempts in the US to ban it.

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