It’s become a hobby for book lovers to bemoan the shrinking world of print books and grieve all that’s lost, namely bookstores and print publishers. Bookstores are always worth your tears, but print publishers — not always the case. Proof positive? Airmont Books.
It’s unusual for me to happen upon a mid-century U.S. paperback publisher I’m unfamiliar with, but I’d never even heard of Airmont Books until I ran across a 1960s Edgar Allan Poe collection from the imprint. The only thing impressive about the book was the cover:
Okay, so maybe that’s not an impressive cover, but it was pretty groovy for 1962, and I was sufficiently intrigued to go searching for what I could about Airmont Books.
What I found was little to nothing, and courtesy of the Book Scans Database, where the indefatigable Kenneth R. Johnson reports that Airmont Books were:
published by Thomas Bouregy & Co., primarily a lending library publisher, sometimes under the imprint Avalon Books. With the exception of the Classics series, all the Airmont Books were reprints of Bouregy’s own hardcovers, issued without any additional payment to the authors.
The bolding at the end is my own.
You can see an assortment of Airmont’s offerings at Book Scans. The pickings are slim, to say the least — aside from the Classics series, which offered the usual menu of Robert Louis Stevenson, H.G. Wells and Charles Dickens, et. al., the rest of the Airmont catalog is comprised of obscure romance, mystery and western titles, with a few sci-fi gems. The sci-fi gems came from Avalon, which was an important publisher of sci-fi in the 1950s, and one of the first imprints to offer sci-fi in hardback.
I’d love to know whether Airmont existed to bring hardback library-aimed titles to book buyers or to provide lending libraries with paperbacks, but can’t unearth anything in that vein. Either way, the intent was apparently to buy low and sell high. Everything about the imprint’s books looks slapdash and cheap; compare the Airmont Classics to the Signet or Penguin Classics from the same period, and you’ll see what I mean. And if the paperback versions of the Bouregy and Avalon hardbacks were sold without additional payment to the authors… well, use your own judgment there.
According to Johnson, the Airmont imprint was active from around 1962 until the mid-1970s. Avalon, the primary imprint for the Bouregy Company, sold almost exclusively to libraries before being bought by Amazon in 2012.