Tag Archive for Penguin Classics

Penguin using heavy social media ploy for “Likes” on anniversary

Well, you can’t say Penguin isn’t aiming for the younger crowd. (And they’re using social media so blatantly that I’m rather cynical about it.) Their Penguin Classics line is turning 65, so the company is starting a contest. As described in this USA Today Books article (Penguin Classics rolls out skateboard photo contest for 65th anniversary), it’s all about contestants posting a photo of a Penguin Classic book posing with a skateboard.

Fans can post the photos on Penguin USA’s Facebook contest page.  The three prize winners will get skateboard decks with Penguin-themed designs on them. First prize will receive  an Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Graphic Classic skateboard deck; second prize wins a Dharma Bums Graphic Classic deck; and third prize gets a We Have Always Lived in the Castle deck.

Penguin themselves won’t be deciding on the winners, though. This is a pure social media contest. Winners will be decided by public vote — that is, by visitors to the site expressing their vote on the page. So in essence, it’s not really a contest for the best photo of a skateboard and a Penguin Classic. Rather, it’s a contest to see how many people each entrant can drag over to the page to “Like” Penguin and vote.

You’ve got to admit, this is a prime marketing use of social media. It’s all about the number of “Likes” of the PAGE rather than about a) genuinely good contest photos; or b) the number of people who have actually heard of Penguin and really like Penguin BOOKS. They may get a few new book fans this way, but I suspect this will be more like a quick flash mob, hordes of younger people trying to help their friend get a skateboard, and then a ton of “Unlikes” after the contest is over.

Ah well. You do what you have to, I guess.

One thing to note, though, if you’d like to enter the contest because you love books, and you have a ton of bookish friends who will vote for you — the last day to enter the contest is July 31st, 2011. So you don’t have very long.

How far has Penguin come!

Penguin books

I’ve always thought of Penguin books as kind of elite books, or at least the sort of things that university students and intellectuals would buy. I had no idea that they actually started out as books designed to provide inexpensive, good quality fiction for the masses.

Penguin tweeted a link to their company history today, so I started reading. I didn’t know that in the beginning, they carried three genres: biography, fiction, and crime writing, with each genre having its own colour in a band on the cover. (Biography=dark blue, crime=green, fiction=orange)

I love some of the reactions to this new publishing venture, that they’ve quoted on the page. Take George Orwell, for example, in 1936:

if other publishers follow suit, the result may be a flood of cheap reprints which will cripple the lending libraries and check the output of new novels

Isn’t that a scream? The advent of Penguin was going to stop new novels! Of course, that was because the company was simply reprinting previously issued books, in the beginning. It wasn’t long, though, before the Pelican imprint appeared, which published books on important issues of the day, as well as original books.

And then came the line that I myself first associated with the publisher: Penguin Classics. I squealed when I read that the first title in this line was The Odyssey, translated by E.V. Rieu. I have that book! Not with that first cover, but I do have it. This gives me goosebumps.

Meanwhile, you don’t really think of Penguin as the poster boy for defying the authorities, do you? Yet in the 1960s, the publisher’s acquittal under Britain’s Obscene Publications Act, after they published an unabridged version of Lady Chatterley’s Lover, helped alter censorship laws. Those rebels!

Give the article a read, if you’re interested in the history. I’d had no idea just how innovative Penguin really was over the years.


I’m not sure I like that this is going to come from Penguin Classics, but on the other hand, it could be kind of entertaining and amusing. It’s definitely in the same spirit of all thinking university students.

Have a look at this really quick blurb on the LA Observed website – Twitter, the books:

A nice local book deal: Penguin picked up “Twitterature: The World’s Greatest Books, Now Presented in Twenty Tweets or Less,” called a humorous retelling of works of great literature in Twitter format written by two 19-year old University of Chicago freshmen.

Isn’t that hilarious?

Penguin Classics explains more on the Twitterature website:

What, we asked, are the grandest ventures of our or any generation? And what, to give this a bit more focus, best expresses the souls of 21st century Americans? … First, of course, is literature. … The second is Twitter. … So what could be better than to combine the two? After all, as great as the
classics are, who has time to read those big, long books anymore?

I was appalled at first, in a knee-jerk reaction. But I think this is going to be great, actually. Remember the Harvard Lampoon!

Though if, 100 years from now, this book becomes a substitute for the literature they put in there — then I might object. You know, from the afterlife.

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