February 20, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Dover’s Thrifty Classics | Behind the Books

Dover Logo_BlackAndBlueDover Publications, the nearly 75-year-old company that recently found itself in the spotlight with the sudden popularity of coloring books for adults, is also well known in the school and library market for its Thrift Editions, an imprint that has been producing low-cost classic reprints since the early 1990s. SLJ sat down with M.C. Waldrep, editor-in-chief, to take a closer look at this niche publisher. 


What is your mission and how does it relate to school and public libraries?

We launched Dover Thrift Editions in 1991 with about 12 titles. Dover’s founder, Hayward Cirker, wanted to launch a series of classic literature for a value-price of one dollar per book. His vision was for schools and libraries to have these books available at a price they could afford. While our Thrift titles today cost mostly between $2.50 and $6 each, they are still a great value.


What have been the titles, the “classics,” that have remained top sellers year after year? Why do 28211-2_3Dyou think that is?

Frankenstein, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, The Adventures of Huck Finn, and Shakespeare plays are some of our best-selling titles. Schools continue to teach the classics, so these titles sell well year after year. We continue to see strong sales in four categories: fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and plays.



Are there “new” classics that you publish? What are the more recent titles that are considered78962-4_3D to be in the canon now?

New directions for us involve non-fiction (especially great speeches anthologies) and poetry. Sometimes a movie will awaken a classic title’s interest, such as Twelve Years A Slave.


Unlike other publishers who produce “fancy” editions of classics, with elaborate cover designs with introductions, forewords, back matter, etc., your Thrift Editions books have been described as simple, straightforward, and no-frills. 

We still believe in the original vision of Mr. Cirker to produce high-quality, value-priced classic literature that is affordable for schools and libraries. We have over 700 Dover Thrift Editions in print. Dover Thrift Editions are complete and unabridged. In 2008, we launched a very different line of books, Calla Editions. These titles harken back to the days of bookmaking as an art form. These facsimile reproductions include hardcover versions of classic literature with artwork from illustrators such as N.C. Wyeth, Arthur Rackham, and Willy Pogany. These titles usually run from $25 to $40 each, but still have that value-priced quality to them—it’s amazing what you get in one of these editions.


43215-7_3DWhy do you think teens continue to read the classics? What is it about certain titles and works of literature that keep them in the curriculum decade after decade?

They need to [read these works] for school, but classics are also the basis for pop culture today. Look at a movie like Clueless, which was based on the classic Jane Austen book Emma. And one of the top-selling music singles from last year was Fancy by Iggy Azalea. That song had a well-viewed music video that payed homage to Clueless. So Emma was ultimately a key contributor to one of the most popular hit songs of last year!



What are some of your own favorite classic titles?

Without a doubt, Pride and Prejudice is my favorite. Jane Austen is a remarkable author, and I love her witty, charming, and true-to-life writing in this book.

“Behind the Books” is a sponsored supplement to Extra Helping, featuring profiles of publishers, their selected authors, and upcoming titles. For more information on sponsorship, contact Roy Futterman.

NOTE: This editorial content was sponsored by Dover Publications. All of the Dover titles, including Thrift Editions, can be found at doverpublications.com and doverdirect.com.

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