Armed Services Editions

Inside cover message

The message that appears in the inside front cover of ASEs

“This book is published by Editions for the Armed Services, Inc., a non-profit organization established by the Council on Books in Wartime, which is made up of American publishers of General (Trade) books, librarians, and booksellers. It is intended for exclusive distribution to members of the American Armed Forces and is not to be resold or made available to civilians. In this way the best books of the present and past are supplied to members of our Armed Forces in small, convenient, and economical form. New titles will be issues regularly. A list of the current group will be found on the inside back cover.”

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Apparently it is 2011 now

I haven’t looked at this site for awhile–busy with other things. I recently discovered that the ASE phenomenon was written about on the blog The Art of Manliness, which is cool. And that article in turn was linked from Boing Boing, which to a nerd like me is kind of nirvana. Nerdvana. Seeing one’s nerdy hobbies and interests in exciting new places!

I’ve also been pursuing a bit more aggressively the two print titles I list on the bibliography page which I still don’t have. I have found (in the past) used copies on for $50 or more which seems excessive to me. Anyone have any ideas?

And: I got some ASEs for Christmas this year from my parents. There is a wonderful used bookstore near their house that often stocks them (its name and location is secret, of course — what am I, a saint?). I’m always struck by these objects, these little artifacts, which have been read and loved and have maybe travelled the world. Ted Bishop in his book Riding With Rilke calls this the “archival jolt.” The objects themselves possess some kind of power that has nothing to do with their content.

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In 2006, in library school, I became interested in wartime publishing. I was taking a book history course and searching around for a topic for my final project. I was interested, at first, in the wartime books that featured advertising on the covers suggesting that once the buyer was done reading the book, it should be sent to the Army to be re-read by soldiers. This led me to the Council on Books in Wartime, an organization that existed basically to solve the problem of reading material for soldiers, and from there I stumbled upon Armed Services Editions. These little books became the topic for my final paper, a Wikipedia article (written primarily because I don’t like to see null searches in Wikipedia), a collection, and eventually I would say a compulsion. I was lucky to be working and taking a class in the wonderful Bruce Peel Special Collections Library, which has a number of these titles in its collection.

I’m not sure how much I will actually blog at this site but I will keep adding content to it as I go, and I will also update my collection list as I add to it–mainly so I don’t accidentally buy too many duplicates. I don’t know how much I can contribute to the conversation, but I do know that these books are too incredible a project to be forgotten, as they seem to be now.


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