British publishing company. It was established by Allan Head in 1935 when, as he was searching for something to read on a train journey from Exeter to London, discovered that newspaper stands did not sell anything worthwhile to read - only reprints of Victorian literature and popular magazines. So he decided to expand into this field, starting in 1936 to sell contemporary literature at a budget price, through an ingenous method of cost-effective publishing - the paperback. Penguin books (the avian mascot was picked by a secretary) became available not just in book shops, but also at railway stations and department stores (and also through vending machines, called Penguincubators).

Within three years Penguin book sales reached three million, staggering other publishers who thought that paperbacks would just be a passing fad. Aside from novels, Penguin covered economics, history, sociology and politics, topics of much popular discussion in the polarised 1930s. Huxley, Orwell and other luminaries of this era got their popular appeal through Penguin. And during the war, Penguin covered several instructional topics, including a best seller book on aircraft recognition. Allan Lane also started Puffin Books in 1941, a line targetting younger readers, and in 1945 published The Penguin Dictionary of Science, its first of many reference books.

Penguin helped provide the intellectual backbone for the progressive 1960s, itself successfully fending off a Obscene Publications Act prosecution when it published Lady Chatterley's Lover. It earned itself death threats when it published Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses in 1988, and equally heavy pressure from the British government over Peter Wright's Spycatcher memoirs.

Penguin was bought by the Pearson group in 1970, and now covers almost all genres of fiction and non-fiction, including audiotapes. Penguin also owns the Rough Guide travel book series, and has acquired other publishers like Dorling Kindersley, Viking and Frederick Warne.

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