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Betty Ballantine (1919 – 2019), paperback pioneer

Getty Images / Beth Gwinn

Popularized the paperback and science fiction through Ballantine books

Betty Ballantine and her husband Ian helped invent the modern paperback through their Bantam and Ballantine books. Paperbacks in America were not popular until the Ballantines improved the quality of the product and offered better titles. The pair were instrumental in establishing the market for science fiction and fantasy novels by releasing the paperback version of “The Hobbit” by Tolkien and were the original publishers for Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury, along with titles from Arthur C. Clarke and Frederik Pohl.  

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Died: February 12, 2019 (Who else died on February 12?)  

Details of death: Died at her home in Bearville, New York, at the age of 99.  


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On the importance of science fiction:  “We really, truly wanted and did publish books that mattered. And science fiction matters, because it’s of the mind, it predicts, it thinks, it says, ‘Look at what’s happening here. If that’s what’s happening here and now, what’s it going to look like ten years from now, 50 years from now, or 2,000 years from now?’ It’s a form of magic. Not acracadabra or wizadry. It is the minds of humankind that make this magic.” - Interview with Locus Online in 2002

Tribute from the Ray Bradbury Center:  “We say a sad farewell to publisher Betty Ballantime, who has passed away at the age of 98. Betty and her husband Ian established Ballantine books in 1952 and together published great science fiction – including Ray Bradbury’s FAHRENHEIT 451 in their 1953 roster of releases.”  

Full obituary: The Washington Post 

Related lives:  

Ray Bradbury (1920 – 1912) 

Becoming Tolkien 

Arthur C. Clarke (1917 – 2008) 

Rest in Anger, Harlan Ellison (1934 – 2018)