Penguin Books (UK)

In 1935, if you wanted to read a good book, you needed either a lot of money or a library card. Cheap paperbacks were available, but their poor production generally tended to mirror the quality between the covers.

Penguin paperbacks were the brainchild of Allen Lane, then a director of The Bodley Head. After a weekend visiting Agatha Christie in Devon, he found himself on a platform at Exeter station searching its bookstall for something to read on his journey back to London, but discovered only popular magazines and reprints of Victorian novels.

Appalled by the selection on offer, Lane decided that good quality contemporary fiction should be made available at an attractive price and sold not just in traditional bookshops, but also in railway stations, tobacconists and chain stores.

He also wanted a 'dignified but flippant' symbol for his new business. His secretary suggested a Penguin and another employee was sent to London Zoo to make some sketches. Seventy years later Penguin is still one of the most recognizable brands in the world.

2001 saw Penguin moving to its current home at 80 Strand in Central London. Today the company has offices in fifteen countries - from Penguin US (formed in 1939) to Penguin Ireland (opened in 2003) - and keeps more than 5,000 different titles in print at any time. In the twenty-first century the Penguin Group can cater for every stage of a reader's lifetime, with books from Dorling Kindersley, Frederick Warne, Ladybird, Penguin, Puffin and Rough Guides, making Penguin the home of reading.

Penguin Ireland is part of Penguin Book UK.