Founded in 1992 by Lila Bell Wallace and Dewitt Wallace, Reader's Digest is a monthly general-interest family magazine published from New York. The inspiration for the magazine came when DeWitt Wallace was recovering from shrapnel wounds he had received in World War I.
When he could not find a magazine that gave him different general interest articles, Dewitt Wallace came up with the idea of sampling and condensing articles from various magazines. He rewrote few of these and compiled them in the form of a magazine, which later came to be known as Reader's Digest. When they printed the first copies in 1922, the Wallaces had no idea that their small magazine would one day grow to span the world.
From 5,000 copies in the first year, the Reader's Digest grew to have a subscriber base of 290,000 in 1929. In 1938, the Digest went international with its first overseas edition in the UK. Since then, the publication has grown by leaps and bounds and created many milestones and landmarks in the magazine world.
According to the Audit Bureau of Circulation, the Reader's Digest is presently the best-selling consumer magazine in the US with an estimated circulation of eight million copies and a readership touching 38 million. On the international front, the Digest has 51 editions in 21 languages including Braille. It reaches nearly 100 million people in 160 countries, which combined with its global circulation of 17 million make it the largest paid circulation magazine in the world.
In addition to the US, the magazine also enjoys leadership positions in several other countries including Canada, Mexico, Spain, Peru, India, and many other countries. The Reader's Digest has always been published in a compact version half the size of most regular magazines. Presently it is also published in digital, audio and Reader's Digest Large Print versions.
Some of the column's and regular features introduced by the Reader's Digest have become classics and are now considered to be the ultimate word in features along those particular lines. Features such as "Word Power", "Quotable Quotes", "Drama in Real Life", and "Book Bonus" have become household names and avid subscribers look forward to each monthly edition just for a chance to read these.
In addition to these more serious features, the digest tryst with offering humor has also been well received. "Life's Like That," "Humor in Uniform", and "All in a Day's Work" have published some of the best loved and most widely shared jokes of all times.
From the time the Wallaces printed off the first copies in 1922, the Reader's Digest has followed a policy of moderation. The tone of all articles and features published in the magazine is always conservative and anti-communist when it comes to political and social perspective. The magazine also refrains from supporting or endorsing any political party or leader and most interviews and reviews are written from a neutral perspective.
Many of the articles published in Reader's Digest have been sources of inspiration for multiple generations. Their publication of real life stories about the courage and heroism of people in times of natural calamity and man-made disaster has won the magazine many accolades.
49 of the 52 international editions of the digest are controlled directly from the magazine's US office and carry stories approved by the editors from this office. Each of these editions tends to carry only 2-3 stories that are local to the country. The idea behind this is the creation of a magazine that does justice to the many different regions of the world in terms of stories published.