Byron C. Preiss
Byron Preiss, photographed in 2000
Byron Preiss, photographed in 2000
Born(1953-04-11)April 11, 1953
Brooklyn, New York City, U.S.
DiedJuly 9, 2005(2005-07-09) (aged 52)
East Hampton, New York, U.S.
OccupationWriter, editor, publisher
Alma materUniversity of Pennsylvania
Stanford University
GenreFantasy, illustrated novels, audiobooks, digital publishing
Notable worksThe Words of Gandhi
Notable awardsInkpot Award (1977)[1]
SpouseSandi Mendelson

Byron Preiss (April 11, 1953 – July 9, 2005)[2] was an American writer, editor, and publisher. He founded and served as president of Byron Preiss Visual Publications, and later of ibooks Inc. Many of his projects were in the forms of graphic novels, comics, illustrated books, and children's books. Beyond traditional printed books, Preiss frequently embraced emerging technologies, and was recognized as a pioneer in digital publishing and as among the first to publish in such formats as CD-ROM books and ebooks.[3]


Early life and career

A native of Brooklyn, New York City, Byron Preiss graduated magna cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania in 1972,[3] and earned a master's degree in communications from Stanford University.[3]

In 1971, while Preiss was teaching at a Philadelphia elementary school, he conceived, and with Jim Steranko, produced an anti-drug comic book, The Block, designed for low-level reading skills. Published by Steranko's company, Supergraphics, it was distributed to schools nationwide.[4]

He founded Byron Preiss Visual Publications in 1974[citation needed] to publish original works, including Weird Heroes (1975). His 1976 Fiction Illustrated series of illustrated novels began with Schlomo Raven: Public Detective, a Preiss collaboration with Tom Sutton; followed by Starfawn, illustrated by Stephen Fabian; Steranko's Chandler: Red Tide; and the 1977 Son of Sherlock Holmes, illustrated by Ralph Reese. Other publications included a 1978 adaptation of Alfred Bester's The Stars My Destination as a two-volume graphic novel, illustrated by Howard Chaykin.

Publishing career

As a book packager, he developed titles for such publishers as HarperCollins and Random House. One such project, created in conjunction with the Bank Street College of Education, resulted in a series of educational comic books adapting well-known genre authors: The Bank Street Book of Creepy Tales, The Bank Street Book of Fantasy, The Bank Street Book of Mystery and The Bank Street Book of Science Fiction.[5]

He published children's books by celebrities, including Billy Crystal, Jane Goodall, Jay Leno, LeAnn Rimes and Jerry Seinfeld, and worked closely with such established illustrators as Ralph Reese, William Stout and Tom Sutton.[citation needed]

Preiss was co-author, with Michael Reaves, of the children's novel Dragonworld (Doubleday, 1979), with 80 illustrations by Joseph Zucker. Dragonworld was originally planned to be the fifth Fiction Illustrated title.[citation needed]

In 1982, Preiss published The Secret, a puzzle book that combined 12 short verses and 12 elaborate fantasy paintings by John Jude Palencar. Readers were expected to pair each painting with a verse in a way that would provide clues to finding one of 12 plexiglass boxes buried in various parks around North America. Each box contained a ceramic box that contained a key that could be redeemed for a jewel worth $1,000. The book was inspired by the success of Masquerade, written and illustrated by Kit Williams and published in England in August 1979, but The Secret never led to the same level of treasure hunting frenzy. One of the ceramic boxes was found in Chicago in 1983, one in Cleveland in 2004, and one in Boston in October 2019.[6] The remaining nine boxes have yet to be found,[7] and reportedly Preiss was the only one who knew where they were when he died.[6]

He edited the recording of the audiobook The Words of Gandhi, released by Caedmon in 1984 and narrated by Ben Kingsley[8] who won a Grammy Award in the category of Best Spoken Word or Non-Musical Recording for the work.[9]

Later life and death

Preiss was married to Sandi Mendelson, with whom he had daughters Karah and Blaire.[10] On July 9, 2005, he died in a traffic accident at East Hampton, New York, on Long Island.[3] Both Byron Preiss Visual Publications and ibooks Inc. filed for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy on February 22, 2006, after his death.[11]

List of Byron Preiss publications

Published by Preiss, or packaged by Preiss for other publishers

This list is incomplete; you can help by adding missing items. (August 2008)
Vol. 1 (ISBN 0-515-03746-X) to Vol. 8 (ISBN 0-515-04257-9); collections of illustrated, pulp-inspired stories


Dragonworld, the illustrated children's novel by Byron Preiss and Michael Reaves, was published in several editions from 1979 to 2005:

Further reading


  1. ^ Inkpot Award
  2. ^ Byron Preiss at the Social Security Death Index via Retrieved on May 20, 2014. Archived from the original on May 20, 2014.
  3. ^ a b c d "Byron Preiss, 52, Digital Publishing Pioneer, Dies". The New York Times. July 11, 2005. Archived from the original on June 6, 2022.
  4. ^ Steranko, Jim (July 10, 2005). "Comics Loses One of its Major Visionaries: Byron Preiss". Archived from the original on January 9, 2006. Additional , June 20, 2011.
  5. ^ "Babylon Gardens to Battlestar Galactica: Armageddon". The Locus Index to Science Fiction: 1984–1998. Archived from the original on December 28, 2012. Retrieved 2014-05-20.
  6. ^ a b Hidden treasure, a family's quest, and "The Secret"
  7. ^ "The Secret". Retrieved February 22, 2019.
  8. ^ The Words of Gandhi in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
  9. ^ "1984 Grammy Winners: 27th Annual GRAMMY Awards". Retrieved January 4, 2021.
  10. ^ "Preiss Was Influential Publishing Figure". Publishers Weekly. July 11, 2005. Archived from the original on January 5, 2006.
  11. ^ "ibooks & Byron Preiss Visual Publications File Chapter 7; Creditors Confab Set for Apr. 4". February 24, 2006. Archived from the original on June 11, 2011.