In the 19th century, books were still very expensive and a privilege only the mid- and upper classes could afford. But there were alternatives for the working class. Penny dreadfuls (originally called penny bloods ) were immensely popular in the United Kingdom that were first published in the 1830s. They were printed on cheap wood pulp paper and typically were eight pages. The text was divided in two columns and often accompanied by illustrations. The penny dreadfuls were serial literature, as it was common in that time (Charles Dickens, for example, published his books on serial basis as well, but the magazines he wrote for were much more expensive), Pages were filled, which meant it often happened that the last page ended with a half-sentence - and the reader had to wait a week to be able to continue reading.
The name of these prints is self-explaining: they cost a penny, and typically had sensational topics such as crime, ghosts of the supernatural. Popular stories that first appeared as a penny dreadful were Sweeney Todd or Varney the Vampire. The most popular series was written by George W. M. Reynolds, who drew his inspiration from the London slums. His Mysteries of London took a time span of 12 subsequent years; 624 numbers were published, selling up to 250,000 copies a week.
See more at British Library.