In the 20th century there have been three main American publishers of popular electronics books and magazines. All were founded by individuals who published material that bridged the hobbyist-technician-engineer gap:
1. John F. Rider
2. Howard W. Sams
3. Hugo Gernsbach
I won't recount the history of each here except to say that the first two published reverse-engineered consumer electronics circuit diagrams for radio-TV repair shops. These shops were plentiful in my youth (the 1960s) but have since gone away in the US (and presumably also in Britain) as low-cost Asian consumer electronics has dominated the marketplace. With throw-away electronics and surface-mount parts, repair is no longer in vogue. Gernsbach published Popular Electronics and other widely-circulated hobbyist and radio amateur electronics magazines in the US.
All three published paperback books on basic electronics theory that were intended for those interested in electronics over a wide range of skill levels, from hobbyists to technicians and even engineers. They were sometimes light (pre-technician) and were rarely deep into engineering (rarely invoking the s-domain). A wide range of people interested in electronics could pull something out of them. They were also artistically illustrated, and the illustrations drove the text rather than the other way around - a storyboard format that script-writers use. Perhaps a resurgence of these kinds of books is possible. Netherlands-based Elektor sells them in Europe. Sadly, interested youth would have a hard time today finding this kind of literature in the local neighborhood grocery stores. The last time I was in the United States (a decade ago) I found no electronics magazines on the racks. There was marketing-oriented user-level electronics for mass consumption but not technical material with circuit diagrams - not even Nuts and Volts.
The Web has replaced the magazine racks in the local stores. There is much superficial technical information on the Web and it takes some searching to find good websites. Few, if any, provide the quality and extent of content found in books or even single issues of some magazines. Books are also available through the Web, though it is difficult to gain any real appreciation over the Web for their content. America’s largest new and used technical bookstore, until its recent absorption into the main store, was Powell’s Technical Bookstore in Portland, Oregon, a convenient location for those in the Silicon Forest of Tektronix, ESI, Intel, Audio Precision, Mentor Graphics, OECO, and other electronics companies in the area.
Perusing the Web cannot match the experience of standing for hours among row after row of interesting engineering books, perusing them and occasionally becoming deeply absorbed in their pages. One might enter the store in bright daylight and eventually leave in the dark with a box of purchased and give-away books, wondering where the car was parked and whether it would have a parking ticket on it. The occasional trip to the bookstore would result in a great intellectual boost at modest financial impoverishment. Engineers have been known to spend hundreds of dollars per visit. The unmarried engineer who persists among the shelves too long might also incur the additional cost of dinner in town. The vast personal libraries of some engineers can even hamper their move to a different house.
After World War II, technician training literature of the U.S. Navy found its way into general circulation through John F. Rider, by 1955 a division of Hayden Publishing Company. Rider published a Basic Electronics series as used by Navy specialty schools. The nondescript author was a corporation: Van Valkenburgh, Nooger, and Neville, Inc. Volume 4, for instance, covers transmitters, class-C amplifiers, frequency multipliers, transmission lines, antennas, and CW and AM modulation. The pages are about half text, half black-and-white illustrations, drawn navy-style. An example is shown below from Volume 4, No. 170-4, pages 4-68, 4-69.)