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Faced with floods of what was variously called “cheap literature,” “popular literature,” and “reading for the million,” a cohort of Victorian commentators adopted a surprisingly consistent response to examining such printed materials: random selection. This preferred mode of arbitrariness resonates with contemporary concerns about the profusion and access of electronic materials. By noting recent praise for random access and the serendipity of the database, we see in reactions to Victorian popular literature a compelling attention to such contingencies. These writings offer critical analogs for the study of Victorian new media in the new media of our own.