Long live radical publishing
Andre Schiffrin is overly pessimistic in the profile published in the 29th October issue of The Bookseller.
I have been publishing 'radical books' as long as Schiffrin (since the mid-1970s), perhaps more than he at the sharp cash flow end. Andre's deep pessimism that small publishers need to be subsidized either by well wishers, in the New press model, or by the state in the Norwegian model is so poorly thought out, that his ideas need a repost.
Radical publishers like all publishers great and small face external threats of the new technology, the world recession and other threats of a lesser kind. Ever since I began in this world, the technology has been changing rapidly, who remembers now the air mail letter than took two weeks to arrive and another 2 weeks to come back. Blissful days perhaps.
What Schiffrin fails to notice is the domestic framework in which the publishing world exists. In the US and UK we are still in the neo-liberal framework where big is best—typified by the ongoing march of Tesco, as the supermarket chain mops up the high street of small traders. In small countries, Norway, Austrlia and Canada, for example, they rightly support their indigenous publishers. In large countries where neo-liberalism is supreme, this is impossible. In such an atmosphere, of course the big houses will go for roller-coasters and the glib. The neo-liberal framework destroys the small, unless you are specialised and then the juggernauts will not touch you.
There is our opportunity, Schiffrin did you not notice?
Small houses that specialise, and face the head winds of the multiple crises of our world, and publish into these forces will provide answers that the rest of the bunch cannot even begin to grapple with. Look at the Pluto list to see what I mean.
We don't need well wishers as a necessity, although we welcome those that come to our door. We don't ask for government subsides, as that won't happen. We learn the tricks and movements of capital and technology, so we can move with the best of them.
We send our senior staff to business schools and on to MA courses in digital, so we can look positively at the important contribution we can make and how we can sell our books on all forums successfully.