Digital start-ups swell IPG membership

Eighty publishers have joined the Independent Publishers Guild this year, with digital companies as well as more traditional publishers coming under the trade body's umbrella.

IPG chief executive Bridget Shine said the development followed a strong year in 2010, when 75 new members joined. She described the joining members as a combination of established independents—such as Usborne, Thames & Hudson, W W Norton and Lion Hudson—and newly established indies, including And Other Stories. The IPG currently has 560 members.

Shine said the independent sector is changing all the time, reflecting the difficult financial environment, as former IPG members such as Continuum and Earthscan are acquired by larger players such as Bloomsbury and Taylor & Francis, and previous members rejoin after job changes as part of newly formed start-ups.

IPG chairman Robin Wood added: "Every year it tends to be a mixture of new start-ups, and these include people who are just thinking about setting up, and people who are quite small and then realise they are up against these big challenges." He added: "I think it's an exciting time, I think there are fantastic opportunities. The IPG benefits from the enthusiasm of new members coming in that we want to support."

On the digital companies, such as FDigital, joining the IPG, Wood said: "Being an IPG member is not dependent on being a book publisher. It is creativity and a certain amount of entrepreneurial spirit that gets you started in publishing, and that is regardless of platform."

Stefan Tobler, m.d. of And Other Stories, which published its first titles in 2011 and operates under a subscription-based business model, said it "made a lot of sense" to join the IPG, because it can provide a bigger voice for smaller publishers, getting concerns noticed by larger players.

Tobler added that the tough economic climate does provide opportunities for independent publishers to establish a foothold: "My impression is that publishing literary fiction has never been easy or a sure-fire way of making money. In some ways it does provide an opportunity starting in a recession, as people's expectations are perhaps more realistic. We can provide the advances that people are expecting at the moment."