Big Books Intro
Doing it Yourselves
Big Books Issue 2010
Published: September 15, 2010
Newsflash: The publishing world is having a rough go of it. You might have read something about this if you’ve paid attention to newspapers for the past, well, decade at least. And depending on what newspapers you paid attention to, this fraught publishing situation portends the end of a literate and informed society, the dawn of a new communications age that doesn’t rely on cutting down trees to make reams and reams of paper, or something in between. It’s too early to tell, you see, so we might as well speculate wildly.
The thing is, it’s not so much that the publishing world at large is on the verge of collapse, more that it’s changing at a rapid pace—and sometimes big businesses can be slow to change. At the smaller level, though, new books by interesting writers are being published—and it’s becoming more viable and convenient to do so outside of the traditional books publishing model. The past five years have witnessed a relative boom in indie/DIY/self-publishing, as web sites, blogs, and micro publishing houses—such as the Baltimore-based Adam Robinson’s Publishing Genius—have not only helped create an indie-publishing network, but are putting out quality work. Like underground music reacting to the major label dominance of the production and distribution of music in the 1980s, independent-minded publishers and writers are seeking to create their own businesses and infrastructures to get their creations into the hands of readers.
This year’s Books issue tries to focus on a few local aspects of that emergent and active community. Heather Harris profiles CityLit Project founder Gregg Wilhelm’s new CityPress publishing efforts. Rachel Monroe explores how publishers and authors are using print-on-demand (POD) as a distribution model. And Felicia Pride checks in with former Baltimorean Jamilah Barnes Creekmur, who turned to self-publishing for her debut memoir.
Of course, today’s DIY publishing models aren’t all that new and different. W. Paul Coates has used POD technology for his locally based Black Classics Press for years, and as long as publishing houses have been rejecting writers, underground independent publishing houses have been accepting them. These days, though, they’re competing with many other forms of media and even the emerging digital-printing industry, which, although practically brand new, is gathering momentum at a rapid pace. How this will all play out remains to be seen, of course, but as long as people want to use language to communicate, it’s difficult to imagine a world in which the book doesn’t exist.