Monday, May 25, 2020

Read it and weep

The observation, in this article on small-scale radical presses, that "the current crisis in publishing is not in itself a publishing crisis - yet - it is a crisis of distribution" chimes with my own anecdotal evidence from within academic journal publishing. While coronavirus is undoubtedly affecting submission rates, the peer review process, turnaround times and modes of production, its biggest impact is currently on means of delivery. Unable to guarantee that hard copies will be reliably transported and safely received at institutional and academic addresses, some publishers have taken the understandable decision to stop printing.

At a time when many people are consuming far more books than they normally would, radical publishers - described by the article's author John Merrick as "in many ways the cultural and intellectual lifeblood of the industry" - are experiencing a dramatic drop in sales. The hope for such publishers, and academic publishers generally, is that a recovery will come when distribution improves and bookshops and universities reopen for business. But, of course, that depends on there still being a market - and, with higher education institutions staring financial meltdown in the face, and budgets likely to be slashed and numbers of students and staff both reduced, it's hard to see where salvation will come from.

Merrick argues for the need for internal cultural change as well as external intervention, concluding that "the coming few months will be decisive for the future of the book trade". The signs don't look good.

(Thanks to Craig for the link.)

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