Friday, January 01, 2021

Spirit of independence

Let's start the new year with a good news story.

Back in May, when the effects of the first lockdown were already being felt, 60 per cent of small independent publishers were concerned that they would be out of business by the autumn, highlighting the crucial role of booksellers and literary festivals in their fortunes. But, against the odds and through a combination of innovative initiatives, emergency funding, crowdfunders, public support and sheer perseverance and hard work, most have survived - and some, such as Hebden Bridge-based Bluemoose, have actually thrived. With another lockdown now in place, though, there's no room for complacency and indie presses continue to operate in incredibly challenging conditions.

At least the publishing industry can count on the support of an unlikely evangelist for the joys of books. East 17's Tony Mortimer had never actually finished a novel until last year - but once he started reading, he told the Guardian's Tim Jonze, he just couldn't stop. Mortimer sees reading fiction as "pure escapism" - something that many of us, having got through 2020 by burying our noses in books, can well understand.

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