The New Yorker talks Amazon

“Amazon has successfully fostered the idea that a book is a thing of minimal value—it’s a widget.” – Dennis Johnson

George Packer presented an interesting, in-depth look at books in the era of Amazon in the February 17th installment of The New Yorker, urging readers to consider this important question: Amazon may be good for customers, but is it good for books? Read the full article here.

Announcement – Broadview Press/Freehand Books Management Roles

Broadview Press/Freehand Books is pleased to announce a shift in management roles for the new year. Effective this week, Leslie Dema assumes the position of President, taking over from Don LePan. Leslie, who has been the company’s Vice President since 2011, holds an MA in Philosophy from the University of Guelph; she held the position of Sales Manager before becoming Vice President.

Don, who founded the company in 1985 and has been president for most of its history, will continue to work full time for Broadview, acting as CEO and as the general editor of The Broadview Anthology of British Literature. (His new title is CEO and Company Founder.)

The shift in management roles does not signal any change in policy or direction for Broadview; we look forward to continuing and extending the company’s traditions of excellence—and to continued good relations with our authors and our customers.

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Broadview Press is an independent academic publisher in the humanities. Based in Canada, the company is internationally oriented, both in its publishing program and in its approach to marketing; Broadview employs more than 25 people across Canada, and has sales representation around the world. Founded in 1985, Broadview now publishes over 40 titles per year and has annual sales of more than $3,000,000.

Freehand Books, Broadview’s Calgary-based literary wing, was founded in 2008 to publish new works of fiction, poetry, and literary non-fiction. It currently publishes 4 titles per year.

 

The Value of Poetry

I’m writing this time about poetry. To my mind, one of the most unfortunate trends of recent years is the decline in poetry sales for university and college courses. (Yes, I do have Broadview’s interests at heart here, but it’s more than that—really!) Increasingly, instructors have turned away from assigning anthologies of poetry or individual volumes of poetry for their students, and turned instead to course-packs or online readings for the poetry component of their courses. That’s an understandable move; most books of poetry (both anthologies and single-author volumes) have become more expensive, and students sometimes complain if their assigned reading totals only a small percentage of a full volume. But the result, sadly, is a vicious cycle. Publishers face larger unit costs on lower print runs and this increases prices further, making instructors ever more reluctant to assign poetry in bound book form to their students.

That might not be such a bad thing were it not for the implicit message it can send about different sorts of literature. If, as often happens, novels for a course are assigned in handsome editions while the course’s poetry component consists of an unattractive little course-pack of grainy photocopies, the implicit message is clear: poetry is not something that one might consider keeping on one’s shelf at home and pulling down from time to time (as I have countless times over the years with The Broadview Anthology of Poetry), reacquainting oneself with old favorites and discovering new ones; poetry is not something one would ever read for pleasure; poetry just isn’t of much importance.

It strikes me as particularly ironic that we so often send that implicit message about the reading of poetry to students even as the expansion of creative writing classes implicitly places an ever-higher value on the writing of poetry.

We at Broadview would like to send a different message about the reading of poetry. Already we’ve made it a policy to price The Broadview Anthology of Poetry very reasonably. Whereas most other poetry anthologies of comparable size are priced these days at $70 or more, the original edition of the Broadview is currently priced at $42.95, while the second edition* is priced at $49.95. For 2014 we’re going to make those prices even more reasonable—bringing them to $24.95 for the original edition, and to $29.95 for the second edition. We want to break the cycle. In business terms, we want to be able to sell enough copies to allow us to keep reprinting in large quantities, thereby achieving economies of scale such that we’ll be able to keep prices reasonable in the future. In cultural and pedagogical terms, odd as it may sound, we’re lowering prices in the hope that this will lead to poetry being valued more highly.

We will also be setting low prices on some individual poetry volumes, including Robert Browning’s The Ring and the Book; our editions of selected poems by Anna Letitia Barbauld, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Letitia Landon, and Augusta Webster; and, from our Freehand Books list, Jeannette Lynes’ It’s Hard Being Queen and Ian Williams’ acclaimed Personals (short-listed this past year for the Griffin Poetry Prize).

If you’d like to receive a complimentary electronic copy** of any of these titles (or of other Broadview titles you think might fit your courses), please email us at examcopies@broadviewpress.com.

Don  LePan
CEO and Company Founder

*for copyright reasons available only in Canada.

** If after you’ve had a chance to look through a complimentary e-copy you decide you would indeed like to choose that book as a text for one of your courses, we will of course be happy to send a complimentary copy of the bound book, too.

The Dawn of Ebooks

kingIn 1999, the development of the Open eBook (OeB) format—which would later become the EPUB format—was the first step in moving publishing into a digital age. Early e-readers such as the Rocket Ebook and the Softbook were issued, and publishers began implementing systems of digital production. In 2000, Stephen King became the first author to publish a work that was available solely in electronic format; his novel Riding the Bullet is still considered a landmark of digital publishing.

Despite the industry’s initial enthusiasm, it was nearly a decade before the technology was in place to truly support digital readership. The improvement of wireless networks, the growing popularity of smartphones, and the prominence of online retailers such as Amazon and Barnes and Noble in the late 2000s contributed to a new generation of readers that were digitally conscious and technically savvy; people now had the tools and the skill set to greet the dawn of ebooks and e-readers with new enthusiasm.

To read more on the development of ebooks and on digital publishing, see Chapter Four: Modern Times: From Paperback to e-Books, in Solveig Robinson’s The Book in Society.

 

The Linotype and the Mechanization of Typesetting

linotypeThe invention of the typewriter in the 1860s spurred a fervent interest in speed, legibility, and precision among writers and publishers alike. As individual writers experienced the various advantages of typescript over a handwritten manuscript, printing houses began looking for ways to replicate the efficiency of the keyboard in large-scale printing practices. An increasingly mechanical age called for systems of production that could turn out a high quantity of high-quality books with minimal physical effort.

Early experimentation with keyboard-driven typesetting involved releasing cast type from large font storage bins into “composing sticks,” which would make the impression and then release the type. Type produced this way was often inaccurately aligned, and this method still required the labour-intensive process of collecting and sorting type once a printing job was complete. These problems were solved with the development of “hot metal composing.” A keyboard was used to produce letters one at a time throughout the typesetting process; when a particular key was selected, a brand new piece of type would be cast and sent into the composing stick, thereby creating new type and fresh impressions for each new project. This process of hot metal composing was the concept behind the first commercially successful typesetting machine: the Linotype, invented by Ottmar Mergenthaler in 1886.

To read more on the Linotype and on early typesetting procedures, see Chapter Three: The Printing Revolution, in Solveig Robinson’s The Book in Society.

 

Encyclopédie and the Enlightenment

encycDenis Diderot and Jean le Rond d’Alembert’s Encyclopédie was a landmark publication of the 18th century, both in terms of its scope and its distribution. Although the encyclopedia had existed as a genre for centuries prior (one of the most notable contributions being Pliny the Elder’s Natural History in 77 CE), the scale of the Encyclopédie was unprecedented, encompassing twenty-eight volumes, over 3000 illustrations, and scholarly articles from renowned contributors such as Voltaire and Rousseau.

The project captured the Enlightenment’s devotion to knowledge and inquiry and was a milestone in the movement toward a modern age of secular scholarship; in d’Alembert’s words, the Encyclopédie was a “genealogical tree of the arts and sciences,” an ode to achievements and discoveries in history, mathematics, science, and the arts. Just as impressive as its intellectual breadth was the enormous undertaking of printing the Encyclopédie, which reached full publication in 1780 with a print run of 4000 copies—an impressive number in the world of eighteenth-century publishing.

To read more about early publishing projects, see Chapter Three: The Printing Revolution in Solveig Robinson’s The Book in Society.

 

Type Design and the Development of Fonts

fontsGaramond. Caslon. Baskerville. Bodoni. These names have survived as widely known font types, but their origins go back as early as the 16th century when the expansion of printing and readership called for the development and evolution of type design. Claude Garamond was the first to combine popular roman and italic fonts that were established throughout the 1400s. The balanced look and legibility of Garamond’s type led his design to become the most popular secular typeface for both English and French printing during the Renaissance; in 1541, it became the official font of the French Royal Printing Office. By the 1700s, English engraver William Caslon, working from Garamond’s established roman typeface, developed a slightly shorter and more rounded font that gained much popularity throughout the American colonies. The printed version of the Declaration of Independence features the Caslon font.

With the onset of industrialism, English printer John Baskerville and Italian designer Giambattista Bodoni became leaders in bringing font styles into a mechanical age, moving away from designs that were largely inspired by letters as they appeared on ink and paper. Thin strokes, vertical lines, and precise margins became the distinguishing features of the Baskerville and Bodoni fonts and of modern printing.

Author Solveig Robinson discusses the development of fonts and type design at length in Chapter Three: The Printing Revolution. For more on The Book in Society, please click here.

Deciphering Early Script: The Rosetta Stone

Rosetta StoneWe know it now as a popular program for learning languages like French, Spanish, or Italian, but the original Rosetta Stone was the key to unlocking the meaning of early hieroglyphic inscriptions. In 1799, after centuries of misinterpreting the Egyptian writing system, French soldiers came across a stone located in the Egyptian city of Rosetta; the stone featured a decree written in Greek as well as in demotic and hieroglyphic. By first deciphering the Greek script, several scholars were eventually able to determine the words and names represented by the accompanying hieroglyphic symbols. By 1822, accomplished linguist Jean-Francois Champollion, working from copies of the inscriptions on the Rosetta stone, had made the discovery that hieroglyphics could be read phonetically—and there began the study of modern Egyptology.

This topic is discussed at length in Chapter One: Origins of Solveig Robinson’s newly published The Book in Society.

 

From Print to Digital: Broadview Ebooks

Erich MulhallOne of Broadview’s Digital Assistants proofing an EPUB file.

Several years ago now, we at Broadview decided it was time to begin offering ebooks; as reading preferences became more and more diverse, it became increasingly important that our content be available electronically to meet the changing needs of our readership. Because our books are primarily used as course texts, we knew that it was important to offer them as both PDF files and as EPUB files, as these formats provide different advantages for the classroom. PDFs offer students and professors an electronic version that is in a fixed layout, similar to the print book, and that retains the page numbers and formatting of the printed text; EPUBs offer different advantages: texts are reflowable and adapt to the screen size and functionality of different devices, making them easy to use with a wide range of technologies. EPUBs also allow for greater interactivity and a wider range of features to support learning, including dictionaries, note-taking, highlighting, linked endnotes, and hyperlinks to live web sources.

While we already had most of our titles in PDF format, we needed to send our files to a third-party conversion house to have them converted into EPUB files. With the generous support of the Ontario Media Development Corporation over the last two years, we have converted over 300 of our titles to EPUB so far, sending PDFs out for conversion, receiving the new files, and then putting each EPUB through a rigorous correction process. Our books present us with fascinating editorial challenges as we convert them: our extensive footnotes, glossing, and equations have all stretched the EPUB format to its limits, and we have had to use some creative strategies to shape our content to this new medium. Once a file is complete, we then upload it to our website and to Google Play, where it is available for purchase and download.

Broadview is pleased to offer a wide selection of our catalogue in both EPUB and PDF formats; as reading preferences change, and as classrooms and learning communities evolve, it is important to us that students and professors have access to high-quality electronic versions of our editions and textbooks.

Please click here for more information on Broadview ebooks.
Our ebooks are available on our website: www.broadviewpress.com.