Tuesday, 1 July 2008

the small press squeeze

On one of the British poetry lists Ken Edwards notes some of the problems faced by a small press and the advantages and disadvantages of print-on-demand technology. The advantages are well enough known by now. Once the initial costs (the technology) are covered, the press doesn’t have to worry about housing back stock or dealing with bookshops on the usual sale or return basis. The major disadvantage is that bookshops won’t (generally) stock POD titles and the mass media won’t review them. It’s all down to the web and word-of-mouth. Amazon will supply POD titles (though the firm has been making threatening noises lately about publishers having to use its in-house printers). Meanwhile even good independent distributors like SPD make it uneconomic for non-American small presses to use their services. I am an inveterate buyer of books who will chase something up on the web where necessary, though I also make considerable use of bookshops. In London, places like Foyles and the London Review of Books store have sizeable poetry sections, though the titles are often weighted towards the conservative end of the spectrum. I was pleasantly surprised to pick up a copy of Jackson MacLow’s New and Selected Works (at the LRB shop) recently. This was however, a U. Cal title. In these shops and most of the good ones I know small presses need not apply (the only place I can think of that still stocks books like this is Melbourne’s Collected Works). I know my Sydney friends at Gleebooks (another good place) won’t approve of my use of Amazon and such sources but it’s not as though I have any real choice.

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