Book Clubs

Posted in brought by juliobesq on August 1, 2009


Book clubs — not the reading sort, rather the publishing sort…

As the industrialised world turns digital one of the few media realms so far unaffected from the assault of file sharing programs is book publishing. But it is not immune to the vagaries of the recession.

In May Salt Publishing launched it’s JustOneBook campaign with the news that with the curtailment of the Arts Council funding it would close it’s doors unless it could sell enough books in the coming month to pay its debts back. Banks when they fail to make good business decisions get bailed with out tax money, publishers do not. And why should they you may ask? They shouldn’t, however they should be supported with all our heart when they put out consistently great titles, beautifully packaged and most importantly: harbour an adventurous oeuvre.

Book sales may be slowly climbing unlike it’s counterparts in the film and music trades, but with major book shop chains using their weight to batter down profit margins it is leading publishers to a homogeneous critique; best sellers only please. Salt take a gamble, putting out books they think are great, you know this is true when you see the volume of poetry titles they publish ( – hardly a genre to bring you riches. Did I buy just one book? No.

And the answer’s not I brought two or similar punch line. (I once ran a record label which in the space of a few releases lost all our profit in producing gorgeous sleeves, distributing CDs for the cost of postage only and giving away tracks by our most famous artist as free mp3s, so I know something of producing things you love against commercial constraints). The reason I didn’t respond to the campaign is that I was already signed up to their book club. 

For a flat fee of £40 you can join The Story Bank and receive over the course of the year four short story titles, 30% discount of any other books and a free copy of David Gaffney’s “Sawn-off Tales”. Do it now:

I have mentioned before I owe a debt to Gaffney in giving me the faith to send my one paragraph tiny fictions to literary magazines. It isn’t just this reason that I bring up the Just One Book campaign now: Salt have announced that all there titles are now available through The Book Depository.

Most people seem to have forgiven Amazon over their quiet censuring of gay and adult tiles (, I personally still find it a source of some concern, especially in light of the recent spate of other stories relating to Amazon’s heavy handed business negotiations:

The Disappearing Buy It Now Button

The BookSurge publishing threat

Amazon shrinking publisher profits with The Kindle

Amazon deleting content from your Kindle

The last story is perhaps testament to why a physical book may remain impervious to the digital realm a little longer, apart from being a thing of beauty to hold forever. I still buy from Amazon of course, at the end of the day the recession gets to us all and a cheap price is not to be sneered at, but allowing a single corporation to monopolise distribution is not a good idea. So now for the good news…

The Book Depository is as cheap as Amazon if not cheaper and postage is free worldwide. To celebrate I’m buying myself a copy of Nuala Ni Chonchúir’s “Nude”. May I also recommend Richard Bardsley’s “Body Parts”. I want Salt to be around to publish me or the poet Anne Baker so go on, buy one book.

To finish off with some symmetry… waiting for the plane on last year’s holiday I picked up a copy of Route Publishing’s “Ideas above our station” as it featured a short story by Sophie Hannah, who writes poetry alongside chilling tales of psychopaths, and found in the back details of Route’s book club. I joined, and today on the beach a year later I read the copy of “Born in the 1980s” I received via the club, thoroughly enjoyable (vote for it at the People’s Book Prize once you’ve brought your copy), and as a bit of icing featured a story by Chris Kellen whose blog of sardonic ennui I read. No sign of the book club on Route’s site which is a shame, so best join Salt’s before it too disappears. (Did I mention I got a handwritten note with my first arrival, is that not worth joining for alone?)

Reading on the beach means I should be entitled to make some awful pun about salt, sea and sand, but I wont.

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