Tag: publishers

On Trigger Warnings [in books]

Warnings about content that may trigger the recall of a previous traumatic experience, known as ‘trigger warnings’, originated on feminist websites, before spreading to other areas, such as print media like books, and university courses. Consideration of trigger warnings in academia had only just begun when I left my position as a university lecturer, but it is a discussion I have followed with interest since.

It’s a debate sparked by intellectual and artistic considerations on one side, and emotional considerations on the other. But how can readers, writers and teachers navigate the field of trigger warnings, and make decisions that best support mental health, academic integrity, and creative freedom?

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Writers, Readers, Publishers and Social Media

Authors are often advised social media is ‘key’ to success. But very rarely is any evidence provided to back up this assertion.

Back in 2014, Book Business Magazine reported that 68% of publishing industry insiders identified social media as the marketing platform with the most future. Just two years later, their 2016 article questioned how this has panned out.

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Why Does Garbage Get Published? Profits vs. value

Corporations may not have a legal obligation to maximise shareholder profits. But the belief that they must do everything (within the law) to make money is certainly widespread. Of the ‘Big Five’ publishers, four are public companies. Regardless of their legal obligations, they must keep their shareholders happy. And shareholders are usually made happy through a) increased share price, b) fat dividends or c) a combination of the above.

Smart investors, of course, are those who are in it for the long-term. Who want any increase in share price to be one which reflects an increase in the value of the underlying company. Who want any increase in dividends to reflect an increase in the company’s profits.

‘Surely, increased share prices are good?’ I hear you say. Or, ‘Who wouldn’t want to receive a nice big dividend?’ The answer is responsible investors. Those who care about the company they invest in. Who want it to continue running into the future. Who want its products to remain available. Its employees to remain in jobs. And, of course, to receive sustainable profits from the company themselves.

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Why the Big Five Publishers are a Big Deal

Recently, I was in Germany, and decided to browse Project Gutenberg. A site named after one of the most important publishers in history.

For those who don’t know, Project Gutenberg is a wonderful repository of books in the public domain. The site takes its name from the famed German inventor, printer, and publisher. Johannes Gutenberg introduced printing, and more important still, movable type, to Europe. This kickstarted the printing revolution of the 1400s. His innovations enabled mass production, laying the groundwork for a knowledge-based economy. Learning spread to the masses, democratizing education.

It thus seems appropriate to name a website devoted to taking advantage of new technology to spread knowledge after this influential German publisher.

But when I tried browsing the site in Germany, I did not see the familiar sepia tones of the Project Gutenberg home page. Instead, I saw big red letters. ‘Your IP Address in Germany is Blocked’.

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How Many Publishers Are There, Really?

Most English-language books are published by one of just five publishers.

‘Ha!’ I hear you say – ‘I can name more publishers than that!’

If you’re a book lover, chances are you’re familiar with some of the major names and even logos of publishers. And you’d be right to think that there are far more publishing houses than just five.

But the fact is, the vast majority of these ‘publishers’ are actually just ‘imprints’ of larger publishers. They’ve been bought or merged into the ‘Big Five’. (Until Penguin and Random House merged, it used to be the ‘Big Six’.) How long will it be before there’s the ‘Big Four’? The ‘Big Three’? The ‘Big Two’, or even just the ‘Big One’?

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