‘Enlivening the culture of the printed word’ – Pluto’s Anne Beech on radical publishing today

An event at Housmans bookshop in London

Writing in the latest edition of Stir magazine, Anne Beech, managing director of Pluto Press, offers her personal perspective on the role of radical publishing today. Commenting on the explosion of information and comment made available by the internet, Beech argues that radical publishers can play a vital role in promoting the voices which have something of real value to say:

I would argue that the sheer volume of that all-pervasive communications ‘traffic’ nowadays, whether on blogs, ebooks, email, whatever, threatens to drown out the prospect of real communication. It certainly makes it harder to hear the voices that deserve to be heard, and that we need to hear. The voices that can make a difference. It’s a curious irony that, as ‘communication’ becomes ever easier, we run the risk of hearing and learning less and less.

This, I argue, is where a publisher can make a difference, and where radical publishers can and should help to sustain and enliven the culture of the printed word — whether on a tablet, in an ebook or online. Certainly, publishing is undergoing a period of immense change, but to say that publishing itself is no longer relevant, or has no future, is quite literally to confuse the medium with the message. What we publish is the point — not how.

Words, arguments, ideas need the space — the luxury, if you like — of a studied, fixed, linear form (at the moment, mostly, the ‘printed’ page, however it is delivered) to allow a reader to absorb and engage with the ideas those words express — and even to disagree with them.

Beech also argues that building strong connections between radical publishers and booksellers will be vital for the future success of both:

Nik’s [from Housmans bookshop] comments about the the importance, for radical booksellers, of a physical space embodied in a bricks and mortar bookshop, providing a focus around which communities and campaigns could literally coalesce, rang very true. For publishers, those same bookshops showcase our wares in a way that online retailers never can — but we all have to work together to ensure that those showcases remain open. There is an unbreakable symbiosis between radical booksellers and publishers that becomes more important, not less, in the twenty-first century, which is why the new initiatives forging closer links between radical publishers and booksellers are so important. At a time when the major high street book-selling chains are almost moribund, learning to love your local indie bookseller may be one way of ensuring you have a bookshop of any sort to go to.

Visit Stir to read the article in full.

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