City Spotlight: Book Publishing in Boston
In many ways, Boston's publishing industry is a mirror on the iconic city. Though relatively small, the city and its publishing are known for history; for being a center for academics, thought and innovation; and for being a hub of independence and rebellion that triggers change. In these times of rapid transition in the industry, Boston just might be the place to see big changes happen in publishing.
A Renaissance of Sorts
"If you stop looking at the Big Six [now five] and saying, 'Well, what are they doing?' and you starting looking at the companies that can be more agile, you start seeing companies that are trying and experimenting, companies that are doing interesting things but also are doing very innovative, potentially scary things," says John Rodzvilla, electronic publisher in residence at Emerson College and board member of Bookbuilders of Boston.
Rodzvilla cites Barefoot Books, an independent children's book publisher with an office in Cambridge. "They are not selling directly to Amazon anymore. What publisher would do that?" he asks. "They decided they don't need it, that they can make money other ways. That fits the [theme of] renaissance because that's how publishing used to be. We didn't rely on big box stores to sell our books. We sold them directly, and that's what [Barefoot is] doing."
Rodzvilla is excited by a groundswell of entrepreneurial publishing starting up in the city. "It's a mix of smaller independent presses that don't want to follow the set pattern," he says. "And there's also a bunch of tech companies that have gotten some venture funding that are reaching out and trying to change how publishing works."
He's not alone in noting a renaissance beginning to bubble up in the city.
"I think there's the beginning of a renaissance and I think given the talent and technology we have in the city, there is an opportunity to really create wonderful books here, made in Boston," says Eve Bridburg, founder and executive director of Grub Street, one of the nation's largest independent creative writing centers.
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