City Spotlight: Book Publishing in Boston
"In the mid-nineteenth century, Boston was called the Athens of America, largely because the publishing industry was centered in Boston," says Bridburg. "We subsequently lost our publishing dominance to New York. I think what's really exciting about this moment is that the digital revolution in publishing has created the opportunity for a renaissance here in Boston. We have everything we need — the technology and the writing and editorial talent to produce, package and launch books from Boston. There are some exciting startups popping up such as Plympton Press, Libboo and BookBub. My hope is that more and more small ventures will come online."
Smaller Than It Was
Boston has been a hub for publishing for more than a century and continues to have a strong publishing presence — although it must be pointed out that it's notably smaller than in the past.
"It's much smaller," says Tom Plain, a past president of Bookbuilders of Boston. "There's been a lot of consolidation in the last 20 years. You used to have publishers [here] like Simon & Schuster, Addison-Wesley, Allyn & Bacon, Pearson Technology, and now those are all down to like two companies. … Also, I will say publishing is like farming; it doesn't take as many people to do it as it used to. "
Plain says Bookbuilders — a nonprofit celebrating its 75th anniversary this year and with a mission to bring together book publishing professionals in the city — counts about 65 book publishers in greater Boston with more than a couple of employees. That does not include various imprints and sub-companies under parents such as Pearson, Cengage Learning or Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
The organization's members include publishers, vendors and suppliers. "We currently have 79 active member companies and 176 individual members. That is down from the 360 companies we claimed to represent in 2002," Plain says.
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