From Our Staff | June 20, 2007

Salon has a fascinating and somewhat alarming article today about a recent corporate bankruptcy fiasco that has endangered many independent book publishers. From the article:

McSweeney’s is far from the only publisher that’s taken a hit: As a result of the bankruptcy, either directly or indirectly, small publishers Soft Skull, Hugh Lauter Levin and Inner Ocean have been acquired by larger publishers, and Carroll & Graf and Thunder’s Mouth, two Avalon Publishing Group imprints, have folded. Tiny punk-rock publisher Re/Search puts out two titles a year, but this year it’ll be lucky to release one; publisher V. Vale was planning to update and reissue a book on William S. Burroughs for its spring title, “but we didn’t have the money even for the down payment on the printing cost,” he says.

Not every publisher is hurting so deeply, but the bankruptcy has left the small-press world at least temporarily wounded, and has probably changed it for good. “This was the biggest bankruptcy that’s ever happened in publishing history,” says Munro Magruder, the associate publisher of the new-agey New World Library, which publishes Deepak Chopra’s books. “And its implications are going to be felt for some time.”

I had a chance to see Richard Nash of Soft Skull at the AWP Conference this past March, where he showed off some of his house’s incredible work. One such book is the upcoming Woman’s World: A Novel by Graham Rawle, which is created entirely out of clipped words and phrases from women’s magazines, ransom-note style. It’s a visually stunning book, and it’s the kind of unconventional, daring work that independent publishers help bring to light.

So, everyone: check the websites of your favorite independents and buy some books!