New Village Press News

June 9th, 2011

Email This Blog Post Email This Blog Post Filed under: Newsletters— Laura Leone @ 9:02 am

Dear Friends of New Village Press,

Some of you curious about our new Kickstarter campaign to go digital have asked for the story behind it, so gather ’round the screen and we’ll tell you the tale!

Twas a dark and stormy night in 1450 when Johannes Gutenberg took inspiration from the wine presses of the Rhine Valley (yes, maybe that kind of inspiration, too) to invent the printing press and, with it, the book as we know it. What Gutenberg did not know was that his invention would be credited with nothing less than inaugurating what we traditionally call the modern era. It was the possibility to circulate ideas beyond the strict boundaries of the oral tradition and the painful work of Amanuensis monks that spurred the Renaissance, the Reformation, and the scientific revolution, to name just a few.

Not coincidentally, it was the ghost of Gutenberg (every story needs a ghost) who heralded the beginning of a new era in the history of the printed word. In 1971 Project Gutenberg created the first digital library and made thousands of books available in the public domain. Time would pass before this and similar resources could become available to an ever-increasing number of book-hungry internauts (think that in 1990 the World Wide Web had only 250,000 users!), but once the breach was opened, an avalanche followed. The introduction of e-readers (Kindle, Nook, Kobo, iPad… you name it) gave digital books the same portability and, in a way, “feel” of the good old printed book. This made the transformation irresistible. To sum up, times have quite changed. Circulation of ideas is still the engine of history; but ideas now tend to travel in bits and chips, and revolutions are spurred by tweets, posts, and yes, “likes.”

Now here’s where we step into the story. When New Village Press was born, in 2005, digital books were still the province of an exclusive circle of techies and the usual cool guys. Cut to one month ago as Amazon announces that e-book sales have surpassed paperback sales by 5 percent. Scary. And as a publisher out to inspire social change, we cannot afford to lose the growing market (made especially of younger readers) that requires instant, unrestricted access to information.

Let us be clear: we love printed books. We hold secret parties whenever a shipment arrives fresh off the press, and like modern bacchantes we get inebriated with the bittersweet aroma of fresh ink (okay, maybe it’s the champagne). We will never forgo this. However, we decided that creating a digital catalog is the right thing to do. And not just to be in vogue: we have several reasons to dive into the digital age.

The most immediate considerations have to do with, well, money. If you are not lucky enough to work in publishing, you might not realize how much of our meager profit gets eaten by shipping, reshipping, and warehousing costs. Not to mention returns, book damages, and whole cases torn open in transit (yes, it happens). Digital books would free us from these unproductive expenses and allow us to concentrate on what we do best—producing high-quality books that uplift our world and that people love to read, in whatever form.

Significantly, too, building our digital catalog will allow us to be infinitely easier on the environment. The production of the printed book is extremely carbon-heavy in itself. And even more eco-ugly is the need for transport, compounded by skyrocketing fuel prices (dare we insert the horrors or petroleum wars), and the already mentioned problem of returns (bookstores place bulk orders and return the unsold copies, which makes for a lot of waste and unnecessary mileage). This might have been a necessary evil as long as there were no alternatives. But now things have changed.

All these considerations persuaded us to embark on the process of converting print files to e-pubs. Like any new endeavor, however, this one comes with a bit of price tag. Which is why, as some of you know, we launched a fundraising campaign on Kickstarter.com and are aiming to raise $10,000 by June 24 (yes, that’s in two weeks). The final suspense in this story, is that we will only get funded if we reach our financial goal by 4 PM on June 24. So for a happy dénouement in the July newsletter, please donate!

Have you ever heard the African proverb that says “If you want to go quickly go alone, if you want to go far go together”? We want to go far, and invite you to be our travelling companions. And should you still be unsure, just ask yourself: What would Gutenberg do?

In peace, play, and publishing,

Stefania, Lynne, Jennifer, Lolly, and Pepper

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