Brick Books’ Staff on the Future of Books


This is the last of our ebook interviews that we’ll post in TWR issue 3.

Kitty Lewis is the general manager of Brick Books, and the practical one, she writes. Cheryl Dipede is production and design coordinator, and has experience in bookselling and publishing. Alayna Munce is production manager, a poet and writer of When I Was Young and In My Prime.

1)  We all know that Dan Brown and his ilk can sell product in any form, ebook, pbook or otherwise. But what do you think will be the impact of ebooks on literary publishing in the near term?

Kitty: I think the impact of ebooks on literary publishing in the near term will be to provide a greater visibility and discoverability of these books.  We don’t have the advertising dollars or blockbuster-type titles that are in the Dan Brown-kind of world.  But we do have loyal readers. Brick Books is in the process of providing 36 titles in ebook format in the next six months so it’s early steps for us.

Cheryl: At this point in time ebooks are an additional, complementary format to their print cousins, with the potential to expose new generations of young people to poetry via their preferred delivery method.

Sales-wise, the Internet allows literary publishers like Brick Books to more effectively seek out niche communities for our books, rather than relying on casting a wide net as bestsellers must.  Digital publishing and its attendant democratization of distribution and marketing models allows us to participate in conversations with those communities directly, while current digital funding initiatives level the playing field for smaller (often literary) publishers wishing to make their author’s works available to the public in the new format.

2)  How will your role as a publisher change as a result of the increasing adoption of ebooks?

Kitty: I feel that our role will not change— we will add ebooks as another format that we provide.

Alayna: I personally think that the physical book is possibly more significant in poetry publishing than it is in other genres (fiction, nonfiction). Reading poetry tends to be more contemplative than other kinds of reading, less utilitarian. People who are drawn to poetry are often drawn to the aesthetics and textures of the object. People often buy poetry to mark occasions; they buy it as a gift and inscribe it and wrap it; they buy it to keep and return to. Books of poetry have a much smaller market-share, but they are also perhaps less disposable than other kinds of books. Though it’s exciting to expand the forms in which our poets’ work can reach readers, I imagine at Brick we’ll continue to place the creation of books that are beautiful objects (high quality paper and all), at the centre of our efforts for a long time to come.

3)  What do you think the value of a conventional book is in terms of a collaborative process between editors, publishers, designers, printers, marketers, and retailers? How do you think that collaboration will change in the era of ebooks?

Kitty: The value of a conventional book is very important in terms of the collaborative process.  We first of all collaborate with the author to make the book be the best that it can be in terms of the work that the author and editor do together— without the author’s words, we would not be here nor have been publishing poetry books for 35 years.  Our press has been based on the integrity and high quality of editing that we provide to the seven books we publish every year.  The only thing I see changing in the era of ebooks is the role of the marketer and retailer.  The marketer will need to research and discover new venues and promote our books in the social media world— retailers will have to adapt to being able to offer more titles and more breadth of titles to the customer.

Cheryl: At the top of that hierarchy for Brick Books is the relationship between our writers and editors, and that will not change.  The publishing industry will continue to develop creative soluions to current issues concerning format, rights management, and design, such as line breaks, font use, and PDF formatting for handheld devices. Though the method and means of delivery will continue to evolve, Brick Books will continue to publish Canadian poetry as long as poets continue to view the world uniquely.

Alayna: Having e-pub versions of our books available may increase the likelihood that our books will be acquired by some large American academic libraries, which don’t have the physical room/resources to house conventional/print books.

4)  How do you think the McLuhanism that equates medium with message will apply to ebooks? That is, will artistic forms such as the novel or the short story actually change because of the new delivery media, including e-readers, iPhones etc.? What about the impact of so-called enhanced books that include video and music?

Kitty: We are not planning on changing our processes here at Brick Books— we publish poetry books and have been for 35 years.  We look for the excellence of the writing.  It will be up to us to get the word out that our books are available in ebook format.  We hope to find new readers who may not have encountered our books before.

Cheryl: Brick Books has recently launched a new podcasting channel with over 160 audio recordings of Canadian poets reading their work. By including direct links to this archive in our digital books, the reader’s experience of the written word is augmented and may be enhanced by an experience of the oral form.

5) In what ways will paper books change in the next few years because of ebooks?

Kitty: See my answer in # 4.

Cheryl: …still waiting for iPhone Divination application to answer this one!

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Brick Books

Brick Books is a long-established and celebrated Canadian publisher of poetry based in London, Ontario.