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Tue, 09 Dec 2008 11:40
Mark Thwaite: What/who do you see as your primary market?
Jonathan Sinclair-Wilson: Our markets have evolved over the two decades Earthscan has been publishing. (2008 marks our 20th anniversary.) Back then, the issues were peripheral to all but a few activist NGOs and enlightened academics, researchers and policy types, and our books were aimed more at raising consciousness and getting those issues on to policy and other agendas. Since then, of course – partly, we like to think, because of what we’ve published – they have come to dominate agendas, whether political, professional or personal. At the same time, the depth and complexity of the issues have become more apparent – think of the intractable questions surrounding climate change, biofuels and food security – and with them the need for high quality research outputs and professionally relevant and practically applicable material.
We have always been in the difficult position for a publisher of publishing ahead of the evolution of our main markets, whether academic – the subject matter is intrinsically cross-disciplinary and there aren’t yet university departments of sustainability or climate change – or professional, where job functions, training requirements and regulation, which all help to drive demand for information, have yet to crystallize around the imperatives of sustainability.
But this is changing. More academic and training courses are being established around the world in our areas, and in the business, professional and public spheres the recognition of the importance of tackling sustainability challenges is developing very rapidly. We see the principal growth for the future being in academic and professional markets across the range of subjects we cover – from resource management, economics and development to the built environment, technology and business – while we will continue to bring out important and generally relevant titles like Jonathon Porritt’s Capitalism As If the World Matters and Chris Goodall’s How to Live a Low-Carbon Life for a wider audience.
MT: What are the principal challenges/opportunities you see at the moment in the business of publishing books?
JSW: I think they vary with the kinds of books being published. The inordinately complex supply chain from author through publisher and downstream to the eventual customer, and where each title is to some extent an individual product line, is common to all (physical) book publishers, but the additional opportunities of digital printing and, especially, electronic publication, are pulling different kinds of book in different directions. For a publisher of our scale – we brought out 73 books last year and aim to bring out over 90 this year – and in our areas – international, cross-sectoral, interdisciplinary and often urgent – the principal challenge and opportunity is e-publishing. It is a strategic challenge in that the market is still only small for e-books but we are sure that it will grow and that we will need to make our titles more widely available on digital platforms, and not only because of the reduced environmental impacts (though detailed comparisons suggest the savings here may be somewhat exaggerated).
MT: What brings you to the decision to publish a particular title/author?
JSW: Our publishing is rarely if ever author-driven, though it is vital that our authors have the experience and credibility in the field to support the arguments they are making. What we look for is some or all of the following, in clarifying or advancing the understanding of what constitutes sustainability in the area the book covers, and what decisions should flow from that understanding: originality, accuracy, clarity, importance, relevance, effectiveness, and applicability.
MT: What books are you most proud of having published?
JSW: There is a long list of notable and influential titles that Earthscan has published down the years, which have helped to shape and move discussion of sustainability forward, but what we should be most proud of is the list as a whole. To develop an extensive programme across a wide range of intrinsically complex and interconnected subject areas and ahead of the development curve of the corresponding markets is quite a commercial and publishing challenge. Just to be here after 20 years is therefore something of an accomplishment, but to have as a legacy a high-quality and highly regarded list with good growth prospects and the scope to continue to publish influential and important work is something everyone who has been involved with Earthscan can take pride in.
MT: What books are you working on now?
JSW: Easiest just to refer you to earthscan.co.uk where you’ll find our catalogues on the home page. It’s always invidious to single out specific titles but at the same time it’s hard not to boast about many of the ones we have scheduled, such as Sustainable Investing by two of the leading authorities in the field and which could be instrumental in helping to move the financial markets – the real movers and shakers – onto a sustainable footing. Or The Power of Sustainable Thinking to enable us to generate change, personally, organizationally and socially, towards sustainability. Or Positive Development which demonstrates how planning and development of the built environment can go through the spurious threshold of ‘carbon neutrality’ to deliver the genuinely positive development of carbon reduction and environmental regeneration. Or the new editions in our series of Atlases. Or the major new textbook on Understanding Sustainable Development. Or … I could go on, but would rather encourage readers to browse our titles themselves to see what meets their needs or catches their interests. Those who want to keep up to date with new titles can sign up to our E-Newsletter at our website, which will also announce monthly 20th anniversary special offers throughout 2008.
These are The Book Depository's 5 favourite Earthscan titles:
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