The Object of the Book
a diversion for the inattentive

A Publisher Speaking

Geoffrey Faber. A Publisher Speaking. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1935 (1934).

A Publisher Speaking is a collection of five talks about the book industry given to various audiences between 1931 and 1934 by Geoffrey Faber, the founder of Faber and Faber. The contents of the volume are as follows:

  1. On Bookselling (i): A Publisher Looks at Booksellers (1931)
  2. On Bookselling (ii): The Relations between Bookselling and Publishing (1931)
  3. On Publishing (i): Book Trade Problems and Policy (1933)
  4. On Publishing (ii): Are Publishers Any Use? (1934)
  5. On Censorship: Notes on a Proposed Literary Censorship (n.d.)

Many of the suggestions Faber makes have been followed in the book industry. Independent booksellers especially make more of an effort to ‘promote lectures, entertainments, exhibitions, readings, and the like’ (33) – the manner of selling books hasn’t really changed since 1933, though the market has.

More interesting than his ideas about bookselling, though, are his ideas for the regulation of the publishing industry. In an idea that may come from Stanley Unwin’s The Truth About Publishing,1 Faber supports the idea of licensing for publishing firms – that is, requiring potential publishers to pay a yearly fee to set up shop and publish books: so much for so many novels each year (136–141). As he says rather more brutally:

What is wrong with publishing is that there are too many publishers, and far too many books (135).

Licensing would, Faber thinks, resolve both of those problems. Moreover, there was already an organization in existence that could manage the process: the Publisher’s Association, of which Faber was for a time the head (106f.) It was not undertaken, due in part to the war-time restrictions on publishing and the later evolution of corporate media conglomerates, which ensured that publishing stayed in the control of the wealthy few – though not those who cared about the quality of literature.

Books & articles to add to reading list

  1. Which I will have a look through later.

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The 3rd of January 2014, a Friday, at 5.20
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