The Book Depository BlogRSS
Tue, 09 Dec 2008 11:40
The Book Depository: What/who do you see as your primary market?
Juliet Mabey: Our typical customer base is the intellectually curious around the globe, people who want to understand the key issues affecting their world today. Our authors are all experts in their field, but (in most cases) they are writing not for the student but for the interested non-specialist reader. Combining the academic rigour of a university press with the high editorial and production standards of an old fashioned trade publisher, we are producing exciting, accessible books that shed light on important contemporary issues, from a no nonsense introduction to Fair Trade or the energy crisis, to an expose of ethnic cleansing, or a fascinating look into the world of the Five Percenters, from Malcolm X to the Wu-Tang Clan.
BD: What are the principal challenges/opportunities you see at the moment in the business of publishing books?
JM: Obviously bookselling has changed considerably over the twenty years or so that we have been in publishing, especially since the end of the net book agreement. This has, I think, led to special challenges for the small independents, on the one hand, who are caught between their commitment to their niche and the need to remain economically viable in an increasingly competitive, high-discount market. But on the other hand, this also presents challenges for booksellers, who have to find a balance between offering their customers as wide a range of books as possible from among the thousands that are published every year and maximizing their profits from the bestsellers. We like to think that our books offer them a way to do both!
BD: What brings you to the decision to publish a particular title/author?
JM: We are probably slightly unusual in that we commission almost all our titles from scratch, researching ideas and potential authors, through news items, conversations, and our own reading. Oxford is a wonderful place to live for a publisher with eclectic interests and friends from all over the world! We are keen to publish high quality, innovative works that make accessible the latest ideas and research, so our books must engage, be very well written, and focus on something new and/or important. As a relatively small company, decisions to publish are made consultatively in meetings with the whole staff, which allows very fertile discussions to take place.
BD: What books are you most proud of having published?
JM: The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine by Ilan Pappe has sold over 20,000 copies in hard back over the last six months and caused quite a storm in the process. While being very sensitive to the concerns it raised for some people, I am hopeful that it will contribute one more plank in the bridge that needs to be built before peace can be established in the Middle East. Our Islam list is very well established, and the latest contribution from Hans Kung (Islam: Past, Present and Future) is a book we are especially pleased with, representing the non-partisan approach we are known for, in an accessible introduction to Islam for non-members. But I think we are all particularly proud of our Beginners Guides, which manage to be both excellent introductions to a broad range of topical subjects and accessible and funky in both content and covers.
BD: What books are you working on right now?
JM: We celebrated our twenty-first birthday this year with the launch of Oneworld Classics, an ambitious joint venture with Alex Gallenzi and Elisabetta Minervini, the founders of Hesperus Press and Alma Books, and immediately followed it with the acquisition of the renowned literary publisher Calder Books and the eponymous Calder Bookshop. With a 50-title programme of new books in our first year and a backlist of some 2,000 titles, a lot of our time and energy at the moment is going into these projects. However, we are very excited to be launching our first fiction list in 2008, after 21 years exclusively devoted to non-fiction, and we will be specifically focusing on literary fiction and cultural/historical themes that will resonate with our main list.
Our popular science list has expanded rapidly in the very capable hands of Marsha Filion, and she has two sensational books coming out this Autumn, The Elephants’ Secret Sense (an elephants’ Gorillas in the Mist) and Why Don’t Spiders Stick to their Webs? by the Telegraph science writer Robert Matthews, while early next year we are bringing out Head Trip, a roller-coaster exploration of our consciousness by Jeff Warren, to be published by Random House in the US. We also have some very quirky philosophy titles coming through, from Can a Robot be Human? (the philosophers’ Does Anything Eat Wasps) in good time for Christmas, to 42 by the popular philosopher Mark Vernon - which all Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy fans will immediately recognize as the answer to the Ultimate Question of Life! And if we can explore that in a book, we are really doing what we set out to do, which is to publish great books for the intellectually curious.
These are The Book Depository's 5 favourite Oneworld titles:
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