John King, MLitt in Publishing Studies 2011-2012

November 29th, 2011 by John King | Posted in Student Profiles | Comments Off on John King, MLitt in Publishing Studies 2011-2012

“Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home.” (Matsuo Basho)

This quote seems quite appropriate for me as it is how I perceive of my life, a life that has led me this moment to be a student of Publishing Studies at the University of Stirling.

The road to here perhaps Robert Frost himself would have thought twice about treading but it has offered me a wealth of opportunity (not always taken) and experience. Many years ago I played football, until injury ended for me the dream and when I look back I realise that it was the creativity I enjoyed, the communication respected by your peers that gave it meaning. So to college to study Sports Science and the recurrence of the said injury, but although sadly I had to leave the course something strange or wonderful or wonderfully strange happened, a poem came into my head fully formed and onto the paper in front of me.

This was the beginning of a new wave of expression; writing, illustration and playing music. I guess it had been there all the time but was being warded off by the footie monster. First of all the writing appeared very black and white but after a while it became more and more filled with colour, as did the illustrations, as did the music, as did my life. So moving along the road a little and waving to Robert who seems very content upon his chosen path, I complete a book and it is something I wish to share. Now a little further along the road and to Robert positively beaming I begin to ponder the possibilities of bringing the work to publication.

Remember the Publishing Studies? Well,  here I am feeling somewhat privileged to have this opportunity to study at the University of Stirling and hoping that  I may realise the vision which has been revealed to me upon my journey. So if I may, I present myself as an illustration – a pigment of my imagination; a colour-seed with so many possibilities.

Faith, Hope and Charity

November 29th, 2011 by Helen_Lewis-Mcphee | Posted in Blog | 2 Comments
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Last week, the Booksellers Association hit out at charity shop booksellers, claiming that these retailers are afforded an unfair advantage in the industry. With certain exemptions from corporation tax, VAT and rates, and a staff comprising largely of volunteers, it is argued that charity shops benefit from a unique position within the trade with which less charitable independent retailers are finding it impossible to compete. The Bookseller reports an estimated 8000 such brigands are abusing this advantage, turning profits of close to £20 million from book sales alone.

With our independent and second hand booksellers in such dire straits, surely it’s time to call a halt to such blatant exploitation, and level the playing field a little? I mean, when those Goliaths of the online world Amazon first made noises about taking over their only real competitor, the Book Depository, it sparked national outcry and an OFT investigation at the implications this would have for fair competition within the trade. So why is it one rule for Amazon and another for Oxfam?

I do hope we’re not missing the point here.

BA chairman Peter More has accused Oxfam of “acting more like a business than a charity”, adding that this was “a concern”. A concern? Now, I’m as concerned as anyone else in the industry for the future of indie bookshops. When I have the time (and the money) to spend browsing their shelves, I like nothing better than to pass up the tempting discounts offered by Goliaths and supermarkets alike in support of our struggling book-retailing entrepreneurs. But I also choose to frequent my local charity shops, and I certainly won’t be made to feel guilty about it. I refuse to accept that charities turning a profit and conducting their businesses efficiently and professionally is a Bad Thing. Without their retail turnover, these charities wouldn’t be able to support their work against poverty, homelessness, animal cruelty, heart disease, and cancer, to which we are all indebted at some point in our lives.

When I go to an indie bookstore, I go there for the atmosphere, the ambiance, the whole experience associated with book buying that first attracted me to the industry as soon as I was old enough to spend my own pocket money. This is not the same reason I go into a charity shop. The customers who are spending their hard-earned pocket money and pensions in the charity shops are not the same ones abandoning their high-street independents in favour of a cheap read. And I believe I’m not the only person who feels this way. I have faith in the Great British bibliophile and their loyalty to local independent retailers.

Maybe we should be more concerned with the competition presented by the deep discounting and heavy marketing favoured by the chain stores, online retailers and supermarkets. Maybe, instead of lashing out at those businesses still turning a profit, booksellers could take a little more time minding their own. Maybe the indies should to take a leaf out of the charity shops’ books.

Helen Lewis-McPhee

Sara Gardiner, MLitt in Publishing Studies 2011-2012

November 24th, 2011 by Sara_Gardiner | Posted in Student Profiles | Comments Off on Sara Gardiner, MLitt in Publishing Studies 2011-2012
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I am a postgraduate student studying MLitt in Publishing Studies at University of Stirling, Scotland. My undergraduate degree was in English Literature BA(Hons) at University of Hull from 2006 – 2009. I originate from Kingston upon Hull, East Yorkshire and have wanted to be a part of the publishing industry since I began university in 2006. Knowing that this would be difficult to achieve in Hull, I ventured into an exploration on the web looking for the best course to take to get into the industry. Stirling was my number one choice and I have not regretted it! The course is amazing and has taught me that you really have to live and breathe books and be passionate about what you are doing to succeed.

I have met many amazing people over the last few weeks and I hope that this is something that will continue to happen. I want to wish everyone good luck on the course – I know we have lots of tough and also brilliant times ahead of us!

Eleanor Logan and Chapter Twenty

November 24th, 2011 by Almudena_Santalices | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Eleanor Logan and Chapter Twenty
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On Thursday 17th, November the visiting speaker Eleanor Logan gave us an interesting talk about her professional career and the changes that have taken place in bookshops over the years particularly in Scotland.

Eleanor began her career in 1999 at the bookshop chain Dillons and saw firsthand how the majority of these bookshops were taken over by Waterstone’s and some were sold to its competitor Ottakar’s. She went to work for Ottakar’s, which was a small family business and in ten years, was lucky enough to see it grow from three or four shops to more than a hundred. “It was great fun to work with them and see how they grew”. In 2008 Waterstones absorbed Ottakar’s, “my enemy became my employer”. While she worked for Waterstones she did marketing, and retailing. “It was a strange situation, but very interesting and satisfactory since I had the opportunity to discover firsthand what happened in bookstores across the country”.

Early this year she reassessed what she wanted to do with her life and her job and she decided to create her own business: Chapter Twenty is the result – a marketing and events agency delivering innovative services to the book industry, authors and the public. She works with publishers to organise author events in Scotland and the North of England.

With Internet and new technologies people’s way of buying is changing. It is true that customers want value but they also want convenience, which is why Amazon is having such success. Eleanor issued a stark warning that because of these changes 25% of high street bookstores have closed “and with Borders gone, and only Waterstones left, and if this goes too, then we will only have WHSmith!”.

Eleanor has a clear view of how bookshops should work. Bookstores need to improve their image and their brand. For example, window displays should be updated, and events need to change, “we need to make them more interesting and not just about listening to the author”.  The Scotsman Literary Dinners, Book Festivals and World Book Night, all are good ideas to help readers engage with authors.

In Scotland there are vast areas with no bookshops which is why the Ottakar’s store in Oban set up a travelling bookshop. Now it has been taken over by Waterstone’s On Wheels, where they are keen to reconnect with the community.

Image by Weegie Wednesday

By Almu Santalices and Emma Dunn


Louisa Preston, MLitt Publishing Studies, 2011-2012

November 21st, 2011 by Louisa_Preston | Posted in Student Profiles | Comments Off on Louisa Preston, MLitt Publishing Studies, 2011-2012

The dissemination of knowledge, ideas and opinions which instigate debate and a form of community is my main interest with publishing.

My background is with Fine Art, which I studied as an undergraduate and postgraduate at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design in Dundee. Since graduating in 2004 I have worked as an artist on various exhibitions and residencies held nationally and internationally.

I came to this course with the desire to learn about the publishing industry, to learn about the global and national context and the finer workings and processes involved. I am interested in the future developments of online published content and the development that print publications may take in response. I have submitted work which was subsequently published in the Dundee publication, Yuck ‘n Yum , and from the perspective of my background I have a strong interest in artist books, such as those you can find in the Visual Research Centre at Dundee Contemporary Arts. In a broader sense, I am interested in science fiction, architecture and design.  A few of my favourite titles are Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami,  Lanark by Alasdair Gray and The Gray Cloth by Paul Scheerbart.

The course so far has been fantastic, with a wealth of new information to take in and fast learning to be done. It’s certainly been a challenge to get back up to speed working in the academic context again. However I very much look forward to the year ahead and all the activity we will be involved in.

Copyright: what’s it all about?

November 21st, 2011 by Catriona_Cox | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Copyright: what’s it all about?
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As of Sunday we have answered this question. Well, not quite; the day did, however, lead to interesting insights and ideas on the past, present and future of copyright. I was delighted to hear that it was a few Irish lads that started the whole ruckus. Things really kicked off in the 6th century and copyright, although lacking now in literal battles, has continued to be as contentious an issue as it ever was. Copyright has over 1000 years of legal tradition that was first contested through the Brehon Laws between St. Colmcille and St. Finian.

The speakers present were Ronan Sheehan, Dr.Aileen Fyfe and Stephen Taylor. It was, of course, chaired by our own Dr. Padmini Ray-Murray.

Ronan was truly charismatic to listen to and I think drew everyone in the room right into the bones of the issue. Something that shone through is that copyright was not considered theft but was infringement of a civil right. This is something that is coming to the forefront of the discussion on copyright again today.

Aileen then took us through the history of copyright here in the UK during the 18th and 19th centuries. 1709 saw the first British Copyright Act, officially called the Act for the Encouragement of Learning. Copyright length has varied through the years, Aileen’s ability to remember the length and times of these variations was very impressive.

Stephen Taylor dealt with the more modern aspects of Copyright. He particularly referenced the Digital Economy Act which is the big 21st century Act. Stephen was very interesting and easy to listen to and also had a few fun anecdotes to share. The whole idea of blaming ISPs came up and is rather contentious.

I loved the Irish references that were scattered throughout Ronan’s opinions. It was interesting to hear of Piggley Pooh, and I am now surprised that I’d never heard of this case.

I think that most people present seemed to understand the value of copyright but did not really think that the terms that copyrights are valid for are sustainable or useful. This has made me realise that I approve of copyright but only think that it should last the lifetime of the author/creator. The whole issue seems to be the question: What is the commodity? If people can answer this then maybe we will know.

I thoroughly enjoyed listening to all the speakers, and as Padmini led us in questions and debate I think that a great balance was struck between the three speakers and their audience.

Catriona Cox

Pitch Publishing

November 18th, 2011 by Katherine_Marshall | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Pitch Publishing
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On Thursday 3rd November, our visiting speaker was Jane Camillin, who gave us a fascinating insight into her company, Pitch Publishing.  In 2009 Jane, together with her brother, decided to set up the company following her redundancy from dictionary publisher Chambers.

Pitch Publishing is a sports publisher but with a distinctly local feel.  The publisher is characterised by its Miscellany and On This Day series; products of the company’s close working relationship with football and cricket clubs across the UK. Jane explained, that while the company’s main source of income comes from the sale of local titles, this has allowed them to take bigger risks with titles such as: Sporting Chancer: One Man’s Journey to Take on the Worldthe amusing story of one man’s attempts to gamble on various sporting events around the world. Their bestselling book to date, The Worst of Cricket, has been reprinted ten times since its original publication in 2008.

During her talk, Jane described the various aspects of running a successful publishing business and stressed the importance of: good cover design; market research; author contracts and, of course, P&Ls!  Although Jane’s background is in marketing, she admitted that she no longer has the time or resources to conduct huge campaigns for her titles choosing instead to only do the marketing “she needs to”.  Despite this, Jane is keen to exploit social media and encourage her authors to blog, tweet and generally keep in touch with their readers.

Jane’s insights were certainly refreshing, proving that even the most experienced publisher is constantly learning in this ever-changing industry.

Katherine Marshall

Alicia Rice, MLitt in Publishing Studies 2011-12

November 18th, 2011 by SCIPC | Posted in Student Profiles | Comments Off on Alicia Rice, MLitt in Publishing Studies 2011-12

I’m an international student from Texas (U.S.A), which is always a fun thing to say because I feel a bit exotic. I came to the University of Stirling on a study abroad program in second year of undergrad, and I happened upon a great half module on British and American poetry from the 20th century. When I returned to Texas to finish my undergrad, I quickly changed my major from Psychology to English and decided to pursue a career in the only truly constant pleasure in my life – books. Since I don’t have the patience for teaching or the talent for writing anything other than my blog, I looked around for a way to get into the publishing field. Fortunately, I found out I could attend a postgraduate program here in Stirling and cheat my way back into Scotland.

Stirling’s program was exactly what I was looking for in postgraduate study. Part of the reason I returned to the University of Stirling was the wonderful experience I had here before, but the deciding factor was the course description for Publishing Studies. The course offers modules that will be practical for real-world application, and I know I will be leaving the program with a clear understanding of the market as a whole. This certainty after a few semesters of “‘Uh…what?” soothed me into making what I believe is an excellent choice. With any luck, I will snag a job in the production or editorial department of a publishing company somewhere. Anywhere would be great, I’m not picky. I promise.

Almudena Santalices, MLitt in Publishing Studies 2011-2012

November 15th, 2011 by Almudena_Santalices | Posted in Student Profiles | Comments Off on Almudena Santalices, MLitt in Publishing Studies 2011-2012
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I am Almudena Santalices, a Spanish postgraduate student at the University of Stirling. Since I can remember books have been part of my life.  When I was a little girl I wasn’t aware of how important they were for me, and the time they absorbed my daily routine. But it wasn’t until a few years ago, when I realized I wanted to get involved in Publishing.

A few months before finishing my degree in Journalism back in Madrid, I started an internship in the Communication Deparment of a Spanish Publishing house.  It was a great opportunity and, it also allowed me to poke around a little bit into the broad publishing world.

When I decided to continue my studies, the Stirling Centre for International Publishing and Communication and its MLitt in Publishing Studies were the most suitable choice.

Here, at the university we are learning and experiencing how the publishing world really works; with its deadlines, team work, and stress. There is time for everything: classes, group meetings and presentations, lectures from visitor speakers, involved in different publishing roles…, and also last, but not least, we have time for some sightseeing and cocktail parties, to help us meet people from the publishing world.

“Publish and Be Damned”: Banned Books at the National Library of Scotland

November 15th, 2011 by Nuria_Ruiz | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on “Publish and Be Damned”: Banned Books at the National Library of Scotland
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A selection of Banned Books from the exhibition.

‘Banned books: Censorship of the printed word’ was a major exhibition at the National Library of Scotland, running from 24 June to 30 October 2011.  Although the exhibit has now ended, all of the books on display are available for consultation in the Library.  For those who missed their chance, Jan Usher and John Nicklen have produced an excellent guide in the current issue of Discover NLS.

Bring me your blasphemous and raunchy, your libellous and seditious, your controversial and vitriolic.  A trip to the “Banned Books” exhibition which ran at the National Library of Scotland until 30 October 2011 promised an afternoon of thought-provoking displays and analysis on a subject which has existed almost as long as books themselves have existed – censorship.  It did not disappoint.  The history of banned books is indeed a tale of the unexpected and the uncomfortable.

Arranged around the juicy themes of sex, religion, politics and society, the exhibit threw up some familiar old favourites – and some surprising additions.  Lady Chatterley’s Lover, The Satanic Verses, the ‘official’ biography of Linda Lovelace, these I expected.  But Bambi? The Bible?  Housewives’ favourite Woman’s Weekly? Surprising too was the sheer number of children’s picture books and stories.  Sometimes it is not profane language and incendiary politics that offend the most, but the simple introduction of different worldviews.  Three books selected for special attention were And Tango Makes Three (2007), The Rabbit’s Wedding (1960) and Daddy’s Roommate (1991).  All three are children’s stories which to this day are attacked because of their perceived alternative messages on lifestyles and relationships.  Yet taking time to read them, I was struck more by their captive storytelling than anything else.  Banned Books posed the question, what role should editors play in censoring an author’s work?  To author Garth Williams after all, The Rabbit’s Wedding was “only about a soft, furry love and has no hidden message of hate”.  To this I answer that the point where a story becomes something else is highly subjective; perhaps no editor can ever prevent a book being misrepresented somewhere along the line.

What moved me as I walked between the glass cases was the preservation of these books and magazines.  From Republicas del Mundo, written by Jerónimo Roman y Zamora in 1575, to Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psycho from 2007, all of these books were in excellent condition.  They may have had their words mutilated and obscured, their pages stamped with brands of shame, and their covers confined by shrink-wrap to protect innocent eyes, yet someone, somewhere had loved this book enough to keep its dangerous words safe.  They may not have liked its content, but perhaps a respect for the written word is culturally ingrained in all of us?

My optimism lasted precisely for the minute it took me to walk from the themed displays to the ‘Living with Censorship’ section, where I was confronted with the history of book burning and the growing violence of censorship.  For every book the National Library had on show, a hundred thousand more have been ceremonially destroyed in the name of censorship.  I can understand, in a historical perspective, why books have been banned and entire libraries have been burned.  While I may not agree, I can understand.  But the trend for individualised violence against books is not something that I can comprehend.  There have been books considered so controversial that they have become living things to these societies, to be issued death warrants, burned alive with their authors, and actually hanged.  Mass book burning is acknowledged as a public event that makes a political statement, but just what kind of statement trying and hanging a lonely book makes is another matter entirely.

Heinrich Heine, the German poet and essayist, noted in the nineteenth century that “where they burn books, they will ultimately burn people also”.  This led me to ponder on the vogue publishing development of the moment, the electronic book.  How does the digital word fit into the centuries-established tradition of literary censorship?  You cannot burn an electronic book, nor does it carry the connotations of personification that so characterise the printed word.  Moreover, while you may ban citizens from buying a book, it is infinitely more difficult to stop them downloading an illicit copy.  As this exhibit clearly illustrates, for much of their history, books have been contentious because of their ideas.  The twenty-first century however, has rather different concerns: the book’s physical form.  Yet in the furore about an e-book not ‘being a book’, perhaps we are missing a new and exciting chapter in the history of censorship.