Edinburgh Book Festival: Publishing the Nation

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Rebecca Bailey, Eleanor Collins, John Watson, Gavin MacDougall
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This event, offered by Publishing Scotland, and chaired by Jenny Brown, attempted to look at the responsibilities of publishers in Scotland to reflect the nation.

The natures of publishers being various, its success in doing so was equally divergent.

Rebecca Bailey of the Royal Commission for Ancient and Historic Monuments in Scotland (RCAHMS), talked about that part of her brief which dealt with the publications of the Commission, soon to be merged with Historic Scotland.

These vary from the scholarly to the popular, Bailey pointing out that among the most purchased titles are those that celebrate Scottish scenery and the built environment and interpret these for the general reader.

Eleanor Collins talked about the publications of Floris Books for children, in particular the Kelpies series, now grown to offer titles for all stages from beginning readers to early teenagers.

John Watson of Edinburgh University Press indicated some of the challenges facing academic publishing in the 21st century, pointing out that EUP was now the only academic press in Scotland. Owing to its extensive back catalogue, however, it was in a position to re-publish a number of significant works, such as the late Professor Geoffrey Barrow’s ‘Robert the Bruce and the Community of the Realm of Scotland’ in relatively affordable paperback format.

Gavin MacDougall of Luath sped us through a rapid survey of the extensive Luath imprint, including a number of titles relating to the upcoming Referendum, including the late Stephen Maxwell’s ‘Arguments for Independence’.

Overall, the state of publishing in Scotland would seem to be in good health, although it remains necessarily diverse and competitive.

Jenny Brown wondered whether the present conditions, with threats from E-publishing, Google and most especially Amazon’s discounting policies made the publication of seminal works such as John Purser’s ‘Scotland’s Music’ more difficult to achieve.

Although this event unavoidably came to no definite conclusions, it nevertheless demonstrated the continuing strengths of Scottish publishing in interesting and sometimes difficult times.

Edinburgh International Book Festival 19th August, 18.45 p.m.