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James Lorimer & Company

James Lorimer & Company

They started publishing books because there were things going unsaid that needed to be discussed in public. Books are a powerful vehicle for putting ideas and information out there, for sparking debate, and for ending public silences. They hoped that readers would respond if the books were written and published.

Their first books in the early 1970s included a groundbreaking report from First Nations reserves across the country, written by journalist Heather Robertson, and several books that challenged the destructive policies of city politicians and city planners, often taking their instructions from land developers, that were destroying downtowns and neighborhoods.

Readers responded to these books. They said things that weren’t being said anywhere else. So did newspaper book reviewers, radio and TV talk shows, and magazines. Bookstores ordered the books, and sold them. Canadian non-fiction was finding a prominent place alongside U.S. books in bookstores.

Since then, they have published more than 600 books, and they continue to publish 10 or 12 adult titles annually. At the core of their publishing today, as in the 1970s, are books which they’re publishing because they say things that need to be said. Take a look at their recent title Campus Confidential by Ken Coates and Bill Morrison. Their commentary on Canadian universities today is a refreshing and informed take on the realities of the university world and what it actually offers students. Or consider Doug Roche’s inside account of developments you can’t read about anywhere on the web or in newspapers about international efforts to outlaw nuclear weapons.

Not all the books they publish are so earnest! Their adult list now includes a series they inherited a couple of years ago, short popular books on topics in Canadian history that appeal to casual readers. What attracted them about the Amazing Stories series was that they appealed to people who don’t necessarily want to read long and demanding books – but who are interested in our heritage. Their innovation in this series has been to look for professional historians who would like to write for a popular audience, and who will give readers an enjoyable narrative – but one which reflects the best current historical research. See their new book on Canadians in the Boer War as an example.

The most dramatic development in Canadian writing and publishing since the early 1970s is the incredible decline in the role of bookstores in helping you and me find the books they want to read – once they discover they exist. They are constantly bumping into books that they would love to read, but they’ve never heard of – books published by other Canadian publishers like me. They used to find those books by going into bookstores and looking around. Now, almost never. Those bookstores are mostly gone.

They don’t have in place anything to take their place – at least, not yet. Along with other publishers, they’re working on the problem through their national association. Meanwhile, the best they can do is get their information out there on the web, and they’re putting lots of effort into that right now.

»  Historical & Reference Books (James Lorimer & Company)