Political Economy and Micro-Presses

By: Leslie Vermeer  

A new generation of writers, editors, designers, and publishers is adopting the best of digital technologies to create books that are political, divergent, and materially aware. What is noteworthy about these creators is their location: Alberta, Canada. In examining this community of practice, I argue that Alberta’s micro-presses effect a redistribution of cultural capital reflecting a collision between green values a pugnacious provincial mythology. Sherman Young argued some ten years ago that “it’s what books do that is important, not what they are” — although what books are does, in fact, matter. That is why the choices made by micro-publishers matter. Working in Alberta, a province known for its enormous petro-wealth — and for leaning to the socio-political right — literary practitioners are constrained by both the diminishing largesse of the state and the far right’s doubts about freedom of expression and public support for the arts. Creating exquisitely designed, eminently Instagrammable books and book swag; working with one foot in maker culture and one foot in traditional cultural industries; and distributing around as well as through the traditional North American supply chain, Alberta’s micro-publishers are nimble, hyper-local cultural entrepreneurs. Yet as Peter Wilkin observes, "it is not enough that people have access to information, they need also to be able to communicate with each other in the wide range of groups and institutions that make up civil society." This study demonstrates that as micro-presses confront questions of scale, they also raise issues of ecological, economic, and socio-political sustainability.

Publishing, Sustainability, Political Economy, Books, Canada, Innovation, Scale, Resources, Canada
Publishing Practices: Past, Present, and Future
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Leslie Vermeer

Associate Professor, Communication Studies, Grant MacEwan University, Canada