16 March 2021 Blogs, Academic, Faculty, Librarian

Out of the Shadows: Appreciating Smaller Publishers

A new blog series explores the best publishers you may never have heard of

By Bob Nardini
VP, Library Services, ProQuest

The thing about book publishing is that there is no thing about it – no one word or phrase you could use to convey the industry and its intricacies. Book publishing is complicated, and it’s straightforward; it’s innovative, and it’s staid; corporate, and idiosyncratic; thriving, struggling.

And – it’s big, and it’s small. Those of us in the business of books devote much of our time and energy to books from big publishers and their tens of thousands of new books each year, since most of our customers, and most of their readers, do too. Books from larger publishers get most of the reviews, most shelf space in the bookstores, most shares on social media, most assignments in classrooms.

But book publishing is like the brewing industry. We all know the household names – the global companies known for their Premier League sponsorships and Super Bowl ads. But the industry also thrives because of thousands of craft breweries whose ales and stouts you won’t find beyond their home cities. They bring passion to their work – and inspire devotion in their customers.  

Each year, ProQuest customers buy ebooks and print books created by thousands of publishers. Many of those publishers are like micro-breweries. Most people don’t know about them. They’re on a mission to find as many readers as they can – within their means, for a certain voice, a point of view, a cause.  Of course their goal is to sell books; but they aim as much to inspire, to explain, to agitate, to disrupt. They make book publishing such a vast and varied place.     

At ProQuest, we think our work with independent publishers like these is one of the most important things we do.  Today, the words “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” (DEI) are embedded in many libraries’ missions, as well as their policies and practices. Many of the books embodying DEI come from smaller publishers. Librarians should know about them. 

Recently, Lawrence Ferlinghetti died after a life of 101 years. Readings, vigils, remembrances, and tributes took place in his home city, San Francisco, and across the book world. He was a poet, bookseller, and publisher. Ferlinghetti’s City Lights Books, which he famously founded in 1955, never stopped finding an audience for books from Allen Ginsberg, Ferlinghetti himself, and so many others there’s no need to name, proving for over a half-century how books can change the culture.   

“From the beginning,” Ferlinghetti said, “the aim was to publish across the board, avoiding the provincial and the academic. I had rather an international, insurgent ferment in mind.” This same ferment lives on today in the pages of books from publishers too-often overshadowed in bookselling. 

In this blog series, we’ll celebrate some of the best we know about, shining light on those small publishers in the shadows. Their books are available to ProQuest customers, on our Ebook Central and our ProQuest platforms. We hope you’ll enjoy exploring this part of the book publishing world with us.  

Read Bob Nardini’s profiles of smaller publishers:
Peepal Tree Press
Oneworld Publications
Bristol University Press
Saqi Books
Aboriginal Studies Press


ProQuest is committed to supporting diversity, equity and inclusion across every institution, and can help with building collections that meet the needs of your unique community of students, scholars and educators. Discover how ProQuest can help you build diverse, equitable and inclusive collections affordably by exploring our Every Voice initiative