This morning in my in box was an e-mail titled, "An Open Letter to the South End Press Community." I clicked right on it, before I read my daily-headlines e-mail or the note from Debbie asking my opinion on a Very Important Matter—and even before I read the note from the boy I am currently most crushed out on. Because I am a member of their Community Supported Publishing program, which means I get a copy of every single book they publish as a thank-you for my monthly donation, and that's how much I love South End, the publisher of some of the most important political books being pubished today. Just to make sure you know.
If you're not already familiar with South End, you should get to know them right now. They are, as their letter notes, "the nation's only unapologetically radical, feminist, mission-driven, and majority women of color publishing collective." Their list is tremendous: big names like bell hooks, Vandana Shiva, and Howard Zinn, plus less well-known but no less important books from Incite!, Andrea Smith, Kristian Williams, and many more.
And they're in trouble, because Borders is in trouble, and the unfortunate thing about the publishing business is that the actual producers of actual content are generally at the mercy of retailers and distributors when it comes to our financial survival. Just like Bitch, South End is a nonprofit organization that relies on its community of readers to get how important media is to social justice and to back that understanding up with cold, hard cash.
Their open letter lays it out (for some reason, our block quotes function isn't working, so I am just using boring ol' quotation marks instead):
"Our worry about how to deal with the immediate cash crisis saps time that we would otherwise spend on publishing and promoting new books, and on trying to do our part in building a better world. For more than 30 years, we have found ways to carry on. We are committed to surviving this crisis, but we need your help to ensure that we can keep publishing new titles. The Right has strategically funded its own presses and media; the left must do the same.
This is why we're inviting you to join the CSP Movement: we can't afford to confuse independence with isolated individual efforts. South End has remained independent only because of the success of our community interdependence.
The ability of South End Press to sustain democratic movements advancing social and economic justice pivots on a community-based model. So does the fact that we manage our own labor collectively, that we work daily to invert the pernicious hierarchies of the publishing industry, that we try to create the change we hope to see in the broader world. So does the fact that we don't answer to a corporate marketing and sales department, that while we too are struggling to survive in a capitalist system our mission remains the same: to publish books we believe in, books that bring critical, radical perspectives to bear on issues that matter. None of this would be possible without the support of an entire community of readers, activists, ruminators, and dreamers."
I can't say it any better than that. Go forth and read, buy their books, sign up for their CSP program, and never forget how important independent media is to our political future.