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an international network of Quaker booksellers - authors - publishers concerned with the ministry of the written word

Future Quaker Book Publishing

(The following is an article that grew out of discussions at the most recent annual meeting. Friends are encouraged to use the comment function below to continue the discussion. Please contact the QUIP clerks about any inaccuracies.)

Friends in QUIP continue seeking corporately to discern what the emerging changes, both opportunities and challenges, in publishing mean in the Quaker context in hopes of better serving the Religious Society of Friends through the ministry of the written word.

In April Friends General Conference (FGC) announced that it is forced to consider ceasing or severely curtailing its publishing program. FGC began publishing books and other resources to nurture individuals and meetings around 1900, most recently under the imprint ‘QuakerPress’. FCG will make a final decision in late October.

The uncertain future of QuakerPress was revealed to attenders of the Quakers Uniting in Publications (QUIP) annual conference held in April 2010 at Woodbrooke. Thirty Friends, from Europe, Britain and America, who are involved and interested in publishing Quaker material, visited Woodbrooke for the event.

The concern felt by members of QUIP about the fate of QuakerPress, and of the general decline in Quaker publishing in America and Britain, was expressed in a minute on the subject:
"We hope that Quaker institutions will continue to see it as part of their mission to encourage and support Quaker writing and publishing, even when such an enterprise seems unprofitable in the world’s terms."

The financial problems involved in publishing printed books and the growth of the internet were cited as two reasons for the decline.

In spring 2010 William Sessions of York, an important and respected publisher of Quaker material, went into administration. Fortunately, Quacks Books, an associated publisher within the same family, was able to take over Sessions book publishing. In America, Friends United Meeting, once a publisher of books, severely curtailed its book publishing activities in 2008. Pendle Hill, in Pennsylvania, has also stopped publishing books. It still publishes the popular Pendle Hill pamphlets.

A highlight of the QUIP conference was the European launch of Spirit Rising: Young Quaker Voices. Sarah Hoggatt and Harriet Hart, members of a ten-member, five-nationality editorial board of the anthology of writings by young adult Friends worldwide, described the books as ‘by young adult Friends, but for all ages’. QUIP plans a Spanish translation in coming months. Ironically, Spirit Rising was published by QuakerPress.

Participants at QUIP affirmed their appreciation for the ‘publication’ of written material as a way that Friends remain connected with each other and in dialogue, across distance and across generations. They reflected that while electronic publishing has its pluses, it has not been tested for its availability to underserved constituencies and ability to endure the test of time.