price-compare results for meta vendor sites


10 January 2007

Independent Press Association Ceases Operations

FROM Infoshop News -

Blogaulaire constantly emphasizes the importance ofdistribution for small press book and nearly all independent publishers: bound books, magazines, zines, tabloids . . . and even art and art posters.

So far, what I have posted about distributors has been negative, bad news. First it was regarding the Chapter 11 filing by AMS (at exactly the same date as this story about IPA broke). THIS - the continuing new NOW is once again bleak news for small press, independent PERIODICAL publishers. (Volunteer contributions and new subscriptions plus direct purchase of imprint titles is what's needed to stop the bleeding, simple as that.)

Pretty soon people will start rummaging around secondhand shops looking for old mimeograph machines and unused stencils. Campus scribes and artists will revive handout culturesof leafleting to get out the copy. I'm only half kidding.

Please read the text blogged below from Infoshop, then click on the titles we've run to read the entire article. Finally, come back to Cheap Priceless Editions, because an entire comment cut 'n' pasted from ChuckO over at Infoshop appears here in italic.

Chuck is the guy who apparently knows how to put this in context better than anyone else.

Blogaulaire is not asking you to use your street sense to figure out what the impact of the AMS-PGW bankruptcy and the IPA closure will mean for New Writing. I'm telling you that many interesting and dedicated people in editorial and production for the words that mean the most are going to have a rough time paying the rent and . . .

Another Distributor for the Independents Goes Under

Wednesday, January 03 2007 @ 09:44 PM PST

Founded in 1996 'to promote and support independent publications dedicated to social justice and a free press', the Independent Press Association (IPA) announced Dec. 27 (two weeks ago) that it was ceasing operations immediately.

Based in San Francisco, IPA's demise follows more than a year of growing concerns about financial mismanagement of the organization's newsstand distribution service which in turn has wreaked havoc on dozens of small, independent publishers. IPA's New York office, which bears no responsibility for the crisis, will also be closing down.

Jesus H. Christ! This was totlaly off my radar, although I'd heard about concerns people had about Big Top.

This is really bad news folks. The implosion of the radical press that we saw last month with the demise of Clamor has now turned into a black hole that has taken out IPA and likely a whole slew of radical and progressive magazines. This is going to effect progressive and cultural magazines more than anarchist magazines, but this will probably cause the demise of more than a few magazines and zines.

The SF Weekly article from last June notes that IPA's Big Top distribution project owed magazines around $500,000. That is an amazing shitload of money to owe a bunch of small magazines. That's a half million dollars that small and alternative magazines won't be getting. They won't be able to pay their printers, pay for postage and given that most magazines operate on precarious margins, this will be a disaster.

IPA was a pretty good association, lobbying on behalf of indie magazines. They took on the postal service after the recent rate hikes which fucked over magazines. They took on chain bookstores like Barnes and Noble and Borders, which were screwing over magazines with a "chargeback" scam (the bookstores charged publishers extra money if bar codes didn't scan). The IPA ran several good programs that supported small ethnic presses.

Dear readers, let me try to emphasize how bad these developments are for publishers and why the alternative press is being sucked into a growing black hole.

Small publishers are obviously hurt when any of their distribution networks go under. One of the reasons why the capitalist media maintains its hegemony is because their hugeness makes it possible to control distribution networks. The alternative media has to make do with anything they can to get magazines onto newstands or mail them to subscribers. When distros like Big Top, Clamor's infoShop Direct, Fine Print, Big Top, or Tower go under, magazines don't get paid money. This means they can't pay print bills and other expenses. This lack of cash flow disrupts their publishing schedules, angering readers and creating other headaches. The loss of any distributor is the loss of another scare network resource. The fewer the distributors, the harder it is to get into bookstores. If a distro decides to not carry your periodical, you don't have many options.

When Fine Print when under in the 90s, that really hurt the alternative media, including one anarchist magazine that I know. This past year we've seen the end of Big Top, Clamor, and Tower Records as distros and retail outlets.

The other option for publishers is subscriptions and direct sales to bookstores and events. The postal service keeps raising magazine rates, which hurts indie publishers. Selling direct to infoshops and bookstores is possible, but it is a logistical headache. The reason why magazines rely on distributors is to transfer the distro work to a service so the publisher can focus on publishing the magazine. Selling direct to bookstores and infoshops is a precarious option because fewer bookstores and infoshops are selling periodicals. They also aren't timely and efficient with periodicals, because administering periodical sales is complicated.

Then we can throw in the fact that magazine sales are down across the board. People are reading fewer magazines and zines. Some would point out that alternative websites, podcasts, and new media can take up the slack created by the demise of these magazines. This is a good point to some extent, but it masks several serious problems.

The first problem being that people don't give money to alternative websites like they do to print magazines. People like to exchange money for a tangible product. Online magazines across the board have problems raising money online. Go to any radical or progressive website--Common Dreams, New Standard,, CounterPunch, Infoshop--you can see that they all have to have frequent online campaigns. Even when I worked for Science magazine, which is the most prestigious science magazine in the U.S. (circulation arounf 150,000), we were constantly worried about the Internet causing financial headaches. I attended more than a few meetings where we brainstormed, argued, discussed, and analyzed how to get people to subscribe to an online version of the magazine.

When these dead tree alternative magazines disappear, it creates new hurdles for online alternative media. We have fewer radical writers, artists, and journalists to draw on. If people don't get exposure through a magazine like LiP or Clamor, they aren't going to be motivated to compete with people for a smaller pool of online alternative media outlets. Many of these small magazines paid their contributors. Many of these contributors will have to turn to other work to earn a living or supplement their income. People complain here all the time about Infoshop News running stories from the mainstream media. I'd love to stick with all radical writers, but it will be harder to find these writers and journalists if print alternative magazines go away.

Isn't there some old saying that if we don't work together we'll hang separately? I'm not sure how that goes, but I'm more comfortable with science fiction metaphors. The black hole that is consuming alternative print magazines won't stop with just dead trees media.



No comments: