To mark our first birthday, the LSE Review of Books is holding an awards ceremony on 16 May 2013 to recognise the hard work of our contributors and to thank all parties involved in helping to support the initiative. Thomas Abbs, online editor and digital marketing executive at I.B. Tauris, continues our series of blog posts from academic publishers, covering more details about the award I.B. Tauris is sponsoring and how integral the study of arts and literature is to their publishing ethos.
Which books first inspired your own interest in books and the world of publishing?
Confession time. I was one of those children that didn’t read. I was either up a tree or scraping my knees at the local recreation ground. It took The Great Gatsby and a teacher to change my ways. This, I suppose, led me towards American Studies at UEA, which in turn nurtured a perfectly harmless obsession with Edith Wharton and Willa Cather. It was between my undergrad and postgrad though that working in publishing became my goal. I spent a few summer months at Phaidon researching/ cataloguing/ fact-checking buildings for an architecture project, and decided, enthusiastically, this will do.
I.B. Tauris is sponsoring the Arts and Literature award at the forthcoming LSE Review of Books Awards. How important is Arts and Literature to I.B. Tauris’s history, identity, and legacy?
From a personal point of view, a big part of why I applied for a job at I.B.Tauris was our Visual Culture list. From the Reframed series and new translations of Sergei Eisenstein’s writings, to popular culture studies on Batman, we have a diverse approach that is dedicated to cutting edge critical writing, working closely with authors developing new approaches in their area. Much of this is down to Philippa Brewster, who for over the last ten years has tirelessly built – and continues to build – an incredible back catalogue of books.
While academics like John Tusa, Griselda Pollock and Will Brooker have helped forge our reputation in this area, we are of course always looking to the future. That’s why we’ve set up this initiative with UCL, and – if you’ll excuse a gush – are so keen to support the LSE Review of Books.
What initiatives has I.B. Tauris undertaken to cater for our changing reading habits?
Being an academic publisher we obviously publish a number of monographs, in hardback, that are mainly bought by university libraries. It soon became clear at book launches and events that students, if the books were affordable, would want their own copy. So over the last year or so, more and more of our monographs are simultaneously released as an affordable e-book.
Whether it’s eating lunch at your desk, or to bide time on a morning commute, most people now read blogs. That’s why towards the end of 2011 we launched our own (theibtaurisblog.com), offering our authors a platform to discuss and share their research, but also – and I think importantly – providing PhD students the chance to contribute as well.
What big new releases from I.B.Tauris can readers look forward to in the next few months?
May finally sees the release of Writing Revolution, which towards the end of 2012 received the English PEN award for writing in translation. The book brings together some of the most exciting new writing – from Tunis to Damascus – born out of the revolution in the Arab world. All the contributors have either affected, or been affected by, the course of events in their countries: whether they have faced years of harassment from authorities, like Jamal Jubran in Sanaa; or by giving voice to their country’s stories on international platforms, like Egyptian Yasmine El Rashidi and Saudi Safa Al Ahmad.
Towards the end of the month, and with the help of English PEN, the editors – Layla Al-Zubaidi and Matthew Cassel – as well as some of the contributors – Malek Sghiri, Ali Aldairy and Mohammed Mesrati – are flying to the UK to talk at various events. Naturally, everyone in the office is keen to champion this project.
Other projects we’re excited about include our recent partnership with IBRAAZ, which will see regular essay collections being published examining media and art practices across North Africa and the Middle East; an updated edition of Rozsika Parker and Griselda Pollock’s truly groundbreaking Old Mistresses, offering a radical challenge to a women-free Art History; and a new book by Wim Wenders, Inventing Peace, that will be accompanied by two exclusive short films.
Thomas Abbs is I.B.Tauris’ online editor and digital marketing executive. You can follow him on Twitter @tabsinthe.