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Understanding our place: publishing’s role in the reading ecosystem under neoliberal economics

Kirkbride, J. ORCID: 0000-0002-1475-1265 (2020). Understanding our place: publishing’s role in the reading ecosystem under neoliberal economics. In: Baverstock, A., Bradford, R. & Gonzalez, M. (Eds.), Contemporary Publishing and the Culture of Books. (pp. 237-252). Abingdon, UK: Routledge. doi: 10.4324/9781315778389


Originally given as a lecture as part of the Kingston University Masterclass series, this chapter proposes a roadmap of the ‘reading ecosystem’. It explores the fault lines within this ecosystem, and what potential challenges these might pose to the future of publishing should the current neoliberal economic pressure upon the industry continue. Finally, by examining publishing’s role within this system, the essay offers some simple methods publishers can employ to counter these threats.

Traditionally, book creation has primarily been considered as a physical, linear process: from the moment it is written through to the moment it is purchased. However, by adding in the human element, and the different roles book trade employees will likely move between during over time, a ‘reading ecosystem’ emerges that is instead a complex web.

Current neoliberal economic practices tend to take the linear, product-based view of book production. Di Leo and Mehan posit that this has already created compromises in standard industry best practice, impacting the quality of books published, the approach to the market, handing over legacy industry knowledge, and communication between different industry sectors. By interpreting the research of Di Leo and Mehan through the framework of the ‘reading ecosystem’, this essay poses that within the publishing industry these compromises have the potential to create critical breaches in the ecosystem, leading to a shrinking pool of future readers - and, therefore, future writers, publishers, agents, and booksellers.

In conclusion, the essay proposes a series of simple communication practices publishers can undertake which might help to make industry employees aware of these neoliberal pressures and therefore able to combat them.

Publication Type: Book Section
Additional Information: This is an Accepted Manuscript of a book chapter published by Routledge in Contemporary Publishing and the Culture of Books on 27 Jan 2020, available online:
Publisher Keywords: Authors and publishers
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HB Economic Theory
H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
Departments: School of Communication & Creativity > Media, Culture & Creative Industries > English, Publishing & Creative Writing
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