Celebrating 1000 books in 35 years of Channel View Publications/Multilingual Matters

6 April 2017

With the recent publication of the 6th edition of Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, we hit a real milestone and published our 1000th book since the company began. In this post, Tommi reflects on the last 35 years leading up to this point and discusses how the company and wider world of publishing has changed over time. 

Tommi and David Singleton at the MM drinks reception at AAAL

At the recent AAAL conference in Portland, OR, we celebrated the publication of our 1000th book, the 6th edition of Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, co-authored by Colin Baker and Wayne E. Wright. Since I remember the publication of our very first book in 1982, Bilingualism: Basic Principles by Hugo Baetens-Beardsmore, this led me to reflect a little on what has changed at Channel View Publications/Multilingual Matters (CVP/MM), in the world of academic publishing, and attitudes to bilingualism since then.

Marjukka and Mike at Frankfurt Book Fair

Many of you will know that CVP/MM is a family business, founded originally by my parents in response to being told by our family doctor not to speak Finnish to my brother and me, stating that “they didn’t know what damage they were doing”. Fortunately, being a formidable combination of a stubborn Finnish mother and an entrepreneurial Essex-man father, they not only refused to take such unwelcome advice, they took it as an opportunity to find and publish world-class research focusing on the many positive benefits of bilingualism. Although we now publish in a very wide range of topics – including applied linguistics and sociolinguistics, educational research, language disorders and translation studies under our Multilingual Matters imprint and, under our other imprint Channel View Publications, tourism studies – language rights and positive attitudes to bi- and multilingualism remain at the heart of what we do. We believe that no mother or father should ever be told not to speak the language of their heart to their children without extremely well-informed reasons for doing so.

Although in many cases attitudes towards bilingualism may have switched towards the more positive and even aspirational, this is often only the case if the languages you speak are privileged western languages, and in many cases only if you are of the majority population. It is fine and admirable to learn Spanish or Arabic if you are white, but society might be less positive about you retaining your Spanish or Arabic if you are an immigrant. There is still much work to do in changing attitudes towards languages where these languages are associated with immigration or are minority indigenous languages.

Some of my first memories include sitting under our dining room table, “helping” my parents stick the mailing labels onto envelopes that would carry our first catalogues out into the world. Among the many addresses we sent catalogues to, 252 Bloor Street West stuck in my mind. As a 6 year old child I struggled to understand how so many people lived in this one house! In the years since then I have come to know the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) well, and have got to know the very many authors and friends who are based there. We no longer pack and mail our catalogues ourselves, this is one of those tasks that computers and automation have simplified, but as the editor of my local orienteering club newsletter I have to pack and mail all the copies to our members, so I like to think that I have retained those valuable skills!

The office in Clevedon before everything was done on computers

In 1982 we were already using computers for journal subscription processing, but all correspondence with authors and editors was by mail. We used to do so much mailing back and forth that the local post office gave us our own postcode! All of our records were kept in large filing cabinets and a system of racks, T-cards and folders would track the process of book and journal manuscripts from initial proposal to published book. Sales reports from our distributor would be couriered once a month to us in a large box, and even as recently as the late 1990s we would wait with excitement to go through the monthly sales reports and see how well our books had been selling. These days everything we do is reliant on computers, the internet and data. We only have to log in to our distributors’ reporting sites to get the sales figures from the day before, and we can communicate easily even while travelling. This availability of data and immediacy of communication brings with it a new set of demands and challenges. There is a sense that we must respond to everything as quickly as possible and that we absolutely have to know how many books were sold in the last 24 hours. A lot of time is taken up by responding to queries that in the past would have waited for a single letter, and of course we put the same pressures on to other people.

In the early days of our company the only reliable way to purchase books was via the bookshop, or to put a cheque in the post with an order form from our catalogue. These days the rise of companies like Amazon, Books etc. and the Book Depository, as well as our own website, means that wherever you are you should be able to order a print copy of our books and have it posted to you quickly. If you choose to purchase an ebook, you can place an order now and have the full text, even in some cases with embedded video files and links to relevant websites and resources, delivered direct to your computer, tablet or reading device within seconds.

Libraries are able to buy one multi-user license of a digital book, which does not degrade with age and usage, and are able to share this with multiple users of the library, even off-site users of the library, at the same time. Shelf space is making way for more computer spaces and learning environments, and university campuses are changing accordingly. Of course the downside of this is that the number of copies required to service the same population has fallen, and so in general across the publishing industry we have seen the total number of sales of any one academic title fall quite dramatically in the past 10 years or so. Since the majority of overhead and fixed costs of publication have not fallen, this means that book prices have risen much faster than inflation in order to cover those costs.

While it is interesting to look at what has changed, it is also very instructive to consider what has stayed constant over all this time. Digital technology and distribution has meant that the barriers to entry into the publishing industry have fallen dramatically. In a world where anyone can write, typeset and publish a book relatively quickly, easily and inexpensively, the role of the publisher in providing a measure of review, revision and quality control is just as important as it was in 1982. It is arguably even more important now, given the recent attention to fake news stories and alternative facts. CVP/MM has always believed in reviewing manuscripts thoroughly and as transparently as possible, and while peer-review is not a flawless system, it is a vitally important step in ensuring that the books we publish can be trusted by students, researchers, parents and policy-makers.

Flo, Sarah, Anna, Tommi, Elinor and Laura

We continue to grow as a business, this year we will publish 60 titles across all of the various subject areas, where just 10 years ago we would schedule 30 titles. But we remain a small and friendly operation with approachable staff. We have fostered an atmosphere where we can thrive and grow within our jobs, and so our staff turnover is extremely low. It is highly likely that you will deal with the same people through the life of your book project, if not your whole career! You will have seen me at every AAAL for the past 19 years, but you may not be aware that Sarah and Anna will this year celebrate their 15th anniversary of working for Multilingual Matters, and Elinor and Laura are not that far behind. Our most recent full time colleague, Flo, already feels like part of the family, and our intern, Alice, reflects the values that we all share.

Although my father, Mike, is no longer around to see the progress we have made since he and my mother, Marjukka, retired, he would still recognise everything that we do and be proud of how we have continued to build on what they started 1000 books ago. We would not have been able to publish 1000 books if it wasn’t for the many authors, series editors, reviewers and readers who have contributed in so many different ways. There are too many to name here, but I hope you know just how important you are to us. It has been a pleasure to work with you all and I hope that you will continue to partner with us, to work with us and to hold us to account when we do occasionally get things wrong, so that as we go on to publish books together we can all grow and improve, and look back on the next 1000 books with just as much pride!

Tommi


Goodbye (for now) to Elinor!

20 January 2017

Today is a sad but exciting day in the Channel View office as we say goodbye (for now) and good luck to Elinor, who is going on maternity leave. Elinor has been working at Channel View for nearly 12 years and has, amongst many other duties, been responsible for managing this blog since its inception in 2011. In this post, we find out about the work she’s done at Channel View over the past 12 years and what she’s going to miss most about working here.

How has your job changed over time, from when you first started to now?

Elinor's early days at Channel View

Elinor’s early days at Channel View

I started in a 6 month maternity cover position in 2005 and my first role was PA to the sales and marketing department. My main jobs were answering the phone, sending out books and general admin. Over the years I have taken on more responsibilities and I became marketing manager and part of the management team in 2008. Since then Laura and Flo have joined the marketing team and between them will be handling all the marketing while I’m on maternity leave.

What’s your favourite part of your job now?

It’s always lovely to get positive feedback from an author when their book is published and they say how pleased they are with their book and how much they have enjoyed working with us. I also enjoy having personal contact with all of our authors throughout the process and working with them to market their book.

What are you happiest to be handing over?

I find the twice yearly catalogues quite time-consuming, especially if it’s a busy time of year, so I won’t miss working on those. I will also be happy not to be dealing with the daily deluge of emails which come flooding in!

Any top tips for a new marketeer?

It’s always great to encourage authors to get really involved with the marketing of their book. Some of our most successful titles are ones where the authors have had great ideas and utilised their own networks and contacts to market the book as well as using social media to get the word out to their colleagues. However, I’m sure that the marketing will be in capable hands with Laura and Flo while I’m away and that they don’t need any tips!

What will you miss most about the office?

I will miss our Friday lunches and all the gossip from the office! But hopefully I will manage to pop in and catch up with everyone while I’m on maternity leave. Some of us have worked together for over 11 years so it will be very odd not to see everyone every day. I will miss the conversations about The Archers, orienteering, Manchester United, the royal family, cake, netball, Disney films and Dawlish which are all important topics in the Channel View office!

We'll miss you!

We’ll miss you! Good luck and make sure you pop in to visit us soon!

While Elinor is on maternity leave, Laura and Flo will be covering her marketing responsibilities and Sarah will be acting commissioning editor for the Aspects of TourismAspects of Tourism Texts and Tourism Essentials series.


Getting to know the Channel View team: Elinor

12 May 2016

In this blog post we get to know Elinor. Elinor is our Marketing Manager and celebrated 10 years of working for CVP/MM last summer. She was also a student here at the University of Bristol, where she studied German and Spanish, so she has lived in Bristol for even longer than that. She’s pretty good at knowing about new places to see and things to do in Bristol, so we’ll start by asking her about her favourite hobbies.

Ellie in a tree

Elinor enjoying the great outdoors

You’ve lived in Bristol for quite a few years now, what are your favourite things to do in the city (aside from working for CVP/MM that is!)?

There is always so much going on in Bristol that there is always something to see and do. But I think my favourite things to do are wandering along the harbourside or through Ashton Court stopping off for coffee and cake along the way.

The harbourside area is one of my favourite places too and Ashton Court is such a lovely green space, those sound like good suggestions to me, especially if accompanied by coffee and cake! You must have quite a sweet tooth then, do you do much baking at home?

Yes I love to bake cakes and biscuits and once I even worked my way through a book of 101 cake recipes in a year. It was fun but pretty hard work to bake 2 cakes a week for a year but my friends and colleagues really enjoyed sampling the results! With several keen bakers in the office we quite often have delicious home-baked treats to get us through our long meetings!

Ellie showing off her baking skills

Elinor showing off her baking skills

I remember that year well, I think I had to do double the amount of exercise to burn off the calories from all your delicious cake! I’m guessing your bookshelves are lined with lots of cookery books, but are you also a big reader of fiction, or any other genre?

Ha! Yes fortunately the excess of cake didn’t affect our waistlines too much! As well as the many baking recipe books I pore over on a regular basis, I love to read fiction and get through several books a month. Although I mostly read contemporary fiction, I also appreciate the odd classic and enjoy nothing more than spending a good hour or so in the library picking new books to read. In fact, it’s getting to the point where my shelves at home are overflowing with unread books but I still can’t stop myself acquiring more!

It’s good to be keeping libraries busy too! Do you have any favourite books or authors to recommend?

This is a tricky one, I have so many favourites! One of my all-time favourite books is Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter. The best book I have read recently is The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt.

I agree that selecting a favourite book is very difficult!  So, one final question before we do some quick-fire ones to round up the interview, if you could be a character in a (fiction) book, who might you choose to be?

Ooh that’s really difficult! Although I like the idea of being in a Jane Austen novel and going to balls, I think that being a woman in that era would be a bit too restrictive for my liking! Might be fun to try out for a day though.

A day would certainly be fun!  Just a few more questions and then you’re done:

Cakes or biscuits? Too difficult. I refuse to answer. Both play such an important role in my life, it would be like choosing your favourite child!

Rural or urban? Again, a very difficult question. I love living in a city but enjoy escaping to the countryside for walks.

Dancing or singing? Singing

Board games or card games? Board games

Sunrise or sunset? Sunset

Motorbike or pushbike? Cycling on a normal bike is scary enough at times! I wouldn’t dream of getting on a motorbike.

Antique or modern? Modern


Elinor and Tommi’s Asian Adventure

26 June 2013
Elinor and Tommi at the Silver Pavilion

Elinor and Tommi at the Silver Pavilion (Ginkakuji)

Before our trip to the ISB conference this month (which you can read about here) Tommi and I travelled to Japan, China and Hong Kong to visit our reps, booksellers and academics. It was a really useful trip and fascinating to see how bookselling works in other countries.

Tommi eating green tea ice cream

We started our trip in Japan where we met booksellers based in Tokyo: Kinokuniya, Yushodo, Maruzen, UPS and Far Eastern Booksellers. It’s great to hear firsthand what is happening with library budgets and the local economy. After Tokyo, we travelled to Kyoto where we met our sales reps from Eureka Press and visited academics at both Kyoto University and Ritsumeikan University. At Kyoto University we met with a group of graduate students and Tommi gave a talk about academic publishing and how to turn your PhD into a book.

Fortunately we had a bit of free time in Japan too and we managed to visit several temples and sample some of the delicious local cuisine.

Elinor at the Forbidden City

After that we travelled to Beijing where we met with our Chinese rep Sarah from CPS. We had several meetings with local book importers as well as with the National Library of China. We met with Beijing Zhongke and CEPIEC. We also had a few free hours when a meeting was cancelled and we were able to visit the Forbidden City which was really interesting.

Big yellow duck

Big yellow duck

After less than 48 hours in Beijing, we headed to Hong Kong where we visited one our authors, Andy Gao, at Hong Kong University. Again, we met with a group of graduate students and other people interested in the publishing industry and talked to them about what we do and how the publishing process works. After the work part of our visit to Hong Kong was over we had a bit of spare time and managed to visit the fishing village of Sai Kung which was a complete contrast to the high-rise skyscrapers of Hong Kong island and Kowloon. We also travelled to the top of Victoria Peak and saw the giant yellow duck in the harbour.

After Hong Kong we headed to Singapore for the International Symposium of Bilingualism which rounded off a really successful trip. It really makes a difference travelling to meet customers in their own countries and we really enjoyed expanding our network of contacts in Asia.

To see more photos of our trip take a look at our Facebook pages: Multilingual Matters and Channel View Publications.


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