Read the North Episode 3: The Publishers

30 May 2022 / by Quinton Bradshaw
A woodcut illustration of hands holding a book, under the title text "Read the North"

In this episode, we go behind-the-scenes of the publishing industry with Canada’s world-class independent presses to see how a book is made and meet a few of the people who make them happen. 

Hosted by Rebecca Diem

Produced by Quinton Bradshaw

Music by James Ellercamp

Special thanks to Alana Wilcox of Coach House Books, Jen Albert of ECW Press, Semerah Al-Hillal of House of Anansi/Groundwood Books, and Maria Zuppardi of Dundurn Press & @ReadingMaria (and also to Cory Doctorow, for the post-credits anecdote that had us in stitches).

Reading List:

  • After Beowulf – Nicole Marcotic (this is the book we saw being printed during our visit to Coach House Books)

Presented by The Word On The Street & CJRU 1280AM, with support from the Community Radio Fund of Canada.


Episode Transcript:

[sounds of a printing press coming to life] 

Rebecca Diem: It’s an unseasonably warm morning in mid-February, and I’m standing on the ground floor of Coach House Books, watching a 1973 Heidelberg Printing press slowly rumble to life. It’s about the length of a small car, and kind of looks like one too, if you removed the body to expose the mechanisms underneath. Joining me in a silent semi-circle around it are Alana Wilcox, editorial director at Coach House Books, and my producer, Quinton Bradshaw. We are about to witness the miracle of birth. A printing tech steps up to the machine, ready to play the role of midwife.

Alana Wilcox: You can stand over Josh and watch him while he’s changing the plates.

Quinton Bradshaw: Yeah I mean actually– I don’t know, would you mind talking about what you’re doing as you’re doing it?

Josh (Coach House): I can try, yeah. 

Quinton Bradshaw: Yeah, cool, okay!

Josh (Coach House): Yeah, so right now, these are both rotating and this kind of acts like a stencil almost. It gets covered in water so that the ink doesn’t spread throughout the entire plate. And then, this acts as a the stamp–the green part–and they touch first and then that hits that, which will hold the paper, and then that’s how it rotates and gets printed onto the paper.

Rebecca Diem: At this point, the press is whirling around, but nothing has actually come out of it. We’re all watching intently, waiting for something to happen. Anticipation is building. And then…

[sounds of the paper landing in the tray.]

Suddenly, papers are flying out of the machine! Congratulations, it’s a book! 

[printing press sound fades out]

Actually, to be technically correct, it’s a ‘signature’, which is really just a tiny chunk of a book. And after that’s printed, there’s still a few more steps that take you to the finished product. But we’ll get to that in a minute.

I’m Rebecca Diem, and this is Read the North, a series about CanLit, brought to you by CJRU 1280 AM and The Word On The Street. And this is our third episode: The Publishers.

[theme music – ambient indie/electronic by composer James Ellercamp]

So far on this show, we’ve done a lot of big picture thinking: Why do we have book festivals? How did we end up with CanLit? But at the centre of all these conversations is a single object, about 5 x 8 inches in size, without which none of this would be possible. 

You love them, you read them, you might have a shelf or ten full of them… Today we are talking about books. And publishers, the people who make them.  

[intermittent jazzy, percussive scoring begins]

So how, exactly, IS a book made? I mean, you just heard the printing of one, or, excuse me, of a signature. But that’s just one step in what is a multi-year process of taking an idea, writing a story, turning it into a physical volume, and getting it out into readers’ hands. To walk us through it, we’re joined by a few of our publishing friends: Jen Albert…

Jen Albert: I’m an editor at ECW. Technically, my title is production editor. And recently, I’ve moved more into book acquisitions, so I’m kind of ECW’s speculative fiction editor at this point.

Rebecca Diem: Semerah Al-Hillal…

Semerah Al-Hillal: My name is Semerah Al-Hillal and I’m the president of House of Anansi Press and Groundwood Books.

Rebecca Diem: And Alana, whose voice you might have caught a few minutes ago: 

Alana Wilcox: I’m Alana Wilcox. I’m the editorial director of Coach House Books.

Rebecca Diem: Among Canadian publishers, ECW, Coach House, and House of Anasi all occupy a similar position in between the corporate goliaths and the truly tiny indies. 

Jen Albert: I mean, there are publishers of all sizes in Canada. There’s of course the multinationals, like Penguin Random House and HarperCollins. Those tend to, even within Canada, get a lot of the bigger books–they can outbid all of the rest of us by quite a margin, of course. And then you have more medium-sized publishers like us, Arsenal’s another great one doing really, really interesting stuff, Coach House and Anansi, these are all smaller to medium sized publishers that are doing really beautiful work. And of course, there’s some very, very small publishers that are only just having, just a few titles per year. 

Rebecca Diem: ECW currently produces about 50 titles a year. Coach House and Anasi might produce a few more or less. And not every publisher is going to follow the exact same steps. But if you’re a mid-sized Canadian publisher making books in the year 2022, the process might look something like this: 

First, the publisher will receive a submission, to be reviewed by an editor, like Jen.

Jen Albert: So there are three ways in which a book will land on my desk. First is through a literary agent, for a proposal or manuscript. With me, it’s always a manuscript because I work with fiction. So that is like, I read the whole book in order to consider it, unless it’s a previous author of ours. But ECW, and a lot of other small press publishers, actually have open submissions– have unsolicited submissions, which means that you don’t need an agent to submit a book to us for consideration. And we’ll take a look at that. And every single one of those unsolicited manuscripts, samples do get looked at by editors behind the scenes. 

The third way is not as much talked about, but sometimes we do get referrals. So say, authors are sometimes referred by a friend or maybe a mentor who are associated with ECW in some way, maybe one of our authors is a professor at a school, and they have a really promising young student and say, “Here, look at this manuscript.” But that’s not to say that you should go and ask everyone that you’ve ever heard of to like, give you a referral. But that is something that happens sometimes. Yeah. And so it comes across my desk and I make a decision. We go to an editorial decision-making meeting. First before that, I will look at similar books to the one that I’d like to take, assuming I would like to take the manuscript on, do a P&L–a profit and loss spreadsheet–to make sure that it’s going to work out in a financial sense, present it to the other editors and be like, ‘this is why I think we should do this book’. And then you move on with negotiations and deals and things like that.

Rebecca Diem: A children’s publisher like Groundwood might also take submissions, but there are a few additional ways they’ll find their projects:

Semerah Al-Hillal: In children’s publishing the acquisitions happen via authors that we’re already working with, via agents. We also take unsolicited submissions as a number of independent publishers in particular do. We also might begin the process of working on a book through an idea that an editor or publisher has that is then developed. Often we sign the manuscript or the text first, and then we look for the right illustrator. Sometimes a submission comes from a creator, who is both an author and an illustrator. If the book is going to be fully illustrated, that part of the process alone can take nine months to a year or even longer. So often on the children’s side, we’re working two to three years ahead, developing our pub list. 

Rebecca Diem: So eventually, the publisher will have settled on their list of titles. 

Alana Wilcox: And then we shepherd them through the process of editing, various, you know, sometimes two passes, sometimes 20 passes, to produce a manuscript that we’re– that everybody’s happy with. 

Rebecca Diem: This editing process, which Alana has neatly summed up in a few sentences, can take months, or even years. 

Alana Wilcox: Then it goes through the process of design and marketing. We lay the book out, create the cover, get it all ready to go. And in the background, at the same time, we’re working on promotion, getting the metadata sorted out, getting the– all the different promotional plans in place. And then we send the files downstairs where they go on our Heidelberg printing press.

[sounds of a printing press fade in]

Quinton Bradshaw: So this is where the magic actually… 

Alana Wilcox:This is where the magic actually happens. 

[sounds of a printing press fade out]

Rebecca Diem: As you heard at the start of this episode, the Heidelberg cranks out all the interior pages of the book. We’re back downstairs at Coach House – nothing is printing right now, so the space is much quieter – as Alana walks us through the full production line.

Alana Wilcox: And then the book– the paper gets stacked up in big piles on wheel carts. And then it comes into the next room. This is our loading dock for our paper. And then here’s where the paper goes through this folding machine which is very loud. And we’re not going to turn it on. And it folds it in half, in half, in half. And so a single sheet of paper turns into a little booklet.

[sounds of flipping through the booklet]

Alana Wilcox: And then somebody manually puts these all in the correct order, you can tell it’s correct, because there’s a stripe down the spine. And then it comes over to this machine, which is the binding machine. And it’s heating up right now, it’s not working quite yet. But there’s a big clamp and the insides of the book go in, get clamped in really tight. And then they run over a spinning saw blade and through this boiling hot glue, and they land in the cover. And then it, kachunk, like that, it’s a finished book. And then it comes over to the big cutting machine here and cuts off the three edges. So you have a finished book. 

Rebecca Diem: The way Coach House executes this part of the process is actually pretty unique – most Canadian publishers aren’t submitting their files upstairs and then walking downstairs to watch the press crank them out. There are a few other publishers in the country that print in-house, including Gaspereau Press in Kentville, Nova Scotia, and The Porcupine’s Quill in Erin, Ontario. But in most cases, commercial printing is done on a web press, far away from the publisher’s offices. 

Alana Wilcox: We have a real advantage here at Coach House in being able to watch the production happening live. For a variety of reasons, including some of the supply chain issues plaguing the industry right now. My favourite thing before the pandemic was inviting authors in to watch the first copy of their book being glued. And so lots of happy occasions where an author would come with, you know, maybe with some family and a camera, and they can put the first copy of their book through the binder themselves. And the book comes out the other end, and it’s a finished book. And it’s the first copy and they can hold it in their hands. So we really miss that during the pandemic and hope we can return to it soon.

Rebecca Diem: Celebratory photoshoots complete, it’s time for the books to journey out into the hands of expectant readers.

Alana Wilcox: For print books, once they’re printed here, they get shipped off to our distributor, and our sales reps go out to bookstores and encourage the bookstores to order the books, the distributor sends the books to the bookstore, and hopefully people go in and buy them. Otherwise, the bookstore sends them back to us. In terms of ebooks, of course, that’s all done digitally, and audio books. So just files, you know, winging their way around the internet, to the people who need to read them.

Rebecca Diem: So, listeners, that’s how a book is made. 

[intermittent jazzy, percussive scoring fades out with a flourish]

But let’s talk a little bit more about who’s making these books. Here’s a quick lay of the land:

Canada is home to easily over a hundred book publishers. The Association of Canadian publishers website says that they represent 115 Canadian owned and operated outfits, so let’s say the actual number is probably a little more than that. 

Within those, as Jen said, you’ve got everything from huge multi-nationals to tiny art book producers, and everything in between. Some are pretty general interest in what they publish, while others serve more specific communities and interests. Some presses, like Theytus Press and Kegedonce Press, focus on publishing Indigenous authors. Others, like Brick Books or Mansfield Press, focus on poetry. There are also a number of presses that focus on publishing books for children – though their publishers will be quick to remind you that actually, their audience extends far beyond the youth set. 

Semerah Al-Hillal: It may be a parent, it may be a guardian, it may be a grandparent or another relative, it may be a teacher, it may be a librarian, it may be someone at storytime in a bookstore or library. So there’s so many people who read children’s books.

Rebecca Diem: But despite the diversity in operations among Canadian publishers, it can still feel like a bit of a monolith – even, sometimes, to those working in CanLit. 

[ambient scoring begins]

So, as a part of our effort to demystify the book making process, we wanted to learn more about the people behind the publishers. Our guests range from industry vets to relative newbies, and they were gracious enough to shed some light on their own experiences working in the industry: How they got into it, what’s changed, what’s stayed the same, and what they think the future holds. Let’s start with the captain of Coach House Books, Alana Wilcox.  

[ambient scoring fades out]

Alana Wilcox: It’s always fascinating to be working at an independent Canadian publisher. There’s always a lot of interesting things going on. Some challenges, some fun things, and, especially during the pandemic, lots of other changes to the industry to stay on top of. 

Rebecca Diem: How long have you worked here?

Alana Wilcox: 22 years.

Rebecca Diem: 22 years? Yeah. How has the industry evolved over that time that, that you’ve been here?

Alana Wilcox: The industry has changed so much in the past 22 years, it’s completely unrecognisable to what it was when I started. The advent of ebooks, of course, audio books, which I love, because it makes our books accessible to more people. There didn’t used to be ebooks, or audio books, and audio books used to be like on cassettes or eight tracks. So I love that now, you can choose to read in whatever format best suits how you, how you want to engage with the material. So I’m really happy to see that development. But on the downside, you know, the sort of consolidation of the industry and the dominance of Amazon is sort of a scary thing for all of us in the biz.

Rebecca Diem: We were kind of its first target. 

Alana Wilcox: We were its first target and not its last. But yeah, so everything, everything about how we work has changed, all– from systems to the kind of books that come out the other end of it, so… most of it for the good. I would say.

Rebecca Diem: Yeah

[inquisitive scoring begins]

Rebecca Diem: Coach House has always been a meeting place for the old and the new. Modern printing technology lives comfortably alongside relics of their past. I mean, their office is located in a literal coach house. It was a run-down wreck when Stan Bevington, the founder of Coach House Books, first moved them into their new/old home in 1967. 

Alana Wilcox: It was basically a shell of a building so had to add, you know, power and water and all of that and gradually turned it into a, you know, hopefully charming, idiosyncratic, cluttered, dusty, crammed-with-fun-history space.

[inquisitive scoring fades out]

Rebecca Diem: I love that, like looking around this room, I can see like, books from as far back as 1965 on the shelf, like, you know, dusty, beautiful, dusty shelves. 

Alana Wilcox: Lot of dust. We got a lot of dust. 

Rebecca Diem: A lot of dust. I see like an old boombox, like an 80s style boombox, way up on a top shelf. There’s some cameras, some, like, really, really old school cameras. Like they look like 1920s style, like the brownie ones. 

Alana Wilcox: Check out that one.

Quinton Bradshaw: What’s your favourite thing in this room?

Alana Wilcox: I like the whole room all combined. Like I think it’s not an individual thing. This is the ashes of Roy Cayuga. There’s a spool of thread stolen from Margaret Atwood’s house. There’s all kinds of little bits and pieces that together to me add up to something interesting. It’s the juxtaposition that’s interesting.

Rebecca Diem: Yeah. What? Who stole thread – 

Alana Wilcox: I can’t divulge that! 

Rebecca Diem: Yeah, you can’t divulge that…

Rebecca Diem: But as fun as the relics are, Alana takes Coach House’s role as a longstanding pillar of Canadian publishing very seriously. 

Alana Wilcox: The role and responsibility of an independent Canadian publisher like Coach House is, I think, to be a sort of mindful steward of Canadian literature, to think about the past, think about the future, think about the present. Think about the readers, think about the writers, and just be conscious, and– you know, we’re not doing it to make money, obviously. So to really bear in mind what the, you know– what the legacy of our list would be and to be responsible citizens within the community.

Rebecca Diem: Speaking of longstanding independent Canadian Publishers, in 1967, the very same year that Coach House found its forever home, writers Dennis Lee and David Godfrey were launching their own venture: House of Anansi Press. While initially they focused on poetry, by the time Semerah took the helm, they were publishing a broad range of titles.

Semerah Al-Hillal: I joined the company in May 2018, as a Groundwood publisher, and then about two years later–just a little over two years later– moved into this role as president when Sarah McLaughlin stepped down. 

Rebecca Diem: When you’re the president of a publishing house, you work with a lot of people, and you put out a lot of fires. Fortunately, Semerah is super onboard with all that.  

Semerah Al-Hillal: It is an honour to get to do my role, obviously. And I think my favourite parts of my job revolve around the people, you know, the staff, the authors, the illustrators, the agents, the books, the booksellers, the librarians, anyone I get to meet, in my travels, I really, you know– people who love books, and love literature and love reading, are a committed and passionate bunch. And so it’s really a joy to work among them. 

And, um, I think, too, that there’s a huge amount of variety in what I do in my role. And so it means I do have to deal with a lot of emergencies. Or, you know, people say there are no emergencies in book publishing, but there’s so much variety, I never– I literally never know what direction my day is going to go in, and I quite enjoy the variety. 

I also, you know– getting to be at the helm of this company, which is two, you know, esteemed long-standing Canadian publishers, in Groundwood and Anansi, it’s really an incredible honour and not something I would have been able to foresee long ago.

Rebecca Diem: Semerah’s journey to this role differs from the traditional path followed by many working in CanLit in a few ways. For one, she didn’t enter publishing with a background in English or Creative Writing – she studied History. For another, she came from the children’s side of publishing, spending 18 years at Kids Can Press, which is somewhat atypical. And as a first in her role, she’s also an immigrant: she was born in the UK, and then lived in Iraq before coming to Canada. Over the last few years, Semerah has been reflecting a lot on the ways in which this perspective informs the way she inhabits her role. 

Semerah Al-Hillal: Identity is a journey. And, you know, it might sound a bit corny, but a journey is like, it is an ever evolving, ever shifting thing. And I’m absolutely open to discussing it and yet also, as you can imagine, not always comfortable talking about myself, but mainly from a perspective of well, is what I have to say, or what my path has been, is not important or relevant to others. 

[reflective scoring begins]

But I do then catch myself sometimes to say, well, hang on. Someone who has a name like mine, who has a history like mine, maybe I shouldn’t hide so much. Because representation matters as, you know, more learned people than me have uttered, and I’ve been thinking about that, as well. And a lot of my history around how I identify has to do with having had to flee a country as a child, and escape from a country. And so you tend to bury things. And here I am at this stage in life, at this vintage, really reflecting a lot on that. And trying to actually reclaim some of that for myself. And it’s coincided with, you know, having broader responsibilities in this field. And maybe I’ll get more comfortable having those conversations. And I’m not hiding, I’m super proud of my history, but I really haven’t talked about it much. 

[reflective scoring fades out]

Rebecca Diem: Traditionally, there just hasn’t been a lot of room in publishing for folks who hold identities outside the cultural norm. But over the coming years, Semerah hopes to see many more folks coming from backgrounds like hers landing in roles like hers. Because when people with different identities and perspectives are elevated into those big positions, the body of work published becomes more diverse. And like we discussed last episode, the story of Canada gets better with each new voice that’s added to the conversation. 

But making that happen will require real intentionality from the people making hiring and promotion decisions. And at the moment, the majority of the people calling the shots are still white, cis, straight, and able-bodied. 

Jen Albert: Especially in acquisitions roles, which tend to be more senior, we’re still not seeing– we’re still not seeing marginalised editors. 

Rebecca Diem: Jenn Albert again. 

Jen Albert: If your company’s only started hiring BIPOC staff recently, of course, these are going to be assistant editors and things like that, it takes, it takes time, but you can empower marginalised staff to make the decisions. And I hope that we see more of that in the industry, because marginalised editors are not going to be as bogged down with biases when approaching manuscripts by marginalised creators, they’re going to have contacts in communities that more privileged editors may not have, they’re going to have the trust of marginalised creators. And trust between authors and editors is huge, of course. You have to trust that your book’s not going to be mishandled or misunderstood or, in marketing, misrepresented. And so marginalised editors are going to be in a better position to edit that manuscript with sensitivity, with knowledge, and I think this also holds true in other departments across the board, I think we need to look a lot more at diversity behind the scenes in publishing. 

Rebecca Diem: There are a ton of reasons for publishers to move this direction. Like Jen says, it will mean better care taken with diverse stories. It means exciting new voices, and new narratives. It means an expanded definition of ‘CanLit’. But ultimately, publishing is a business. Well, anyone paying attention to the young & upcoming bookish tastemakers of the internet can see that diversifying your publishing catalog is actually really good for your bottom line. Just ask Maria Zuppardi. 

Maria Zuppardi: Hi, I’m Maria. I’m a bookstagrammer, book blogger, “book influencer”, air quotes, if you will. I also work at Dundurn Press as a marketing coordinator and community manager. So, yeah, I’ve just been literally just talking about books for quite a few years online.

Rebecca Diem: Bookstagrammers, for the uninitiated, are Instagrammers with accounts devoted to talking about books. Think of them as the cousins of BookTok-ers – who are, of course, TikTok users who post about books. And the BookTubers, who vlog about books. And, well, you get the idea. Book people love to share. The most popular of these accounts can have tens of thousands of followers. Like Maria, who goes by @ReadingMaria on Instagram, has over twenty thousand. But in case this is all a big “HUH” for you, I asked Maria to give us a breakdown of these bookish online communities. 

[inquisitive scoring begins]

Maria Zuppardi: So Bookstagram and BookTok are very different communities, I find. Of course, they’re different platforms of mediums. So Bookstagram is more photo centric. BookTok, of course, is all videos, but it depends on kind of how you want to approach these communities. But I think if you’re looking for more YA books, or romance books, or even like those self-published, again, romance books, or anything, BookTok is the place for you to be. And if you want anything, probably more fantasy-dominated, or even just adult fiction of any genre in general, Bookstagram would be the place for you to check those out.

[inquisitive scoring fades out]

Rebecca Diem: Over the last couple years, Maria has seen a pretty big difference in the way Bookstagrammers have been using their platforms. She particularly noticed a shift following the Black Lives Matter protests in summer 2020. 

Maria Zuppardi: There was a huge kind of switch between, you know, just sharing whatever books you want, to being more conscious of your reading decisions. So I really liked that shift, because it’s something I was doing personally, even before I was really serious about Bookstagram. So now I find that it’s more of a place of learning and finding new stories, especially from marginalised communities. 

Rebecca Diem: Yeah, there were so many conversations that I saw happening in like the young adult space that have now started happening in, like, the more adult literary fiction space. And sometimes I just look at publishers, and I’m like, ‘Oh, you have no idea what’s coming for you’. Because we are already having like the, you know, the 401-level conversations about, you know, tropes and representation in young adult fiction, and then you get to some of the more established, traditional literature. And they are just, I think, encountering some of these discussions and concerns being raised for, like, the first time. 

Maria Zuppardi: This has been happening as a conversation for like, at least three, four, maybe five years.

Rebecca Diem: And the readers who have been having these conversations online are getting tired of waiting for the traditional publishing industry to catch up.

Maria Zuppardi: I think readers now are starting to hold publishers and these companies accountable for who they’re signing, who they’re promoting, what they’re doing to promote those books. So I think, especially with the Gen Z audience, they are definitely going to be looking for again, these BIPOC stories, these LGBTQ stories, disability rep. I know it’s something that is real– that readers are really hungry for. Authentic stories by authors of those communities, writing for their communities, I think is the way to go, and the way publishing should be going. 

Rebecca Diem: Maria occupies a unique position as someone who is extremely engaged in these online communities, while also working at a publisher. She’s also the newest industry entrant I talked to for this series, just approaching five years. Given that position, I wanted her take:   

Rebecca Diem: So like, do you think that the traditional publishing industry is kind of catching up to these conversations? Have you noticed an improvement over your time in the industry?

Maria Zuppardi: Tough question. I just think that, although we are having these conversations with YA audiences, and it’s definitely been a lot better, I think, again, there’s just always room for improvement. And I do think that adult publishers need to make the jump more. And it also doesn’t just start at the books that they’re acquiring. It starts with employees, advances that publishers give authors, things like that, agents. So, it’s definitely a multifaceted industry that needs to slowly– well, not slowly change, but should change as quick as possible, because we all know publishing is like the slowest industry ever.

Rebecca Diem: Slowly but surely, Canada’s independent publishers are taking on this challenge. They’re embracing work that disrupts traditional ideas of what is good, or marketable, and they’re seeing it pay off:

Jen Albert: And small- and medium-sized publishers, especially, I think, are doing interesting things and are taking the risks that the big ones will not. And I think you can often see that on, on– in the award circuit and things like that. Because the books that are really attracting people are things that they haven’t seen before. And if you have to do really rigorous marketing-based research before taking on a book, you’re going to have to look for the things that have done well in the past. And sometimes the thing that people are interested in seeing is not the thing that they’ve seen before, they want to see the new things and so you don’t get the new things if you have to do that kind of research and you have to base everything on what has sold in the past. And small- and medium-sized publishers are in a better position to do that. And they are in an even better position to do that when they have robust arts funding.

Rebecca Diem: The thing is, we want to see these things change because we care. We’re invested because we love Canadian publishing, and we want it to improve and succeed. And it seems clear that this is the way to success! Or, maybe I should say even greater success. Because, despite what some doomsayers have predicted, for the moment at least, the Canadian publishing industry is looking more resilient than ever. 

[ambient scoring fades in]

Alana Wilcox: You know, for the entire time that I’ve been at Coach House, people every year have talked about the death of the book. And every year it continues not to die. People love books, and I think the pandemic has really helped to prove that books and reading are fundamental to our, you know, being. Being humans. So I hope that now we can stop that conversation about the death of the book.

Rebecca Diem: Not only are books not dead – in some cases, they’re positively thriving. For the last time, here’s Jen:  

Jen Albert: We’ve grown hugely at ECW in the last couple of years. I mentioned that my job was very sort of all over the place when I first got there and now it’s quite narrowed. And that’s because we’ve grown as a team, but we’ve also grown in profits because people really decided they wanted to start reading when they were home all the time. And, and so I think quite a few places have seen an increase in that sort of thing as well. So.

Rebecca Diem: You heard it here first: birth rates are up! The book is alive and well. 

[ambient scoring fades out]

Next week on Read the North, we’ll be talking to the beloved middlemen of CanLit – the people getting books into the hands of these enthusiastic readers: booksellers and librarians. Don’t miss it!

[ambient credits theme music begins]

This episode of Read the North was hosted by me, Rebecca Diem. It was produced, edited, and mixed by Quinton Bradshaw. Scoring and theme music by James Ellercamp.  

Read the North is co-produced by CJRU 1280 AM and the Word on the Street Toronto. For more from CJRU, tune in every day at 1280 AM for local news, music, and stories, or visit For more from the Word on the Street, head down to Queen’s Park on June 11th or 12th – or even June 11th AND 12th – for WOTS’s 33rd annual festival. You can find lineup details online at  

Read the North was made possible by funding from the Community Radio Fund of Canada. 

Thanks for listening, and we’ll be back next week. 

[ambient indie/electronic theme music plays]


Cory Doctorow: Coach House are such weirdos, we did a school trip there when I was a kid. And they showed me, they showed us the– they had one book that was in a slipcase that was sealed on both sides so you couldn’t get it out, that was pretty cool. And then they showed us that the way that they tested the– their new type, a new, a new set of type that was super small, was printing in tiny letters, I think on the verso, “This book was printed by acid freaks out of their minds.” And they, we were like, I was like nine or eight, and they like, they got out the magnifying glass and showed us. It was quite, quite good. I love Coach House, they’re a great press.