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ISER Books re-launches website and focuses on future

By Janet Harron

These are difficult times to be a publisher. What with e-books and e-readers and the spread of new media, the complex process of publishing a serious work of fiction or non-fiction seems a bit of an anachronism.

However, there are still some traditional publishers bucking the digital trend and the Faculty of Arts’ ISER Books is one of them.

Founded in 1966 as the publication arm of the Institute for Social and Economic Research (ISER), ISER Books initially focused on Newfoundland-related publications. Now the net has been cast much wider and ISER offers a range of titles with subjects ranging from Native peoples to midwifery to how various communities handle crises in their fisheries.

To date ISER Books has published a total of 97 titles and has sold about 112,000 books worldwide.

With the aim of increasing sales even further, ISER Books recently re-launched its website at Patrons can now easily browse the backlist by title or by author and can purchase books online.

“It’s a vast improvement on the old website,” says Irene Whitfield, manager of ISER Books. “Our online sales have increased exponentially since we launched and we haven’t even started marketing the website officially yet – customers have just found us!”

A member of the Association of Canadian Publishers, the Atlantic Publishers Association, and the Association for the Export of Canadian Books, Ms. Whitfield feels that ISER Books is well situated to explain Newfoundland to the rest of the world.

“Newfoundland and Labrador is, at long last, coming into its own. With our new economic stability comes increased research and writing within our scholarly community. It makes sense that academics and Memorial should stand shoulder to shoulder in the publishing world – I’m very excited about the future for ISER books.”

Ms. Whitfield and her staff of two moved into offices on Mount Scio Road a year ago. Along with academic editor Dr. Lawrence Felt, Ms Whitfield has lots of plans for the new location, including regular launch parties. ISER Books can be purchased online or through the Memorial University bookstore and are also available at the QEII Library and the Centre for Newfoundland Studies. Selected titles can also be found at Chapters and other bookstores on the island and in Labrador, thanks to a recent partnership with Downhome Distribution.

The history of ISER Books includes many success stories - several titles have been reprinted multiple times and Barbara Rieti’s Strange Terrain: The Fairy World in Newfoundland won the 1992-93 Raymond Klibansky book prize from the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences.

Dr. Robert Greenwood of the Harris Centre recently published Remote Control: Governance Lessons for and from Small, Insular, and Remote Regions with ISER Books.
“ISER Books has contributed enormously to scholarship in and about Newfoundland and Labrador. Not only have the books informed our understanding of ourselves and this place, but they have had significant impact on policy and practice. Perhaps most significantly, ISER Books contributed to an awareness and culture of rigorous study and analysis of Newfoundland and Labrador issues. I know it influenced my studies and career, and I am honoured to have a book published in that tradition,” says Dr. Greenwood.

ISER Books has two publications scheduled for fall 2010. Despite This Loss: Essays on Culture, Memory and Identity in Newfoundland and Labrador is edited by Dr. Ursula A. Kelly of the Faculty of Education and Dr. Elizabeth Yeoman of the Department of Women’s Studies and will be published in October. The second book, edited by Dr. Ron Rompkey, is The Diary of Bishop Edward Feild in 1844 and chronicles Feild’s first impressions of St. John’s upon his arrival to assume religious duties.

ISER Books welcomes expressions of interest and manuscripts within its mandate of contributing to a greater understanding of Newfoundland and Labrador through direct studies of social and cultural features within the province or comparative work that helps inform an understanding of the area. Those interested in submitting a manuscript to ISER Books should contact Dr. Lawrence Felt on or at 709-737-4340.