18 May 2011
Last Saturday, May 14, while I was inking up letterpress lobsters in Maine, The Canadian Booksellers Association announced the winners of its 2011 Libris Awards in Toronto. Gaspereau Press was named “Small Press Publisher of the Year,” an honour it has won twice before. On behalf of everyone here at Gaspereau Press, I want to express our gratitude for all the booksellers who voted for us.
The Libris Awards recognize the best in the Canadian book industry. Nominated and voted on by members of the Canadian Booksellers Association, the Libris Awards single out the best in 13 categories including best writer; best editor; best sales rep; best publisher; best small press publisher; best distributor; best fiction, non-fiction, children’s book, and young reader books; and best campus, specialty and general book retailer.
While I’m grateful for the honour, I have to admit that I always have mixed feelings about this particular award, for I feel every one of the publishers nominated in this small press category was equally deserving of nomination in the ‘big boy pants’ category, “Publisher of the Year,” which is reserved for larger firms. Separating honours into specialized categories by region, gender, ethnicity or size is always a double edged sword. While it broadens the potential for the recognition and encouragement of those whose hard work might otherwise go unrecognized, such qualifiers (best left-handed Black Saskatoonian canoeist under 40) always limit and exclude more than they foster and include.
Excellence in publishing does not reside in the number of employees a company has, or in the volume of books it produces each year. It resides in the quality of the work and the public’s response to it. On this front, there are no small or large publishers, just those who strive for the best and those who can’t be bothered. It strikes me that in a small country like Canada (already a protectionist qualifier) that the need to divide excellence into the excellence of the big and the excellence of the small seems questionable. The Alcuin awards for excellence in Canadian book design do not make such distinctions, and the remarkable balance of big and small firms whose books win their honours tells an interesting story, one the CBA might be interested in considering.
For now, I’ll revel in being the best right-handed letterpress printer residing in Black River, Nova Scotia (as far as I can discover).
ANDREW STEEVES ¶ PRINTER & PUBLISHER