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Hooray for Europa Editions

posted March 27, 2009

Posted by Erin Brown in books publishing

As Thomas Riggs & Company prepares to launch its own publishing imprint, we on the ground floor take heart and inspiration from the remarkable success of Europa Editions. Recently profiled in The New York Times, Europa Editions was founded in 2005 as the English-language imprint of Rome-based edizioni e/o, one of the most prestigious independent publishers in Europe.

Edizioni e/o began in 1980, when husband and wife founders Sandro Ferri and Sandra Ozzola Ferri wagered that there was a market in Italy for literary works in translation from Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and other parts of Eastern Europe. Met with a barrage of skepticism, Ferri and Ferri nonetheless insisted that what was lacking in Italy then “was not so much a keen readership, but publishers who were willing to commit to a focused, long-range editorial vision.”

The couple forged ahead with their project and found that Italian readers were receptive to literature that offered a window into Eastern European experiences and perspectives. Over the years edizioni e/o expanded steadily, building an impressive international catalog of fiction titles and a reputation for their discerning literary taste.

Ferri and Ferri took another big gamble in 2005, betting that with Europa Editions they could cultivate American enthusiasm for works in translation from across the Atlantic. From the publication that year of their first translated title, Days of Abandonment, by the acclaimed Italian author Elena Ferrante, Europa has continued to build its literary status and its readership. The company reached profitability in 2008, scoring its first bestseller with The Elegance of the Hedgehog, a French novel by Muriel Barbery.

So what is the key to Europa’s success?  Is there really a growing U.S. market for literature in translation?  I’ll have to do some more reading…

How We Lost Our Bodies and Entered the Virtual Office

posted March 26, 2009

Posted by Thomas Riggs in technology virtual offices

At Thomas Riggs & Company we operate in a virtual office on the Internet. But years ago in Chicago, where I worked for Encyclopaedia Britannica, I used to take the El to the office. I read or gazed at buildings, watching people through their windows as they ate breakfast or put on a shirt. At work I saw actual people. A colleague and I would enjoy threatening each other with our typewriters, and we mused about a special Elvis edition of the encyclopaedia.

But that would be the beginning and end of my career as a physical worker. In 1992 I moved west and became a freelancer. One of my first clients was Oxford University Press. Someone there told me about a new service, AOL, where you could send electronic messages. I was curious, but for work I still mailed floppy disks and talked with people on the phone, their voice suggesting a face, a hair color, whether they wore glasses or had a nose ring.

A few years later, after I started a business of workers dispersed across the country, I still liked talking on the phone, but e-mail soon became simpler. I attached files to messages. I stopped hearing voices much or seeing handwriting. In my e-mails I found myself using exclamation points more, hoping to send a simple signal: I know you’re a human being, and I appreciate you.

But what was I really doing? Working alone in my home, receiving and sending electronic messages, finding it increasingly difficult to create imaginary faces for my correspondents. I had gained freedom but fractured something work had long provided humanity: the regularity of human contact, the joy of shared experiences, and the useless chatter that in the end made us happier and more efficient.

Not that I wanted to work in a physical office again. What I wished instead was a way to increase human contact in our work, in our business, with the hope of improving our lives and our efficiency as well. So I looked around and found that technology, which had created systems of isolated workers, had recently invented the virtual office. I learned we could share a workspace on the Internet. With webcams we could see and talk with each other. We could work on the same text as if we were sitting next to each other. Though still not sharing a physical space, we could begin to take the first steps toward restoring something important for me, and for many others, in work: sharing life with other people.

Publishing on Amazon’s Kindle

posted March 23, 2009

Posted by Mariko Fujinaka in publishing technology

Here at Thomas Riggs & Company we are readers as well as writers and editors, so when the new edition of the Amazon Kindle came out, I decided to order one (you know, for research purposes). The whole Kindle revolution is an interesting one. There are already some quarter of a million books, an impressive selection, available for the Kindle. As a book publisher, Thomas Riggs & Company is thinking about launching a Kindle version concurrently with a paper version. So how hard is it to publish for a Kindle?

Amazon has made it pretty simple to publish books for sale on a Kindle. You basically just have to have an Amazon account (and who doesn’t these days) and a book to which you own the electronic publishing rights. The book can be in a number of formats, including HTML (the Amazon-recommended format), PDF, plain text, and Microsoft Word (but not .docx). You upload the file, Amazon then automatically converts the file to Amazon DTP (digital text platform), you set the Suggested Retail Price (Amazon pays you 35 percent of the Suggested Retail Price), and voila! Kindle book for sale!