Publications Editor’s Report for the year 2007-2008
to the Annual General Meeting of the Book Collector’s Society of Australia
Our journal Biblionews and Australian Notes & Queries has continued to appear in its four issues over the last twelve months. However, I cannot unfortunately say, as I could in my report last year, that it continues to appear right on time. For one thing, no issue appeared in September 2007, as I was running very late with it and decided anyway that, since 2007 marked the sixtieth anniversary of the first appearance of a regular publication by the Society titled Biblionews, I should combine the September and December issues into a “60th Anniversary Double Issue” covering issues 355 and 356. It contained articles from New South Wales, Victoria and the ACT and so was reasonably representative of the geographical membership of the Society. I also took the opportunity to include items on the history of the Society and our journal, so foundation editor Walter Stone’s March 1976 editorial to the 231st issue looking back to the origins of both, and a revised and updated version of my Introduction to the volume Fellows of the Book published by the Society in 2000 and in which I reviewed the “physical history” of Biblionews, so not its contents.
That double issue was, of course, considerably more expensive than normal to produce, being at 96 pages over twice as long as our usual 40 to 44 page issues and containing quite a few colour illustrations (which, the printers tell me, costs us an additional 50 cents per copy per colour page). However, we did save quite a bit on postage. It was also the issue in which we sent out, belatedly, the subscription renewal notices to members, so it surely didn’t hurt to make a good impression on the recipients.
The March 2008 issue (357) just managed to appear on time. It was largely made up of contributions to the December 2007 Show & Tell meeting held in Sydney. In most cases the contributions were contained in a single composite article, though John Newland, Helen Kenny and Doug Mackenzie chose to expand theirs into separate articles. John Newland’s article on CJ Dennis items he possesses was accompanied by colour illustrations.
Unfortunately, in spite of my best intentions, the June 2008 issue (358) was a good month late being posted out. This was due not only to a considerable increase in my non-Society responsibilities, but also to the fact that editing can sometimes take more time for some issues than others. While most contributions these days come as emails or email attachments, some contributors who have no access to computers send theirs in non-scannable typewritten or handwritten form. These I have to type into the computer myself, but I am always pleased to receive them and it does have the advantage that I can edit as I go. Editing of all contributions involves not only adjusting items to the “house style”, clarifying potential or actual ambiguities, correcting typos etc., but sometimes adding information to enable non-locals to understand what is being referred to. This last is particularly important for overseas readers who might access Biblionews through libraries in Europe and North America to which our journal is sent. I hope that is justification enough for occasional lateness.
Because the March issue was almost entirely Sydney-derived, I made the June 2008 issue a largely non-Sydney one, so that it contained articles from Victoria and the ACT. Most Victorian material is sent to me by our Victorian Editor, Richard Overell, who often acts as a sort of amanuensis for meetings in that he reports what speakers have said. This was, for example, the case with the Victorian Branch Members’ Night item. This is like the Sydney Show & Tell, except that in the case of Sydney I have now taken to sending to the speakers themselves my own inadequate version of what I think was said for them to correct and return to me. Richard is clearly a much better note-taker than I ever was. I try to do this now with all contributions, editing them and returning them to the contributors for approval, but this is, of course, much easier with those that I get via email than via the postal service; in the latter case I don’t always manage it for reasons of time.
At present I have quite a lot of copy from members—and even a couple of non-members—in the pipeline and am confident that the next few issues of Biblionews can appear without my having to appeal for contributions. Thanks in particular to Colin Steele of the ACT, there is no shortage at all of book reviews at present. A recent approach by members in South Australia to become a branch of the BCSA was accompanied by the hope expressed that we would soon get some contributions to our journal from them, something I have hinted at as a desideratum on occasion in my editorials.
Biblionews is to a great extent the cement that holds the BCSA as an Australian institution together, but it is also by far our greatest expense, costing something in the direction of $1,000 per issue to produce and post out. I had to insert into quite a few of the copies of the June issue that I posted out reminders to a couple of dozen members who had failed to pay the subscription for the 2006–2007 year, and I am afraid that if they have not paid it by the time the September issue goes out we will have to drop them from the mailing list. Fortunately we have acquired some new members to compensate in part for the resultant loss of income.
Following Jeff Bidgood’s practice, once the copies have been put into envelopes and the envelopes have had the address labels put on, to reduce postage costs I take the filled envelopes to the Australia Post Business Centre at Parramatta, where I can send them at a reduced form of postage known as Print Post. This requires grouping the copies in trays according to their destination, filling out forms and paying the total against my own credit card, since the requisite conditions do not allow us to qualify for an account with Australia Post. Incidentally, whenever possible I hand deliver a few copies to Sydney addresses to save a little on postage. (Unfortunately, timing problems prevent me from taking up the kind offer by a couple of members at last year’s AGM to assist me with enveloping and mailing of the issues.)
After consultation with Mark Ferson, I have as from the June issue sent out only one free copy of an issue to people who have made a substantial contribution to it, so an article or a paid advertisement, instead of the three that I used to. It seems people are happy to receive only one, since I have had no complaints and in one case been told specifically that one extra copy is sufficient. So there is now a saving there.
I have also during this year been able to raise a couple of hundred dollars or so by selling copies of back issues to members who want them. While, apart from postage, I do not charge for pre-2000 issues, of which I sometimes have large numbers left over that I want to get rid of, I do charge for later ones.
Finally it remains for me to thank—apart from the many contributors of articles, reviews and other items—John Newland for his ongoing expert assistance in laying out the issues, Neil Radford for his help as Reviews Editor and indexer, Mark Ferson for providing the address labels for each issue, and also at first Mark and now Darel Hughes for seeing that my outgoings for postage are refunded in good time.
Brian Taylor, 31 August 2008.