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Addressing the double-edge of book publishing — the glut of books published and the need for each book to be distinctive — Julie Annan recently reported on the Telegraph website that now, more than ever, large publishers are taking advantage of their imprints.

One might wonder if she speaks from a biased perspective. After all, Annan is a driving force behind Fig Tree, Penguin U.K.’s latest imprint and the house’s first for hardcovers since the 1980s. Yet Annan holds few illusions about the influence most imprints hold over readers. “[W]e found that none of our hardcover imprints were recognised by bookbuyers,” she writes, explaining that imprints exist more for the benefit of agents, editors, booksellers, and prize juries than for readers.

Other big beneficiaries of imprints, according to Annan, are authors and books. “The successful imprint combines the best of the huge with the best of the small,” she writes, “the sales and marketing machine of the juggernaut company combined with the boutique (awful word) sensitivity of a small editorial, design and publicity team.” But what of the often more experimental approach of the small press, its publication of lesser-read but still important genres, the detailed aesthetic of some of its books, and its frequent disregard for the bottom line? Clearly, most imprints do not truly provide the best of both worlds.

Related links:
Click here for Julie Annan’s piece in the Telegraph