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Meet the Member: Berghahn Books
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Posted by IPG

1 What's your company called?

Berghahn Books.

2 What do you publish?

We publish in the humanities and social sciences, with special focus on history (mostly European), cultural studies, film studies, social anthropology, archaeology, medical anthropology and mobility studies.

3 What's the story of the company?

When I [Marion Berghahn] left Berg Publishers in 1993, many authors and institutions with which I had co-published persuaded me to start again. As a result, in January 1994 I set up Berghahn Books in the UK as well as the US, as I had done before with Berg. It was a lot easier second time round because I had learned several lessons and made a name for myself as a publisher in certain areas. So I continued more or less where I had left off, strengthening the areas in which I had published before and developing new ones. We now publish 40 journals and around 150 new titles a year, have more than 70 series, and are considered the leading English-language publisher in anthropology, a field that is growing noticeably.

4 How's business?

Of course, you always wish it was better—but given the problems that the higher education sector is facing in most countries, I suppose we can’t complain and have solid growth year on year.

5 What do you enjoy about being independent?

That nobody can tell me what to do! I gratefully listen to advice from colleagues, as from our four board members, all successful and highly regarded publishers who have become friends over the years and whose opinions I respect and welcome. I should add that being independent also enabled me to take two of my children on board. Having spent their childhoods in the ‘company’ of Berg, they are now full members of what has become a family firm, with my daughter in charge of journals and the New York office, working closely with my son, also our webmaster, on all matters digital. I am the ‘book’ person in the firm and in charge of the Oxford office.

6 What do you think is the biggest single issue in publishing right now?

In our field of publishing we are negatively affected by the emphasis of universities on the STEM subjects and by austerity policies, especially in the US and the UK, which have resulted in severe library budget cuts and a decline of programmes in the humanities and social sciences.

7 What one piece of advice would you give to a fellow independent just starting out?

Find your niche and go for it with determination and intellectual commitment.

8 What do you get out of belonging to the IPG?

I actually joined the IPG even before I had set up Berg Publishers, following the advice of friends in publishing, and learned a lot from talking to many publishers, who met me with warmth and the willingness to share their experiences with me. This was very useful when I started out on my own and has continued to be throughout my life as a publisher. This and the information received at more formal events like seminars or conferences, in the company of like-minded spirits, have been invaluable over the years.

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