The Carcanet Collection has been developed and made available as a resource for libraries and institutions. It will consist initially of 70 books from the Carcanet list, growing in the course of the next year to over 100 titles. These are books of poetry, essays, letters and biography. The Collection will be sold as an annual institutional subscription, allowing universities and colleges to provide campus wide and multi-user access. The Collection is also now available as an annual subscription to individuals.

We recently met up with the Carcanet publisher Michael Schmidt to ask him some questions about this new venture:

Q The collection was first conceived as a vehicle for libraries, colleges and so on. But making a collection of 100+ available to individual purchasers is an unusual move. The collection will be an annual subscription, so it is half-way between being a personal library and a kind of book club. Or is it really a shop window for you as a publisher? Which is the best way of seeing your Carcanet Collection?

It’s probably best to see it as half way between a magazine and a library. It’s a resource that readers acquire because they like, perhaps, a few Carcanet titles and want to widen their acquaintance. Here they find a list curated by ourselves which gives them the best new work we are publishing along with some of our key backlist authors whose writing we are re-presenting, re-discovering. After almost fifty years, the scene has changed, and readers need slightly different access routes.

Q Subscriptions for books and publishing to a list of subscribers used to be a common pattern in book publishing and book selling. Do you think that selling digital subscriptions will become more important to poetry and to poetry publishers?

I hope so. Most poetry readers have a handful of poets they know well and they are often wary of going outside their familiar spaces. If they suddenly have access to a whole zoo, they might well get beyond the giraffes and elephants and find an okapi or the butterfly house, or the hihi bird, assuming New Zealand still exports such creatures. We have about the best list of New Zealand poets outside New Zealand itself, for instance…

Okapi from Wikipedia

Q Digital editions are not the same as ebooks. The Exact Editions platform renders your books pretty much exactly as they are printed; so they look like the printed books, page by page. Do you think this will be helpful in selling more print copies, or does it mean that your readers can manage without the print edition?

If readers like what they read on the screen, they will probably want to get the book. Ebooks are a very different sort of ‘object’, not like our ExactEditions offering at all, though while we preserve the aesthetics of the paper book, to some extent, the reader does have some of the advantages of the ebook in terms of portability and searchability.

If you want to give the book away, a print copy makes a good present, better for most of us than an ebook. But now we can give a subscription to the whole collection!

Q The annual subscription to the Carcanet Collection costs about £50, is there a way of sampling the collection before we decide to buy it?

Just as you can thumb through the books in a bookshop, assuming they are there, you can sample the collection on line and get a sense of what’s in store, as it were. You can also see the full contents lists and prelims. Also for free. All the advantages of the bookshop at your fingertips, then, without any trees being damaged. And what’s more every month or two new titles are added to enhance the library.

Also each month two or more titles are available in their complete form for free reading in this link https://institutions.exacteditions.com/carcanet-evaluation-window )

Q Will your collection be copied by pirates? Are you worried by threats to copyright?

There is always a concern over piracy, but the pirate can easily scan print books and I think we probably have more control when we are making the library available. We can monitor. Also, anyone using the books for study can do exact referencing because the on-line pages etc correspond exactly to the paper editions. Pirates tend to lose that kind of dependable particularity and texts are often found corrupted, for example in indentation and spacing which mean so much to some poets.

Q Does poetry publishing feel more digital than it was 10 or 20 years ago?

No. All the controls feel digital, all correspondence with authors is conducted digitally (with the scantest exceptions), but what matters to me as publisher and I hope to you as reader is the physical page and the kinds of sounds that come from it.

Q How much of your reading of poetry (published or unpublished) is now digital rather than print-based?

Though I keep digital copies of the books I publish, and all the books I have written, on my iPad and iPhone, I usually read them on the page. The advantage of digital is that it weighs a little less, and it is searchable.

Q Do you have to support the digital books that you are publishing through the Carcanet Collection with Exact Editions?

Not much support is needed, in my experience. Most of the experience is intuitive. But if support is needed, Exact Editions are prompt and friendly in responding, and always have the answer.

Michael Schmidt is a Mexican-British poet, editor, author and scholar. He founded Carcanet the now Manchester-based poetry publisher in 1969, and has built it and edited its books ever since. He has also written and edited many books, including recently The Novel: a biography (Harvard University Press, 2014)

Notes for Reviewers of the Carcanet Collection

(1) These books are all searchable, and the search engine responds to Boolean syntax (conjunction, not, matched phrase, etc). See help

(2) Every page is a URL, so all pages can be cited or referenced, and references can be easily shared (see this tweet) or incorporated.

(3) When reading a book on the Exact Editions web Reader, keyboard shortcuts are a boon (try: p, s, t, c, and ← or → )

(4) Search works even when you are not signed in, so find the book’s home page at Exact Editions and then do the search. You will find results and can of course save or bookmark the results (find the Pessoa book, and then search for heteronyms)

Publisher and then web publisher