In September 2014, my colleague Gene Gollogly and I celebrated fifteen years since we founded our publishing company, Lantern Books. We organized a party at our favorite local bookstore, BookCourt in Brooklyn, and combined the festivities with a launch of one of our recent titles: Running, Eating, Thinking: A Vegan Anthology. Before the contributors to the anthology spoke, I gave a short speech describing our company, an excerpt from which I thought I’d share with you.
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Thank you for coming out tonight and joining us in our celebration of fifteen years of being in, what is loosely called, the publishing business. When Gene and I began this venture in 1999, we had only an inkling of the seismic changes the book world would undergo in the next decade and a half. Individuals now have more choices than ever on how they garner information or are entertained; readers can now access more text from more sources and read it through more media than was once imaginable (except perhaps to Jorge Luis Borges!); and how much folks are willing to pay—if anything—for that data remains a contested issue among purchasers, retailers, producers, and consumers.
Through these years, Gene, Kara Davis, Evander Lomke, and I have tried to focus on the fundamentals: producing works that will inspire and challenge our readers while ensuring that our small, independent company sets a fair course through the turbulent waters of the book trade. I’m pleased to say that not only have we published over 250 titles (and distributed hundreds more), but we’ve paid our bills, royalties, salaries, and health insurance, and we’re not in hock to a bank or a venture capitalist. We’ve also maintained our commitment to the environment, by using certified and recycled paper and print-on-demand technology, sourcing our office energy from windpower, and composting our food scraps.
We’ve also relied on our authors to promote their work, and I’m delighted to say that the great majority of our authors have now fully recovered from the injuries they sustained during the production process. And we’ve depended on you, our readers. Without you, we would literally not exist.
If there’s been a theme that coheres our publishing program it has been a commitment to alleviating suffering and reducing violence. It may be the alienation experienced by teenagers in dysfunctional families and the violence of bullying at school. It may be the stress and trauma undergone by peace officers in the line of duty, who then act out against civilians or themselves. It may be the work of monastics and other religious reaching across sectarian, denominational, or doctrinal divides to combat violence, misunderstanding, and hatred. It may be the violence meted out on our own bodies through diet, addiction, or psychological distress. It may be the violence of the state as it quashes dissent, expands its definition of terrorism, and locks up the innocent and the mentally ill within the prison-industrial complex. And it may be the routine and overlooked violence inflicted on nonhuman animals in factory farms, vivisection laboratories, and places of “entertainment.”
Whatever the issue, Lantern has sought to address it in a manner that contributes in some way to a lessening of the infliction of harm upon the animate body and the body politic. That we’re still here is a testament to you, our readers and supporters, and to the need for our work to continue.