Today, September 21, is the second annual International Bibliodiversity Day, or El Dia B, a wonderful initiative aimed at celebrating the diversity of literary cultures around the world. One of its key messages is the critical importance of independent publishing and bookselling in protecting and fostering local literary ‘habitats’ that generate a rich diversity of ideas.
The analogy to biodiversity is extremely appropriate. Just as geography, climate and ecosystems provide different environmental challenges and conditions that drive natural selection and evolution of species, human geography, political climate and cultural systems (such as language) provide different social challenges and human experiences that generate new perspectives and ways of relating to the world and with each other. And just as we now recognise the value of biodiversity as a resource, bibliodiversity must also be valued for the wealth of potential ideas and concepts that it provides.
Susan Hawthorne at feminist publisher Spinifex Press provides a great example of how independent publishers can help “the wild, the small, the uncultivated voice” be heard and and participate in the development of new ideas. As she points out in her blog:
Independent publishers can bring to the world the specificity of the local. Radical feminist theory and poetry are generally avoided by the global publishers, but the world would be a poorer place without these books, these ideas.
The initiative was born in South America in response to the dominance of English language publishing, and US and UK. While there are undoubtedly greater opportunities for self-publishing and independent publishing available today, the tools of this are still largely centralised in North America and Europe and the means of distribution are even more monopolised. That’s why it is such a good time to start promoting and considering the concept of bibliodiversity and ensuring that the means for independent and self publishing are shared equally around the world.