Independent publishers explore a range of genres

Indie publishers bring fascinating works to market and enrich the book publishing world in many ways

This adapted piece by Dennis Pierce originally appeared in Library Journal in August 2023

Independent book publishing is thriving, and it’s not hard to see why. Indie presses meet a need for an eclectic array of works—sometimes too niche for corporate publishing—that cater to a broad range of interests and tastes. But there is nothing niche about independent publishers’ impact: they sell hundreds of millions of books per year in the United States, according to international research firm WordsRated. In fact, indie books account for about 40 percent of all commercially available titles. 

Whatever their ethos, it’s clear that independent publishers are bringing fascinating works to market and enriching the book publishing world in many ways. Here are some of the latest—and best—titles coming from indie publishing this fall.

The MIT Press is a university press affiliated with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Founded in 1962, it has long been a pioneer in the open access movement within academic publishing and publishes several academic journals. It also publishes books for scholarly as well as general audiences in areas such as art and architecture, public health, life and physical sciences, and technology.

“We’re committed to rigorous scholarship, like any academic press,” says Victoria Hindley, acquisitions editor for visual culture and design. “We’re looking to publish books that are original and bold, and that make a new contribution to knowledge or fill a key gap in scholarship.”

Writing for Their Lives by Marcel Chotkowski LaFollette tells the stories of the women who helped pioneer the emerging profession of science journalism from the 1920s through the 1950s. Like the “hidden figures” of science, such as Dorothy Vaughan and Katherine Johnson, these female reporters have also been overlooked in traditional histories of science and journalism. But at a time when science, medicine, and the mass media were expanding dramatically, women such as Emma Reh, Jane Stafford, and Marjorie Van de Water played a key role in explaining theories, discoveries, and medical advances to millions of readers through syndicated news stories, weekly columns, and books.

Katie Helke, acquisitions editor for science, technology, and society, says one of the things that drew her to this book was that it provides an intimate look into the personal lives and adventures of mid-20th-century career women. The book raises fascinating questions that working women still grapple with today, Helke says, such as whether using their married name in their byline will help or hurt their career.

Feminist Designer: On the Personal and the Political in Design, edited by Alison Place, is a collection of essays examining the intersection of design and feminist theory. Featuring 43 contributors from 16 different countries, the book explores how sexism is ingrained in the design of many artifacts and systems, and how the design process can either reinforce—or push back against—gender-based oppression.

Hindley calls Place, who is an assistant professor of graphic design at the University of Arkansas, an important emerging voice in the design world. “She has created the book she wishes she had to navigate the sexism she has encountered in her career and that still exists within the field.”

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