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Tuesday, November 28

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Profiles Thu Oct 16 2008

Chicago Publishers Gallery

 Publishers Gallery Logo

This weekend marked the opening of the Chicago Publishers Gallery at the Chicago Cultural Center. The first of its kind, the Publishers Gallery showcases an impressive collection of books and periodicals from over 100 local publishers, giving equal attention to well-known publishers, such as the University of Chicago Press, to independent presses, such as Rose Metal Press, to zines, trade publications, comic books and children's literature. Tucked away in two corners of the Cultural Center, the Gallery displays its more than 1500 selections neatly on shelves and tables lit by the soft glow of desk lamps, creating a feeling of a comfortable, book-loving home rather than a stark, sterile museum gallery. While materials cannot be taken out of the Gallery area, there are chairs available to aid in browsing and all of the displayed titles are available for purchase online and through local booksellers.

 Publishers Gallery

The vision of the Gallery is to bring much-deserved attention to our city's literary contributions. "Together we're going to make Chicago publishers known throughout the world," said Lois Weisberg, Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs. "Publishing may not be as celebrated as some of the other industries, but it is more than worthy of our support."

On a panel of local authors and publishers at the Gallery's press opening, Rick Kogan, Audrey Niffenegger, Haki Madhubuti, Jonathan Messinger, and Dominique Raccah discussed the importance of keeping the literary arts alive. "The book isn't going anywhere," said Messinger of Featherproof Books and Time Out Chicago. "Most of literature goes online, but books will always be like vinyl. Most people listen to iPods now, but you still have people who collect vinyl." Niffenegger, author of The Time Traveler's Wife and faculty at Columbia College's Center for Book and Paper Arts agreed: "You can't say the book is going away. You cannot take the Kindle and read it in the bathtub."

Founder and CEO of Sourcebooks, Inc., Raccah praised Chicago's publishing industry for encouraging local writers. "There has never been a better time to be a writer today," she said. "There are so many ways to get your book out...self-publishing, micropresses, indie presses, zines...a lot of different ways to get to your readers. And it's all about the readers."

Tribune columnist and author Kogan and Third World Press publisher Madhubuti lamented the decline of importance placed on books. "In your home there must be a library," Madhubuti stressed. "Books are critical. Life-giving, life-saving information can only be found in two or three places. Libraries are one of them." Kogan agreed, remembering libraries as remarkable places that he visited as a child. "This event is a wonderful thing - it gives a moment of respect to publishing," Kogan said as he bemoaned the loss of books sections in the Tribune and the Sun-Times. "There is nothing like a small child being empowered by words."

The Chicago Cultural Center is open everyday, except for holidays, and admission to the Publishers Gallery is free. For a brief look at the Gallery, you can peruse their website and learn about some of the book publishers, periodicals, and web publications that make Chicago the rich literary community that it is. The Gallery is an inspiring and eye-opening collection and offers an introduction to the wealth of talent the city possesses. It will certainly do well to complete Weisberg's vision of giving Chicago publishing the attention it deserves.

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Book Club is the literary section of Gapers Block, covering Chicago's authors, poets and literary events. More...

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