Jonny Gallant, MD, Alban Books
MY THANKS to Alban Books‘ new Managing Director, Jonny Gallant, for his prompt response to my invitation to introduce himself in his new role. Jonny writes:
IT WAS WITH SOME TREPIDATION that I accepted Phil’s kind offer of writing a short guest piece for the UKCBD blog by way of introducing myself as the new Managing Director for Alban Books. Should I attempt to write some short biography, lightening the dullness of it with references to my passion for cricket or my increasingly worrying addiction to diet coke? No – it would still be boring and a bit too self-centred. Should I write some sort of ‘State of the Trade’ mission statement? No – I’m desperately under-qualified. Should I write about all the great things that Alban does and I hope will do in the coming years? No – too much like marketing.
Perhaps I can work all those aspects together into a form that Phil will be happy to put up on this esteemed trade mouthpiece. Here’s a shot:
About seven or eight years ago, at the dawn of my career in publishing, I joked with a friend at Canongate that digital books were undoubtedly coming, but hopefully we’d both be retired before it happened. On reflection, that seems spectacularly naïve, but I think that may have been how 90% of people in publishing felt at the time: “Let’s keep our heads down and get on with these lovely blocks of paper and ink and hopefully it will all be OK”.
When I moved down to London and ended up working for Alma Books, the whole company’s philosophy was (and remains) rooted to the idea of the “book as an aesthetic artefact”. I was happy to exploit all the digital world had to offer in terms of marketing and promotion, but an eBook still felt like a very distant prospect.
I returned to Edinburgh to take my first job in Christian publishing at Saint Andrew Press and found that Christian publishing brought with it a whole new range of challenges beyond the impending ‘Digital Armageddon’. It’s been an extremely turbulent few years in the trade since I started at Saint Andrew Press – the SPCK/Brewer Brothers debacle, the demise of Borders, Waterstones’ Hub, STL and Wesley Owen, the list goes on… My final year at Saint Andrew Press proved to be a turbulent one too and I’m glad that Saint Andrew Press’ future now seems more secure at Hymns Ancient & Modern and they have some brilliant books coming out this year.
When my predecessor, Wendy Rimmington, was offered a job she couldn’t refuse at Nelson Thornes, I was fortunate enough to be chosen to take up the helm at Alban. I’ve now been here for three weeks and am greatly impressed by the excellent team that has been built in the course of Alban’s 16-year history. Their diligence and commitment to a list of some six-thousand titles and our thousands of trade and direct customers is our greatest asset. We will have to tackle the great challenges faced by the book industry as a whole – some harder than others – but the opportunities are even greater… But you know all this already. With our fantastic range of publishers, Abingdon Press, Augsburg Fortress Publishers, Ave Maria Press, Eerdmans, Hendrickson Publishers and Orbis Books, I’m really looking forward to working with my colleagues to steer a clear path through Alban’s exciting future.
Alban Books Ltd
Personally I’m hoping that Jonny can be persuaded to say a little more about the ‘Digital Armageddon’ and how Alban Books in particular are dealing with it: the end may not have been nigh last weekend despite all the hype from the USA’s prophets of doom, but unless the Christian book trade begins to get to grips with this particular publishing revolution, I suspect the end may well be nigh for even more bookshops — perhaps some publishers too — before too much more time passes…
What topics would like to see Jonny exploring further if we can persuade him, and what questions would you like to put to him in his new role?