Small-nation Publishing

Submitting Institution

Edinburgh Napier University

Unit of Assessment

Communication, Cultural and Media Studies, Library and Information Management 

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Studies In Human Society: Policy and Administration
Language, Communication and Culture: Literary Studies

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Summary of the impact

Research into publishing at the Scottish Centre for the Book (SCOB) based at Edinburgh Napier University has examined the strategic development of publishing in Scotland and, in a significant expansion of this work, its nature within small nations and national regions. This established a new perspective for a field that had hitherto focussed on the UK or transnational, and fed into public policy and the operations of publishing companies within Scotland. SCOB, in partnership with public and private bodies, has raised awareness and understanding of the nature, role and value of publishing in Scotland among government, policy-makers and the public.

Underpinning research

The Scottish Centre for the Book team at Edinburgh Napier (McCleery 1995-present; Sinclair 1995-2005) undertook in 2002-3 research commissioned by the Scottish Arts Council (SAC), using both qualitative and quantitative methodologies, to produce the first systematic profile of publishing in Scotland. This informed a more detailed study undertaken by the team for SAC on the strategic future of publishing in Scotland, published as a full report and summary report in 2004 [1]. The methodologies adopted in 2003-4 proved sufficiently robust to permit, with some updating, a further study in 2006-7 that allowed for the beginnings of a longitudinal study as well as the introduction of new topics such as e-publishing. This fresh study (including Gunn 2005-10) was conducted with the collaboration of the trade body, Publishing Scotland, and consequently received wide dissemination through industry seminars and conferences and in academic outlets [2]. Successful applications for studentship funding to the AHRC and the Carnegie Trust permitted the extension of this work in three fresh directions: an examination (Ramdarshan Bold 2008-11) of the internal rights market within Scotland (compared with the UK and Ireland) from the perspective of both authors (in collaboration with the Society of Authors Scotland) and publishers [3]; a transnational comparative study of Scotland and Catalonia (Boswell 2009-13) examining in particular the NDPB infrastructures supporting publishing in both national regions [4]; and an investigation of the European market in fiction rights (Craighill 2010-present) that focussed on authors and publishers within the small nations and national regions of the EU [5]. This critical mass of work was underpinned by the development by McCleery of a rationale for `small-nation publishing', and the establishment of that term as common currency within the field, through a number of international presentations and papers. This moved understanding on from the particular (Scotland) to the commonalty of issues and challenges (Europe). This was initially articulated in the 2009 COLICO Lecture on `Small-Nation Publishing' delivered to the joint annual conference of professional library organisations from both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland [6]. This lecture was made available on the COLICO website for downloading and published as a small booklet. The ideas expressed within it were further developed at invited lectures in Oslo (2010) and Antwerp (2010), both key loci for `small nation publishing'. McCleery and Ramdarshan Bold continued the longitudinal study in 2010, and again extended it to include a profile of authorship in Scotland. The latter represented a more sophisticated outcome than the only other previous study (1998) that McCleery had himself commissioned as a member of the then SAC Literature Committee. The reputation gained by the Edinburgh Napier team from these longitudinal studies led to an award from the Scottish Funding Council's Interface scheme, promoting Knowledge Exchange with SMEs, to incorporate this research within an annual glossy report, `Books in Scotland', that would be distributed as widely as possible to increase awareness and understanding of the sector. The first report was published in November 2012 and the second will follow in November 2013.

References to the research

1. Summary Review of Publishing 2004 - ISBN 1-85119-134-8: downloadable from

2. McCleery, Sinclair & Gunn, `Publishing in Scotland: Reviewing the Fragile Revival', Publishing Research Quarterly [PRQ] 24, 2 (2008) 87-97 — doi: 10.1007/s12109-008-9069-8


3. Melanie Ramdarshan Bold, `The Sorry Tale of Contemporary Authorship: A Study of Scottish Authors', PRQ, 29, 1 (2013) 73-92 - doi 10.1007/s12109-012-9301-4


4. Daniel Boswell, `"Brave Words": A Comparative Study of Small Nation Publishing — the cases of Scotland and Catalonia', in eds Boswell, O'Shea and Tzadik, Interculturalism: Meaning and Identity (Oxford: Interdisciplinary Press, 2013) 37-50 - ISBN 978-1-84888-159-4

5. Stephanie Craighill, `Henning Mankell: European Translation and Success Factors — Part 1', PRQ 29, 3 (2013) 201-210 — doi 10.1007/s12109-013-9319-2


6. Alistair McCleery, Small-Nation Publishing, 2009 annual COLICO lecture, ISBN 978-0-95535-613-1 — version downloadable from:

Details of the impact

The research made clear impacts on the development of the Scottish publishing and on government policy towards it. The SAC circulated 1,500 copies of the summary report to policy-makers, other NDPBs, publishers and throughout the creative community within Scotland as well as being made available online [A]. The report was publicised by the SAC and received considerable attention in the Scottish media. It was the subject of a Royal Society of Edinburgh international symposium chaired by Prof Gavin McCrone, drawing on both academics and non-academics, which considered and debated its conclusions and recommendations. The impact of those recommendations resonates through the assessment period.

  • The Books from Scotland e-commerce portal, created in direct response to McCleery and Sinclair's research, has developed since 2008 as the key website for information on books published in Scotland [B]
  • the strategy of Skills Development Scotland (and now Skillset) in the professionalisation of the industry in Scotland derives from the research's identification of the need for a clear framework for skills and training in the sector
  • increased support up to 2012 for the Gaelic Books Council and in particular funding for the Itchy Coo Education and Outreach Project between 2008 and 2012 drew on the research's pinpointing of the lack of targeted-assistance for minority language publishing [C]
  • The Scottish Review of Books, currently distributed quarterly with the Saturday edition of the Herald newspaper, had fulfilled by 2012 the recommendation from the research for a national and international, through its distribution by the British Council, forum for critical discussion of books published in Scotland [D]
  • The research's identification of gaps in the development of Educational Publishing fed into Scottish Enterprise's funding strategy and the creation of new companies such as Bright Red in 2008 and winner of the IPG's Education Publisher of the Year award for 2010 and 2011

The co-author of the report, Marion Sinclair, then left SCOB to become CEO of Publishing Scotland, in which position she was able to pursue further the conclusions of the research. That research, apart from these immediate and long-lasting impacts, also raised awareness and understanding of both the economic and the cultural role of publishing within subsequent inquiries such as that of the Cultural Commission and in evidence provided to them [E/F].

The support of the sector for this research, and its later iterations, was made tangible not only in the essential collaboration needed for the studies in 2006/7 and 2009/10, but also in the letters of support in successful applications to the AHRC and the Carnegie Trust for FT postgraduate awards in the extension of this work into the areas of rights and of cross-country comparison. The doctoral students who pursued this work have made not only an academic impact through their publications [3/4/5 above] but also through participation in industry-facing seminars, including the Publishing Scotland annual conference. Ramdarshan Bold, now a FT lecturer at Loughborough University (a sign of the diffusion of the `small-nation' research perspective) was also involved in a key public engagement exercise — the creation of `The People Behind the Pages' touring exhibition and booklet in 2009 designed to increase awareness among the Scottish public of what publishers did and do. The exhibition was shown at 12 venues in Scotland, primarily libraries but also secondary schools [G].

In 2009 McCleery gave the annual plenary COLICO lecture at the meeting of both the professional library associations of Ireland. He expanded on the nature and common challenges of small-nation publishing to an audience composed of key library managers and local politicians. Comparative studies of Scotland, Ireland and Canada received wider circulation through the availability of the lecture online and as a booklet in 1000 copies distributed free to the library and publishing communities in Ireland and Scotland as well as, upon request, to a further international readership [H]. Such extension, in terms of both the book sector and national interests, was consolidated through audiences of publishers and writers at a symposium on International Publishing held in Oslo, funded by the Fritt Ord Foundation, and a public lecture on `Maintaining the Cultural Exception' at the Nottebohmzaal in Antwerp — both in 2010 [I].

In 2011/12 an award from the SFC Interface fund to enhance HEI/SME collaboration was used to issue a report, `Books in Scotland', incorporating the results of SCOB's ongoing research as the first of an annual series. 1,000 copies were distributed in 2012 to all MSPs, MPs, cultural policy-makers and other stakeholders within the Scottish creative community. Downloadable copies were made available through many independent websites [J].

Sources to corroborate the impact

A. The summary report produced in 1500 print copies by the Scottish Arts Council and distributed also online can be found at:

B. The outlet for sale and information about books published in Scotland continues to thrive and gives a brief history of its development at:

C. Evidence of the impact in the area of language publishing and increased support for its development can be found for example at:

D. The creation of the new magazine as a result of the research was signalled at: and the Scottish Review of Books is still being published in 2013.

E. The research was then used to inform government policy. See the sample references at:

F. The research was used to inform the work and conclusions of the Cultural Commission in its strategic overview of the development of the cultural industries in Scotland. See: — this is the Commission's Final Report and the relevant references can be found in Section 3.6.4 et passim

G. The launch of the exhibition can be found at:

H. Details of the cross-border meeting of librarians and local politicians can be found at:

I. The details of the public lecture in Antwerp can be found at:

J. The report can be found for example at: