If you’ve found it difficult to get a copy of an out-of-print Christian classic, it might be available soon. We talk to Charles Eastwood of Pendlebury Press
Every year dozens of Christian books go out of print—their demand is too low to make reprinting viable for mainstream publishers. Pilgrim’s Progress, The Imitation of Christ and Foxe’s Book of Martyrs are never likely to disappear, but what about William Temple’s and Paul Tillich’s books? Pendlebury Press calls itself a micro-publisher and aims to restore these author’s titles and many more.
ND: What is the inspiration for your project?
Charles Eastwood: God gives the Church a handful of visionaries in every generation. Their legacy must be preserved at all cost.
ND: If mainstream publishers don’t reprint a book because it would make a loss, how can it be viable for Pendlebury Press?
Charles Eastwood: We use Amazon’s Direct Publishing capability. We had to jump through various hoops such as being cleared by the US tax authorities, registering with HMRC, buying ISBNs, and forming a limited company, but once that was done, we could then upload files which would then sit on Amazon’s server. Our paperback and Kindle books are only available from Amazon and printed to order. Consequently, we don’t have any outlay for printing.
ND: Does that mean that your titles aren’t available from book shops?
Charles Eastwood: We can buy our titles from Amazon at a trade price and sell on to book shops on request.
ND: What gave you this idea?
Charles Eastwood: A couple of years ago, I asked my former vicar, Geoffrey Howard, if he had a spare copy of his book, Dare to Break Bread. I had loaned out my copy and hadn’t got it back. He told me that it had been out of print for over 20 years. I have a Kindle and suggested to him that we might investigate if it was possible to make a Kindle version available. After a bit of digging, I found that we could set up as an on-line publisher for Kindle. I’m a computer novice so Geoffrey Howard set everything up with Amazon, but discovered that there was also the possibility of publishing paperbacks.
ND: How do you choose titles?
Charles Eastwood: First of all, I wanted to bring back Geoffrey’s titles. That was my sole aim, but then Geoffrey felt that what I had helped him do should be available for others. The idea came like a bolt from the blue and we became very excited by the prospect. We then asked the Christian public for recommendations, but it proved much more tricky than we thought.
ND: Tricky? What were the problems?
Charles Eastwood: The biggest problem is finding copyright-holders. In the UK, titles go out of copyright 70 years after an author’s death. We thought it was 50 years. We ran into this early on. A suggestion came for us to reprint Who Moved the Stone. The author died in 1950, so we assumed that we didn’t need to seek anyone’s permission. Once it was uploaded to Amazon, we were puzzled as to why it was available only in the USA and not in the UK, as were Amazon’s help desk. After weeks of emails going back and forth, Geoffrey got the explanation. It is still bound by copyright in the UK, but not in the USA where copyright expires 50 years after an author’s death. Another example is books written by the late Archbishop Michael Ramsey. Neither his former publishers, nor Church Commissioners, nor Lambeth Palace know who his beneficiaries are. The same applies to several titles that have been recommended to us. It is very frustrating.
ND: Maybe one of our subscribers knows who holds Michael Ramsey’s copyright.
Charles Eastwood: We are also keen to find who holds the copyright of books by Schmemann, Michael Justin Davis and Tillich.
ND: What other difficulties have there been?
Charles Eastwood: They have been largely technical. It is quite monotonous scanning pages of a book, though I confess that Geoffrey has done most of that. We then end up with a jpeg. image for every page. We then use special software to convert those images one by one into editable text. The software always misreads some letters, which means careful proof-reading. Once we have put together the transcribed text into one document, page by page, we have to proof-read again, comparing our new digital version with the original. It then has to be put into a format that Amazon will accept. Getting headers to change with each chapter can be tedious. Also, we have to design new covers. I say ‘we,’ but I leave that to Geoffrey. We need new covers because it is too difficult to track down the designer of the original. If we did, the cost of buying the original could easily be more than our takings. It can take up to two weeks working full time to bring a title to press.
ND: I see that you have published new titles also. Why?
Charles Eastwood: It was Geoffrey who decided to do this after we had been approached. It is very much as a favour for people. It costs us a lot of time, but no financial outlay. I stress this is a secondary aspect of what we do.
ND: So, what about the future? Where will Pendlebury Press be in a year’s time?
Charles Eastwood: I’ve helped to get things started and will be 82 soon. I am taking a back seat at the end of the year. Geoffrey is keen to continue. The donkey work has been done. His aim is to average one title a month for the foreseeable future.