Hats off to Mr Ian Randle, publisher extraordinaire

Editorial

Hats off to Mr Ian Randle, publisher extraordinaire

Sunday, October 25, 2020

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There is a saying that if you want to hide something put it in book. Publishing for 30 years consecutively is a remarkable achievement, especially in a country like Jamaica where reading is hardly anyone's first love.

In that context, we tip our hat to Ian Randle Publishers (IRP) which this week celebrates 30 years as a publishing company, in a market which has little appetite for scholarly non-fiction works.

Kingston-based IRP was founded in 1991 by Mr Ian Randle, a young history graduate of The University of the West Indies (UWI). It has since become the Caribbean's leading independent commercial publisher of academic works in history, sociology, politics, law, public policy, international relations, and anthropology.

IRP has also published books on art, music and cookery, and some biography and autobiography, boasting over 300 titles in its catalogue. This has been done while maintaining the highest quality in content and with production comparable to that of internationally renowned publishers.

Mr Randle's company leads the pack as Jamaica's and the English-speaking Caribbean's first independent scholarly press, followed now by several others, notably Kingston Publishers and Arawak Publishers, in addition to numerous self-publishing efforts.

Of course, the advent of The University of the West Indies Press in 1992 has added another much-needed academic press with the backing of the resources of the UWI.

Let's face it, even among Mr Randle's staunchest supporters some felt his dream was pie in the sky. Despite the scepticism of both the academic community and the local book industry, IRP has more than survived, it has grown in a dwindling industry.

Naturally, operating in a globalised market increasingly dominated by a few giant corporations has been challenging. But there were opportunities for the fleet-footed, such as a larger market; modern technology that has simplified design, formatting, editing, and economies of scale in printing.

IRP's strategic collaborative arrangements with companies in the US, Canada, UK and Africa have been instrumental in making possible the publication of several books which would not otherwise have appeared in print. Some were out of print and others were republished as Caribbean editions.

For example, Orlando Patterson's The Confounding Island, published originally by Harvard University Press. Some of these were published as a service to the Caribbean even when there was doubt about their commercial viability.

Mr Randle has published close to 400 books in a career spanning 40 years. For his contribution to the development of publishing he has been awarded the Silver Musgrave Award by the Institute of Jamaica, the Order of Distinction by the Government of Jamaica and an honorary Doctor of Laws from the UWI.

He was selected as one of 10 people for the annual Prince Claus Award in the Netherlands, honouring his work in transforming the “knowledge, production and circulation in the Caribbean through his pioneering, local, independent publishing house”.

These honours are shared by “Randle Family Team” —managing director, daughter Christine Randle; Financial Manager Carlene Randle, and online marketer Graeme Randle.

We at the Jamaica Observer, admitting our vested interest in reading, salute Ian Randle Publishers and the Randle family.


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