By Angela Bole, IBPA Executive Director
[Originally published in the August 2013 edition of IBPA’s Independent.]
We all find ourselves in the business of publishing for various reasons.
For my part, I’ve always known I would work with books, or — more fundamentally — with stories. In college I read Audre Lorde for the first time. She said, “I am a black feminist lesbian poet, and I identify myself as such because if there is one other black feminist lesbian poet in isolation somewhere within the reach of my voice, I want her to know she is not alone.”
This, for me, is the reason your work as independent publishers matters so much. Through each book, or story—whether it’s released in print, in a digital format, or as an app—you are connecting people with one another and broadening perspectives. You’re enabling independent voices to rise strong and young girls growing up in Indiana, as I did, to understand that life is grand and broad, and ripe for discovering.
Still fairly new to my work with IBPA, I attended my first Benjamin Franklin Awards dinner just before BookExpo America this year. What a treat! The IBPA staff — Terry, Lisa, Patti, and Chris — work hard every year to provide a framework for this program, and then the IBPA members bring this framework to life.
Back in 2004, IBPA founder Jan Nathan wrote about the awards, “When the Ben Franklins were first conceived, we did want to honor publishers who present great books, but that was not the primary reason behind these awards. They were designed to help publishers get honest critiques of their titles from people in our industry who are either purchasers or reviewers.”
More than 550 publishers entered nearly 1,300 books for the 2013 Benjamin Franklin Awards. In total, 173 awards were distributed—55 Gold and 118 Silver—but all publishers who participated received feedback that will help them grow and produce additional works of quality in the future. A full list of winners can be found in the July Independent and on the Benjamin Franklin Awards website.
Even Broader, Even Better
In the end, of course, it’s not just about publishing. It’s about publishing well. Technology has lowered the barriers to entry for many industries, perhaps none so much as the media arts. With little more than simple HTML codes and access to a Website, anyone can publish anything. There’s a lot of noise out there. And it’s just getting louder.
This is why the Benjamin Franklin Awards are so important. Publishers who win a Gold or Silver Award have proven they understand their market and how to produce quality content: strong voices, well spoken, properly edited, cleanly formatted, intelligently distributed, and happily consumed.
Now that the 25-year-old Benjamin Franklin Awards program has welcomed a new sister program, the Benjamin Franklin Digital Awards, IBPA is also honoring achievement in e-book publishing by individuals and organizations of all sizes, including publishers, developers, designers, manufacturers, institutions, and technology leaders. Benjamin Franklin Digital Awards entries are judged all year round. To see the honorees, visit http://bfda-ibpa.tumblr.com.
I couldn’t be more thrilled by this development. I’ve never felt it necessarily matters what format content takes, only that it is properly considered for this format and expertly developed, designed, and distributed.
The six initial Benjamin Franklin Digital Award honorees provide excellent cases in point.
O’Reilly Media publisher Tim O’Reilly famously said, “You must create more value than you capture.” There’s no doubt that recipients of IBPA’s Benjamin Franklin Awards — both print and digital — are doing just that. And, along the way, they are honoring the ethos of Audre Lorde by connecting people with new ideas, humor, inspiration, and unique takes on the human experience.
Benjamin Franklin would be proud.
All are welcome to submit entries for Benjamin Franklin Awards.
Visit ibpabenjaminfranklinawards.com for information about the print awards program and bfda-ibpa.org for information about the digital awards program.
About the Author: Just before Angela became IBPA’s Executive Director, she was Deputy Executive Director of the Book Industry Study Group, Inc. (BISG), which fosters conversation and consensus across all sectors of the book business. Before that, Angela served for two years as BISG’s Associate Director and two years as its Marketing and Communications Manager.
Angela also serves as Treasurer on the Board of Directors of IDPF, the International Digital Publishing Forum.