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A Literary Gadfly: Doing the Job Without any Bosses

Consensus approach to publishing produces four decades of timely books challenging Canada’s status quo.

By Tyee Staff 2 Nov 2017 | TheTyee.ca

“Can I speak to your manager?”

“Sorry! No manager.”

“Can I speak to your owner?”

“We’re a collective. No owner!”

That’s how Between the Lines Books does publishing. They’re celebrating their 40th anniversary this year, and the exchange is from their comic-style history, Books without Bosses. The publisher has no individual owner. A small office staff and editorial committee makes decisions by consensus.

At their last big anniversary 10 years ago, they introduced their logo: a gadfly. In modern political terms, a gadfly is someone who persistently challenges people and power.

“This is the role our books and authors play,” the publisher explained in Books without Bosses. “They ask uncomfortable questions, challenge the status quo, amplify the voices of marginalized peoples and help us to rethink Canada’s history and place in the world.”

Between the Lines’ commitments to social issues helped a small, radical press grow into an authoritative Canadian publisher with a strong conscience. Between the Lines published books on activism, culture, history, identity, labour, politics and race — all timely as social movements grew during the publisher’s 40-year history.

Authors include Charlie Angus, Noam Chomsky, bell hooks, Ursula Franklin, Henry Giroux and Ann Hanson.

Some big titles are: Gold Dust on His Shirt: The True Story of an Immigrant Mining Family; Gatekeepers, which is about European immigrants to Canada during the Cold War; Reasoning Otherwise, which covers the rise of Canada’s left at the turn of the 20th century; Committing Theatre, about theatre artists getting political; and Warrior Nation on Canada becoming a militarized nation despite being once known for peacekeeping.

The publishing industry is changing fast. Book reviews are vanishing from mainstream media, Indigo has a quasi-monopoly and Amazon is on the rise. But as Between the Lines celebrates its 40th anniversary, they aim to remain a gadfly, and help readers “arm themselves with knowledge to challenge the powerful.”


Revisit our three-part series on the history of Between the Lines Books here.

Our contest to win a copy of Books without Bosses is now closed, but you can learn more about the comic history here.  [Tyee]

This article is part of a Tyee Presents initiative. Tyee Presents is the special sponsored content section within The Tyee where we highlight contests, events and other initiatives that are either put on by us or by our select partners. The Tyee does not and cannot vouch for or endorse products advertised on The Tyee. We choose our partners carefully and consciously, to fit with The Tyee’s reputation as B.C.’s Home for News, Culture and Solutions. Learn more about Tyee Presents here.

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