According to Down East Enterprise president and CEO Bob Fernald, the sale went into effect on April 1. Down East Books will keep its Rockport offices, as well as editor Michael Steere and two sales representatives, and will retain all but a few of its more than 450 titles in four imprints, including Down East Books, Shooting Sportsman Press, Fly Rod & Reel Books and Countrysport Press. Down East Magazine, as well as the company’s calendar business, will not be affected by the sale.
“We’ve been thinking about [this sale] since the beginning of the year,” said Fernald. “We had a very good year in 2012… but when we looked at it, we knew that in order to grow the business we either needed a lot more money, or we needed to find someone else who did.”
Down East Books publishes a wide variety of titles, including a number of children’s books, cookbooks, art and photography books and travel guides for Maine. Fernald said that the publishing house’s commitment to quality meant that it was difficult to afford to continue printing the titles they wanted.
“It’s a difficult time to be a small publisher,” said Fernald. “You can either do a few books of uncompromising quality — which is the route we took — or you can publish lots of inexpensive, low-quality books and keep overhead down. That’s not something we wanted to do, so selling to Rowman & Littlefield was the answer… we look forward to a long relationship.”
Rowman & Littlefield is the parent company of National Book Network, which is the tenth largest book distribution vendor in the country. NBN has distributed Down East Books for the past ten years, so there was already an established relationship, one that Rowman & Littlefield CEO Jed Lyons hopes to further cultivate with the purchase of Down East.
“This is good for Down East Books, and this will be good for authors in Maine,” said Lyons. “We want to expand the program, and double the output. We know their list very well. Their books are already in our warehouse. It’s an exciting development.”
Lyons wants to reassure fans of Down East Books that the publishing house will retain its Maine flavor, despite being owned by an out of state company.
“I went to Bowdoin, my son went to Bowdoin, and he married a girl that has a house on Vinalhaven. I worked on Bill Cohen’s campaign when he walked across Maine during the 1972 race. I love Maine,” said Lyons. “I’m looking forward to further growing that connection.”