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Book Distribution Company Bankruptcy

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One-hundred and twenty-five employees are out of a job at HB Fenn, a major Canadian book distributor. It’s cold in Toronto and those rents are killer. Best of luck to all those employees.

I’ve worked for a publisher as they began to collapse. I was working at Lester & Orpen Dennys just before they went under. It was okay for me. When I came in, I knew I was hired for a short-term job. I was one of the lucky ones in that I bounced on to another publishing job at Cannon Books. The people who stayed longer had to face looking for work in publishing just as everyone else at the company was looking for work. It must have been a terrible situation for some.

For those who missed the details: HB Fenn, declared bankruptcy late last week. Until recently they distributed more than 50,000 titles including MacMillan, Whitecap Books and American sci-fi heavyweight, Tor.

According to The National Post, this marks “the largest collapse of a Canadian publishing company since General Distribution Services/Stoddart Publishing went under in August 2002.”

Publishers have to try to get skids of books back but that may be very difficult while the company deals with paying off creditors.  Authors will get it in the shorts as bookstores wait for cartons of books to arrive that never shall. This is a bad blow to Canadian book publishing, especially since, increasingly, publishers have less to offer but could still pride themselves on their bookstore access and distribution system.

HB Fenn once had controlling interest in the now-defunct Key Porter books, as well. Key Porter was once a major player in Canadian publishing.One company’s death would be enough of a bad sign. Two companies might be a bald symptom of the trend down we’ve been seeing.

NEXT POST: THE PROMISED BLOG-O-RAMA—ONE OF MANY TO COME—ABOUT THE WRITERS’ UNION OF CANADA SYMPOSIUM ON THE STATE OF PUBLISHING. (Yes, this post is a clue.)

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