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Reference Press

By Gordon Ripley

Volume 13 Number 5

Reference Press IS AN INDEPENDENT Canadian publisher of library reference books, large print books, and computer software for use in school and public libraries. Since it was established in 1982, Reference Press has aimed to produce well-made, moderately-priced publications distinguishable by the high quality of their printing, binding, and design. The company makes extensive use of computer technology, and expects to remain relatively small and specialized.


In 1983 Reference Press published its first book, Who's Who in Canadian Literature 1983-1984, a 45(}page biographical directory of living Canadian novelists, children's writers, playwrights, poets, and story writers. Printed by Coach House Press in an edition of six hundred copies, the book sold out within six months, and was selected one of the outstanding new reference titles of 19841985 by the American library magazine Choice. Because information about living authors changes very quickly, Who's Who was conceived as a serial publication, to appear every two years; the second, 19851986 edition is complete and scheduled for late September release.

An Index to Canadian Poetry in English was published in 1984, again in an edition of six hundred copies. It is anticipated that the Index will be reprinted in paperback early in 1986. The work was intended to fill a gap left by the familiar Granger's Index in the indexing of Canadian poetry in anthologies. Some 6500 poems from fifty-two anthologies are indexed under title, first-line, author, translator, and subject.

In October 1985 Jane McQuarrie's Canadian Picture Books: A Subject Guide will be published by Reference Press in both paper and cloth editions. A guide to picture books written by Canadian authors for preschool and primary-school-aged children, this book is similar in format to the very useful Bowker publication dealing with American picture books. Both English and French-Canadian picture books are listed.

Reference Press published its first catalogue in June of this year, listing two major forthcoming reference titles as well as the beginning of a Canadian large-print series and an indexing software package called AUTHEX. Now in progress is work on a third edition of the Canadian Serials Directory, last published by the University of Toronto Press in 1976, and indexing for the Canadian Short Story Index. Both books will be released late in 1986.

From the beginning Reference Press books have had to pay for themselves, since the company receives no assistance in the form of grants or subsidies, (excluding timely loans from friends and relatives). This situation has led directly to a search for innovative publishing techniques, and makes low overhead an absolute requirement. Outside distribution and generous discounts are regrettably not possible; publications are distributed directly to libraries and individuals, and are sent post-paid via Book Post. Gordon Ripley is at present the only full-time employee of Reference Press. He is a graduate of the University of Western Ontario's School of Library and Information Science, and a former computer systems manager at Micromedia Ltd. in Toronto. Editorial work is shared by Anne Mercer (a librarian at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in Toronto), Jane McQuarrie (head of the Boy's and Girls Department, St. Thomas Public Library) and Toni Olshen (an information specialist and formerly editor of the Canadian Business Index).

Part of the company's modest success to date can be attributed to Stan Bevington's Coach House Press, which has done the typesetting and printing for three Reference Press books. Coach House is well known for the quality of its printing and design, and it has moved quickly to adapt microcomputer technology to publishing. Reference Press and Coach House will collaborate this fall in the production of a small number of Canadian titles in large print format, using advanced LASER printer and computer technology. For those readers who have difficulty reading or seeing ordinary-sized print, these books will provide access to Canadian novels and story collections of appeal and excellence, by new and established writers. As other firms have discovered to their chagrin, the market for large print books in Canada, particularly Canadian books, is very limited. It is hoped that new techniques and short press runs will help make the project economically viable.

The Reference Press indexing package called AUTHEX is aimed at the same school and library market as the print titles. AUTHEX is a microcomputer-based system designed to assist in the preparation of printed indexes. It was featured recently in the "Software Showcase" section of American Libraries, and can be used effectively to prepare vertical file indexes, current awareness reports, newspaper indexes, catalogues, and bibliographies. The system has an important feature not supported by popular database management packages: it incorporates an on-line authority file that can accommodate subjects and names, along with associated cross references. The low cost ($95.00 in Canada) and relative sophistication of the software should make it popular in schools and libraries with access to IBM Personal Computers and compatibles. Reference Press also plans to make available a range of ready-made machine-readable authority files for use with AUTHEX. Any librarian who has had to develop a cross-referenced thesaurus or authority file will appreciate the utility of being able to purchase, at low cost, a file that is complete and ready to use.

During the next two years Reference Press will consolidate its publishing program and continue to expand its base of customers. In the longer term, our goal is to develop a list of useful reference products for the specialized library market, and to maintain a high standard of quality and integrity. If we can do that and make a living too, we'll be happy indeed.

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