Small Press Distribution Has Closed

Small Press Distribution, the Berkeley, Calif., distributor for hundreds of independent publishers for 55 years, has closed. The nonprofit attributed the move to "a decline in both sales and institutional support" that together squeezed the "budget beyond the breaking point."

Executive director Kent Watson said, "Despite the heroic efforts of a tireless staff to raise new funds, find new sales channels for our presses, and move from our outdated Berkeley warehouse, we are simply no longer able to make ends meet. Everyone at SPD is heartbroken at this outcome, which seriously jeopardizes the ability of underrepresented literary communities to reach the marketplace."

Alan Bernheimer, president of SPD's board of directors, added: "The closure of SPD is an incalculable loss to publishers, authors, booksellers, and readers of small press literature. We are immeasurably grateful to all who supported SPD for decades, especially the individual donors who responded so generously in the past few years, as well as to generations of devoted staffers."

In the past several months, as SPD shifted to an outsourced warehouse and fulfillment model, its inventory of 300,000 books had been transferred to Ingram Content Group and Publishers Storage and Shipping. The new model, dubbed SPD Next, included expanding POD, e-books, audiobooks, and global distribution services. But SPD said that the warehouse shift took longer and cost more than planned, which, along with systems integration delays, further strained SPD's financial resources. SPD was also hit by a denial-of-service attack last December.

Despite the repeated generosity of many supporters and a successful GoFundMe campaign last year, SPD was unable to complete the transition and reap the expected cost savings and revenues from new services. As more foundations move away from funding the arts, SPD lost $125,000 in annual grants in the past year from half a dozen institutions that historically supported its operations, SPD said. SPD staff has been reduced to a minimal team and is in the process of winding down operations.

SPD was founded in 1969 by Bay Area booksellers Peter Howard and Jack Shoemaker, starting with eight small presses and growing to distribute nearly 400. It connected underrepresented literary communities to the marketplace and to each other via book distribution, events, and public advocacy. Emphasizing artistic and activist visions, SPD's presses published a range of writers who relied on the organization to reach readers nationwide.

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