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Buddhadharma : Fall 2007
fall 2007| 54 |buddhadharma (clockwise from top left) reed malcolm is an acquisitions editor at the university of california press, responsible for books in the fields of religion, asian studies, politics, and current events. amy hertz has been an editor and publisher at holt, harpercollins, the penguin group, and random house. robert sharf is the d. h. chen professor of buddhist studies and director of religious studies at the university of california, berkeley. tim mcneill has been the publisher of wisdom publications since 1988. Ibought my very first Buddhist book in September 1965. It was Edward Conze’s Buddhism: Its Essence and Development. That same day I also bought its companion vol- ume, Buddhist Texts through the Ages. I found both books in a well-known bookstore in a major American city. More notable than my actual book purchases is that these two books were the only books on Buddhism in the entire bookstore. Today, less than a half-century later, one can’t enter a bookstore, from Chicago to Cheyenne, without finding a whopping array of books on every Buddhist topic you can imagine: Buddhism in its Asian homeland; various Buddhist sectarian traditions; Buddhist doctrines; Buddhist practices and rituals; self-help books on various forms of Buddhist meditation; volumes by Buddhist super- star practitioners. If you can imagine it, it’s there. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Understanding Buddhism and What Would Buddha Do? are just a few of the many books beckoning the new would-be Buddhist reader. If you want something for your kids to read, no problem. You can pick up a copy of Dharma Family Treasures: Sharing Buddhism with Children. Interested in eth- nic groups? Try That’s Funny, You Don’t Look Buddhist: On Being a Faithful Jew and a Passionate Buddhist. Concerned about sexual preference? Try Queer Dharma: Voices of Gay Buddhists. Want something scholarly and challenging? If you can afford it, have a go at Dan Lusthau’s Buddhist Phenomenology ... all 600 pages of it. Buddhist books and Buddhist publishers are everywhere. The first page of the Summer 2007 edition of this magazine has a full-page advertise- ment touting six fun new books from Wisdom Publications, and the back cover has six more from Shambhala Publications. It doesn’t matter whether you pick up the latest edition of Tricycle or Shambhala Sun. It’s the same thing. Where are all these books on Buddhism coming from? Who is publishing them? Who is writing them? Who is buying them? Until the early 1970s, when Buddhist groups began appearing in North America, almost all the books on Buddhism were written by schol- Forum: Book Power ars and published either by university presses or the most erudite and proper of trade publishers. That doesn’t mean that the occasional popular title such as Philip Kapleau’s The Three Pillars of Zen didn’t find a wide audience, but it was clearly the exception rather than the rule. More often, one found books such as Richard Robinson’s Early Madhyamika in India and China. Once Chögyam Trungpa, Shunryu Suzuki, and Taizan Maezumi hit the scene, everything changed. A huge trade market for books quickly developed, spawning new publishers and a new breed of prac- titioner, as well as authors and new venues for various Buddhist publications. It even created the environment for scholar-practitioners to test their hand at popular rather than scholarly Buddhist topics. The days of reading Bob Thurman’s won- derful translation of the Vimalakirti Sutra are gone. Now we read his Inner Revolution: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Real Happiness. With the advent of computer technology, the Internet came alive as a place to advertise and promote the latest new and captivating Buddhist books. They could be ordered instantly from online booksellers, such as amazon.com or any of the plethora of other cyber-merchants. And some could even be downloaded directly in the form of eBooks, ready for your laptop or handheld device. Not to be outdone, even some major Buddhist centers, such as Zen Mountain Monastery, began their own publishing ventures, producing volumes that are first rate, both in content and form. It has become a sophisticated, useful way for cen- ters to pursue the path to fiscal self-sufficiency. If would-be readers are uncertain about which new Buddhist books to buy, they can always subscribe to an online group like Buddha-L, where books are frequently discussed with passion, or they can read the more scholarly reviews on H-Buddhism. By summer 2008, the results of a survey that documents the publishing choices of about 200 North American Buddhist studies scholars will be available, and it will be possible to see which scholarly presses, trade publishers, and journals are favored by these Buddhist literati. In the mean- time, we can read the following discussion and hear what those intimately involved in publishing books on Buddhism have to say about the choices, process, and economics of Buddhist publishing. charles prebish holds the charles redd endowed chair in religious studies at utah state university. he is the founding co-editor of the Journal of Buddhist Ethics and the Journal of GloBal Buddhism. IntroductIon by charles prebIsh How the publishing industry is influencing Buddhism in the West