The Perilous Trade: Book Publishing in Canada, 1946–2006. Rev. ed.


496 pages
Contains Photos, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 978-0-7710-5494-5
DDC 070.5'097109045




Reviewed by Ashley Thomson

Ashley Thomson is a full librarian at Laurentian University and co-editor or co-author of nine books, most recently Margaret Atwood: A Reference Guide, 1988-2005.


In 2003, this reviewer assessed the first edition of this book for CBRA—and after examining the second, there is little that can be added to the original review. What is worth commenting upon, however, are the changes between the two editions. The most obvious is the subtitle. In the original edition, it was “Publishing Canada’s Writers”; in this edition it is “Book Publishing in Canada, 1946–2006.” While the change is modest, its significance appears even less so. Inside, an analysis of the chapter headings reveals that, with one exception, little has been altered between the two editions: the first fifteen chapters have exactly the same headings. That said, while the Introduction, “A Canadian Experiment,” is the same in both books, it has been updated to reflect new content in the sixteenth and last chapter, which has changed from “No Publisher’s Paradise” in the first edition to “The Canadian Publishing Ecosystem” in the second.

When the book was first published, the prospects for Canadian publishers seemed pretty gloomy but by the second edition things had improved so the chapter details the developments that have been influential: new digital technologies, the “fuller emergence of multinationals as trade houses with a commitment to Canadian writers,” and the “shakedown in the Canadian-controlled sector” (p. 5). By book’s end, the reader will be convinced that Canadian book publishing is a perilous trade but that it will survive in no small part due to the “mavericks, gamblers, political activists, and true believers who against all odds have given us English Canada’s greatest cultural achievement.”

Of course, three years have passed since the end of the period referenced in the second edition, and those years have encompassed the worst economic recession since the great depression. One wonders whether there is a third edition of this book that will come to the same conclusion as the first.


MacSkimming, Roy., “The Perilous Trade: Book Publishing in Canada, 1946–2006. Rev. ed.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 13, 2024,