Even before last month’s sale of Boston-based Rounder Records to the Concord Music Group in Beverly Hills, the 40-year-old indie record label had begun to mute its small book publishing operations. Rounder cofounder Bill Nowlin will continue to run Rounder Books, which was not part of the sale. Last year the press published two books and currently has none in the works. Rounder Books launched its first list in spring 2004 with Nowlin’s baseball biography Mr. Red Sox: The Johnny Pesky Story, and The Fenway Project, a collection of essays by fans, edited by Nowlin and Cecelia Tan. The press’ focus was on sports and popular culture. Its backlist of several dozen titles ranges from Raffi’s children’s book and music CD Everybody Grows to the company’s bestseller, Neal Peart’s Roadshow: Landscape with Drums—A Concert Tour by Motorcycle.
“Rounder Books will remain alive,” Nowlin told PW. “Though inactive for now, there is the possibility that we might publish, depending on the book. If Neil Peart comes up with another book, we’d be pleased to publish that. In fact, we’d publish anything that we liked if we thought we could make money at it. So far, we only rarely have made money on individual titles—far from enough to cover the losses on the others. It’s harder and harder to approach breakeven.”
Nowlin plans to keep Rounder’s backlist available as e-books. Most are also still available, at least for now, in print.
Ironically, at the same time Rounder was letting new projects dwindle, its building in Burlington, Mass., had become a mini-bookselling and publishing hub with Kate’s Mystery Books and Beacon Street Girls creator B*tween Productions sharing space. Now all three are in the process of moving out.