The Seminary Co-op Bookstores in Chicago is marking both its 60th anniversary this year and celebrating its upcoming re-opening to browsers by introducing several initiatives. The new initiatives include the launch of two publishing imprints—one focusing on bookselling and the literary arts—each in partnership with a scholarly press.
Seminary Co-op Offsets is being started in partnership with Northwestern University Press. In a letter to members, Seminary Co-op Bookstores director Jeff Deutsch said the imprint is designed to be a “showcase for outstanding work in literature and the humanities, focusing on new translations, lost classics, out-of-print gems, and works highlighting the rich literary history of the South Side of Chicago.” The imprint's debut release will be announced sometime this summer and its list will be curated by Northwestern University Press director Parneshia Jones and Deutsch. Plans call for publishing two to four titles each year.
The second imprint, Ode Books, is being done in collaboration with Prickly Paradigm Press, the 20-year-old Chicago publisher of short, erudite yet unconventional books. Deutsch said Ode Books, “will celebrate book spaces and the book industry.” The imprint will explore “the cultural value of the book,” as well as challenges facing the publishing industry, with a list ranging from veteran booksellers reflecting upon their lives in books to critiques of financial models and proposals “for radical approaches to inventory selection.”
Overseen by Seminary Co-op and Prickly Paradigm publisher Matthew Engelke, the director of the Institute for Religion, Culture, and Public Life at Columbia University, Ode’s target audience includes “denizens of the book world, as well as bookstore enthusiasts, serial browsers,” and anyone else interested in the literary arts. Ode Books will release its first titles in fall 2022 and will publish four to six books each year. Longtime Booklist adult books editor Donna Seaman and Paul Yamazaki, senior buyer at City Lights Booksellers in San Francisco are among the authors under contract with Ode Books.
"Both Seaman and Yamazaki are legendary in their respective fields," Deutsch told PW, "They are writing celebrations of the bookish world that raised them, and continues to sustain them."
In addition to starting the two imprints Deutsch said Seminary Co-op will offer consulting services on a formal basis “after years of one-off partnerships with cultural and educational institutions” whose missions complement Seminary Co-op’s own mission. Seminary Co-op will work with these like-minded organizations—such as the Chicago Public Schools and University of Chicago -- to build their library collections, Deutsch said.
This spring will also see the return of he “Open Stacks” podcast series, hosted by Seminary Co-op’s new director of buying and content, Alena Jones in which she talks about new titles and various publishing topics. The next next podcast will feature with Jones with Seminary Co-op's 57th Street Books store manager Bryce Lucas talking shop. The anticipated release date is June 9. Future guests this season include Paul Yamazaki, Reuben Jonathan Miller, Dan Wells, Ann Kjellberg, and Eve Ewing.