With approval from the IRS of its request for nonprofit status expected within the month, the organizers of the Colophon Center have announced plans to create a new foundation aimed at promoting book publishing in the West.
The organization will be based in Denver and is the brainchild of three Colorado-based members of the publishing industry. Derek Lawrence (owner of Corvus/Imprint Group), Fred Ramey (co-owner and co-publisher of Unbridled Books) and Caleb J. Seeling (owner of Conundrum Press and Samizdat Creative) came up with the idea for Colophon at a PubWest happy hour two years ago.
"I started saying that Denver really needs to have something that supports the publishing world," Lawrence recalled. He wanted to address the fact that, in Colorado, he was seeing "an ongoing loss of publishing jobs.”
Although the trio have not yet found a space to house their new organization, they hope to settle on something that will allow them to provide a co-working space for publishing companies and professionals; a library dedicated to regional literature; a gallery space; and an event space. Ideally they would like to see the Center do double duty as a teaching space, and work with public schools to host education programs about book publishing.
Citing a survey from the Leeds School of Business of the University of Colorado that shows employment in the publishing industry falling 40% in Colorado since 2001, Lawrence said the main problem for publishing professionals in the state is a lack of mobility between jobs. "There was a time in the 90s where there were enough companies here that there was a lot of ability to move around and grow," he explained. "As we’ve seen that shrink, it’s affected the whole ecosystem of book publishing [in Colorado].”
Despite the fact that Denver is currently one of America's fastest-growing cities, and that Colorado boasts one of the country's lowest unemployment rates, publishing opportunities are still sparse. The founders hope the Center will be able to address this issue in Colorado, and its surrounding Western regions. The focus, they said, will be on making Denver a center for publishing.
"We want to encourage companies to expand into Denver if they have regional offices," Lawrence said. "Last year we had Shambhala move back to Colorado from Boston, where they had been for many years. We’d like to see more of that.”
Speaking to their real estate needs, Lawrence said he and his co-founders think that “there’s a good chance the city will help us find a building large enough" to meet their needs. While the trio could easily find a small space, they're not interested in settling into something that doesn't suit their needs. According to Lawrence, they currently have 15 groups interested in taking office space, including agents, publishing companies and book designers.
Speaking to the programming Lawrence envisions the Center offering, he said there will be classes that "go over nuts and bolts types of issues that face all publishing companies.”
Colophon Center, in Lawrence's thinking, will also work closely with local organizations, from the Denver Publishing Institute to local bookstores like the Tattered Cover. “Our major bookstores here know what we’re doing and are supportive of it,” Lawrence said. “They feel it’s going to take the city to the next level in terms of publishing."
Lawrence also believes the Center will benefit more than those who work in publishing, or want to get into the field. "We have a fantastic community of book lovers in Colorado, and people that would benefit from having a center [like this].”