Fieldstone Publishing announced that it will donate the print book sale proceeds it receives from two recently published National Audubon Society field guides to the National African American Reparation Commission. The publishing company owns the digital content rights to the bestselling nature guides and has partnered with the Audubon Society and Alfred A. Knopf/Penguin Random House to publish them as print books for more than 45 years.
In addition, "Knopf will remove the Audubon name and logo from all future field guide publications as well as reprints, effective immediately," Todd Doughty, senior v-p of publicity and communications at Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, told PW. "Discussions are currently underway to rename the series, and we look forward to announcing our plans soon.”
Released in April 2023, the National Audubon Society Complete Guide to Mushrooms and National Audubon Society Complete Guide to Wildflowers of North America are the final books Fieldstone has digitally licensed under the Audubon name, explained Fieldstone president and CEO Shyla Nelson Stewart.
"While we are immensely proud of the exceptional effort they represent, we cannot ignore the devastating legacy and name in which these books were produced," she said. "Supporting the vital work of reparations is a meaningful way to reckon with the past as we embrace the path forward.”
In a March 23 announcement, Fieldstone said that it would cut the Audubon name from its digital guide content amid controversy over John James Audubon's history as an enslaver, white supremacist, and eugenics practitioner. This after the Washington Post reported that the National Audubon Society board of directors held a closed-door meeting on March 13 in which its 26-person board voted to keep the name.
After a year of soliciting feedback from Society members and the public, the board's vote resulted in three board members resigning, according to The Post. Additionally, the Society's affiliate chapters in New York City, San Francisco, and Chicago have chosen to remove the Audubon name from its organizational operations in protest, and the union for the society's staffers has also cut the name.
Fieldstone said that the decision to drop the Audubon name from digital content was done independently from print rights owners Knopf, but they are encouraging them to follow their lead. The hope is to "address centuries of systemic oppression and disenfranchisement experienced by African-Americans" by directing proceeds from the Audubon guides to the NAARC, said Fieldstone, until the guide content can be published without the Audubon name.
“Fieldstone is proud to support the work of the NAARC," said Stewart. "Reparations are the most effective means to address centuries of systemic oppression and disenfranchisement, and doing so in John James Audubon’s name is one way to reckon with his racist legacy.”
According to Fieldstone, its original vinyl-covered, 20-volume Complete Guide series has sold over 22 million copies through Knopf and helped elevate the National Audubon Society to prominence as a leading conservation organization.