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Nonprofit Publisher With a Mission

Andre Schiffrin's New Press intends to champion ideas that might be risky for larger firms

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THE $7.5 billion United States book publishing industry saw the launch of a new publisher today, The New Press.

Established for the public interest, it is the first independent, not for profit, fully professional New York book publisher of its kind; a nonprofit David in a field of commercial Goliaths.

New Press seeks to replicate in publishing what the Public Broadcasting Service did some 20 years ago in the shadow of commercial television create an alternative that isn't dominated by commercial values," says Andre Schiffrin, founder of The New Press and former managing director and editor in chief of Pantheon Books.

When asked in a telephone interview "Why begin as a nonprofit?" Mr. Schiffrin's answer cuts across cultural and sociological bounds: "The structural change is essential," he says. "With increasing conglomerate control of publishing, it seemed essential to create a new structure for publishing books with important, new ideas, books often rejected by the large houses as 'risky' or 'insufficiently profitable.

"How many audiences are neglected, not as a matter of censorship or exclusion, but as a matter of economics?" asks Schiffrin. "We still have to pay our bills, of course, and we hope that in time the books we publish will cover most of our costs, but we can now address issues we deem most important, yet most neglected."

The venture is funded by more than a dozen major foundations, including the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. Even the French ministry of culture contributed to the $3 million raised by the New Press.

"This represents an evolution in American society of responding to changes in publishing markets," says Ted Hearne, a spokesman for the MacArthur foundation. "We believe this has the potential to be an excellent means of dissemination of education materials to individuals and groups who are traditionally underserved by mainstream publishers," he says.

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