Thursday, June 11, 2009

Seattle's Chin Music Press

Whew—hopefully I’ll never have as long a gap between posts as this past one. Firstly I’d like to extend a big thank you to everyone who found their way over here from The Book Design Review. Hope you like what you see and stick around for a while.

I had two of my busiest weeks this year, both at home and at the bookstore. Not only did I just move apartments, but two weekends ago was Book Expo America at the Javits Center in Manhattan. I spent most of May prepping for BEA, as many of the major players at the company I work for flew into town for the fair. I was able to go to BEA on Sunday and walk the floor—it was remarkable how different the mood was this year as opposed to my last visit in 2007. This year was all business: many publishers that I was excited to see were locked into meetings and not especially receptive to casual walk-ups. In a convention center full of focused, business-minded publishers, those few small presses that put an obvious effort into expanding their readership (instead of just their accounts) stood out even more than they probably know.

I think we’re in good shape If Seattle’s Chin Music Press ( is any indication of the future of independent publishing. At this point they’ve got a small list of books but from where I stand they’re doing everything right.

Based in Seattle with strong ties in Tokyo, Chin Music calls themselves the “Antidote to the Kindle” and you can see why. All of their books are bound exquisitely and put together in a way that each book feels like a treasure from some rare book room. Some have full-color spreads, some have sewn-in ribbon place-holders. Goodbye Madame Butterfly, for instance, has some of the most beautiful endpapers I’ve ever seen.

And not only are these books incredible to own, they’re all great reads as well. Riding the crest of the US Japanese literature wave, Chin Music provides us with a modest and intelligent look at the arts and culture coming out of Japan. The aforementioned Goodbye Madame Butterfly is composed of intimate testimonials from women living today in Japan. Kuhaku is a collection of complex essays on Japanese life that break down any preconceptions you may have of what it’s like to live out there. As a fan of another Japanese press, Vertical, it’s great to see how another group can share a relatively similar mission and take it to task in a completely different manner.

Chin Music is certainly a publisher to keep an eye on. If you’re a fan of the Japanese lit that’s coming into the US but tired of publishers and their wacky, surreal attempts at finding another Haruki Murakami, Chin Music is the place for you.


  1. Hello from Chin Music Press!

    Thanks so much for the kind words and beautiful photographs of the books. We're glad you've found us over there in Brooklyn!

    Wanted to let you know that NPR has actually listed our latest title, "Oh! A Mystery of Mono no Aware," as one of the Summer's Best Reads. Stay in touch, and hopefully we'll see you at the Brooklyn Fair in September!

  2. Hi Jeff --

    First of all, you're right in your earlier post about Murakami Haruki that "Q" is a homonyum for the number 9 (pronounced "kyuu" or "kuu"). Such substitution of characters of different meanings but the same readings is common in Japanese. Take a look, too, at this post about the book's unusual marketing strategy:

    I, like Jennifer in the comments before me (and Bruce, who wrote the post 1Q84), work with Chin Music Press and would like to thank you for your kind words about us. Would you mind contacting us? We'd like to quote your blog piece, but have no way of contacting you to get your permission.

    David Jacobson
    Chin Music Press