Tuesday, October 23, 2012

An Interview with Berkshire Publishing

As part of an ongoing feature, we've sat down and asked some of our wonderful content partners a number of questions about their businesses, their partnership with us, and the future of the industry. This week we spoke with Berkshire Publishing.

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Full Interview Below.

AP: Tell us about your company, what disciplines do you publish in, and your history?

BP: Berkshire Publishing is unusual. It is a tiny company doing huge projects, a small-town business with a global focus, and a publishing enterprise run by an author who never imagined herself in business. Berkshire has staff around the world including an office in Beijing and works with many thousands of leading academic authors, but it’s a totally hands-on operation that reflects Karen Christensen’s passionate commitment to global understanding and especially to sustainability.

Berkshire’s success is based on Karen and her staff’s ability to bring together communities of experts – hundreds of them for a single project, often in as many as 70 countries. Berkshire has created the major reference works in existence on topics including Leadership (with Sage), Community (also with Sage), Modern Asia (with Scribners), World Sport, World History, China, and Sustainability.

Karen founded Berkshire with her ex-husband, David Levinson, a well-known cultural anthropologist. She took over the company in 2007 and has expanded its focus on Asia and especially China with the help of her son, Tom Christensen, who graduated from Grinnell College and then went to live in Beijing as Berkshire’s representative (he also works for the new London-based Bilbary.com). Now dividing her time between Great Barrington, Massachusetts, and the West Village in New York City, Karen is reorienting Berkshire to provide educational materials and services as well as publications for international education and online courses. These new developments derive from the rich article archive that Berkshire is making available via AcademicPub.

AP: Why did you choose to partner with AcademicPub?
BP: Berkshire made a major change in its approach to encyclopedias while working on the Berkshire Encyclopedia of China, published in print in May 2009. Instead of flowing articles one after the other, the new format had every article start on a new page, designed and edited as a stand-alone piece of short-form content that could be used in teaching. Of course the articles were also designed to work well together, providing coherent coverage of all aspects of Chinese history, culture, science, and politics. This unique encyclopedia format makes it easy for Berkshire to offer articles via AcademicPub. Berkshire is delighted to work with a company focused on making it easy for educators to create exactly the right course materials for their students while respecting copyright.

AP: Do you have a view on the future of course materials you’d like to share?

We look forward to offering our fast-expanding China content via AcademicPub. This material includes not only the 800 articles in the Encyclopedia of China but vocabulary and other worksheets, discussion guides, and other valuable teaching tools that are available at www.ChinaConnectU.com. Teaching Chinese and courses on China require a great deal of customization. A school with many “heritage” learners or students from China will, for example, need material appropriate for them. Many teachers are also creating their own materials, and will appreciate the way AcademicPub allows them to integrate their lesson plans and sample quizzes with articles written by leading China scholars for Berkshire publications (and of course from other works, too). We see the opportunity to make a wider variety of teaching resources available as a key benefit of working with AcademicPub, and look forward to the challenge of managing bilingual materials and metadata, too!

AP: Tell us a bit about the most important title[s] you publish:

The ten-volume Berkshire Encyclopedia of Sustainability, seven years in the making, will be in print on 1 November 2012. “This is undoubtedly the most important and readable reference on sustainability of our time,” writes Jim MacNeill, Secretary-General of the Brundtland Commission and chief architect and lead author of Our Common Future.

The encyclopedia has received advance comment from a group that includes the world’s most influential environmentalists and policy makers and its roster of authors and editors includes many of the world’s most eminent experts on all aspects of environmental sustainability. Reviews have been overwhelmingly positive.

I particularly recommend that you read the introduction to volume 10 as it provides a thorough overview of the entire project, an alphabetical listing of the nearly 1,000 articles in the entire set, from "Accounting" to "Zero Waste," including everything from "God" to "Gold"; a master reader's guide to the set; a master list of contributors, a master index and a master bibliography of most-cited works.

A full list of authors is included in volume 10. Links below lead to all the individual, topical volume introductions, lists of articles and their contributors, and reader's guides (articles organized by topic). General information about the ten-volume set,, including sample articles on Energy; Education, Higher; Free Trade; Natural Resources Law; and Real Property Law, can be found at http://www.berkshirepublishing.com/brw/Product.asp?projID=62

Volume 10: The Future of Sustainability

Volume 9: Afro-Eurasia: Assessing Sustainability

Volume 8: The Americas and Oceania: Assessing Sustainability

Volume 7: China, India, and East and Southeast Asia: Assessing Sustainability

Volume 6: Measurements, Indicators, and Research Methods for Sustainability

Volume 5: Ecosystem Management and Sustainability

Volume 4: Natural Resources and Sustainability

Volume 3: The Law and Politics of Sustainability

Volume 2: The Business of Sustainability

Volume 1: The Spirit of Sustainability

And some reviews of our other titles:

“Sorting the sum of human endeavors and presenting students with a coherent plan of study is no easy task, but [in creating the Berkshire Encyclopedia of World History] a winning combination of distinguished historians and a seasoned editorial staff has proven more than equal to this massive undertaking.” – John Lawrence, “Lawrence Looks at Books”

“A monumental undertaking, [the International Encyclopedia of Women and Sports, edited by Christensen et al.] covers women’s sports worldwide and throughout history … A scholarly resource for public libraries and school at all levels, middle school through college.” – Library Journal

“[The International Encyclopedia of Women and Sports contains] engaging illustrations and photos, as well as numerous sidebars, tables and charts … [and] a sense of scope and comprehensiveness not afforded by other sports references.” – Against the Grain

“[Berkshire's Patterns of Global Terrorism] offers a great service to policy makers, journalists, researchers, and the general public … [It] provides context, coherence, and thorough access.” – Reference & Research Book News

“Works like the Berkshire Encyclopedia of Human-Computer Interaction play a valuable role in lending definition to emerging, interdisciplinary fields of study.” – Against the Grain

“The Encyclopedia of Leadership is a model of a modern reference book … [it] belongs in the personal collection of every person seriously interested in leadership, whether as student, scholar, or practitioner.” – Compass, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

"Incredibly, [the Encyclopedia of Community: From the Village to the Virtual World] is the first encyclopedia to focus on community as concept and experience, so stands alone in its field as the one title any library must buy to cover this topic. . . . Essential. All readerships.” – Choice

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