Blue Ear Books

Blue Ear Books is a vehicle for publishing and disseminating selected new and reprinted nonfiction books of particular global topical or cultural interest.

It is the logical culmination of the decision its founder, author Ethan Casey, made to take control of the publication and promotion of his own books, rather than remain subject to the whims and vicissitudes of a perpetually and radically changing publishing industry. Through Blue Ear Books, Casey now also publishes a select list of books by other authors and works with them to plan and implement effective programs of promotion and public speaking.

Blue Ear Books recalls the ethos of Blue Ear (1999-2005), a pioneering online periodical co-founded by Ethan Casey and Steve Lanier and praised at the time by James Fallows as “ambitious” and “innovative.” Blue Ear’s aspiration was to explore the potential of the Internet as a publishing medium capable of reaching readers instantly worldwide with minimal distribution costs – at a time when that was still a novel phenomenon – while maintaining a high level of intelligence and taste through editorial moderation.

Blue Ear’s ultimate expression as a global community of writers and readers meeting online was the book 09/11 8:48 a.m.: Documenting America’s Greatest Tragedy. In the spring of 2001 at a conference in Brooklyn, Ethan Casey met executives of BookSurge, a startup company trying to prove the technical and commercial feasibility of print-on-demand technology. (BookSurge was later purchased by Amazon and rebranded as CreateSpace.) On September 17, 2001, BookSurge approached Casey to edit a collection of writings about the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, with the ambitious goal of publishing it by the end of the month.

Sitting at a dining table in a suburb of London, with collaboration from Jay Rosen and his colleagues and students in the Department of Journalism at New York University, Casey read hundreds of spontaneous and solicited writings submitted by email and edited an 80,000-word manuscript in ten days. The result – the first book published about the events of September 11, 2001 – was described by John Sutherland in The Guardian as

subjected to stringent editing … [bringing] together dozens of witnesses, weaving their voices into a complex narrative … more complete (because truer to the event) than if it arrived next Easter … [Casey and Rosen] have functioned like conductors of an orchestra, blending others’ talents into unity. One is obliged to think analogically, because there has been nothing quite like this before.

Not every book can – or should – be published in such a way or under such conditions. But modern printing technology, digital communications, and related sea changes in book publishing as an industry make it both possible and necessary to write, publish, and promote books in new ways. Books that would not have been commercially viable in the past can now be made available to their core audiences, and any other interested readers, relatively efficiently and inexpensively, in small or larger print runs, with the prospect of at least a modest profit for both author and publisher. This is what Blue Ear Books is doing.