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Publishers in the Empire
The Empire licenses two types of press: 1) those associated with a larger organization and intended to publish its specialized information, and 2) those operating independently, which may have a specialty but are not intended as the public voice of some other organization. Independent presses operate under the auspices of the Entertainment Guild, as a majority of them publish creative writing. Most presses that focus on nonfiction are connected with a school, guild, or other institution. Major universities customarily have a press, and some smaller specialty schools do. The major guilds in a big city often have a press, and sometimes there are trade presses in smaller cities. The larger and more famous the press, the wider its distribution; this gives a nice balance between local variety and general availability.
Imperial publishers tend to have a tighter pool of contributors than modern American ones do. Institutional presses typically publish material written by their members; some have tighter or looser parameters for allowing outside experts. Independent presses often, though not always, hire a pool of in-house writers trained by the Entertainment Guild. So the Empire has a great many truly professional writers who do that and nothing else, chosen on a strong meritocratic basis, which results in quite a lot of excellent material. A few presses have a list of outside contacts with schools, guilds, and other places where they can find writers experienced in their current topic; more rarely still, they may allow freelance submissions, but the slush pile is not a routine way of finding content in the Empire. There are independent presses that cater to amateur writers and do take open submissions, but they don't pay and are really just about enjoying literature/art as a hobby.
Many types of reading material, supplemented generously by illustrations, are available. Periodicals (known as "rags") are tremendously common, as are short novels and popular nonfiction. Ragstands offering magazines, cheap novels, and other reading material appear on street corners throughout the Empire, especially at rail stops or outside institutions where people will need to wait. Light reading is very popular, intended to help busy thinkers relax and to encourage ordinary workers to stay in practice reading. This is much better respected than it is in America, and people are rarely ashamed of reading or writing it. Most people have a specialty for which they also read more complex material. Museums, parks, guilds, schools, and other institutions frequently have a gift shop that includes a generous selection of books at various levels relating to their specialty.
The quality and content of periodicals varies. White rags contain material that is vetted and verified. They have the most stringent licensing to produce, but anyone may read them and they are available everywhere. They feature the most accurate news and other factual information. Fiction is written exclusively by professionals and may be approved with such indicators as "free of error" or "Empire-friendly," with an eye toward cultural sensitivity and social values. White rags are also required to state a recommended age range, typically expressed in school forms or ranks. They are printed on better quality paper, which is actually white. Gray rags contain more variable content: gossip, breaking news of unconfirmed validity, opinion, etc. They are not obligated to state a recommended age range, but often do. Libraries are not required to stock them, although many do so because they are very popular. Some categories such as explicit erotica and violent adventure are served primarily in adult-licensed locations. Most gray rags are considered inappropriate for children; young people often sneak them anyhow. Although considered less acceptable than white rags, gray rags are valued because they print news (accurate and otherwise) faster and also carry spicier content. They are often, though not always, printed on cheap pulp paper that is a dingy grayish color. Black rags contain revolutionary material, sedition, and other troublesome stuff. They are unlicenseable to produce and strictly prohibited; only a few libraries and propaganda officials are allowed to have such materials for research purposes. A majority are broadsides or leaflets that are cheap to distribute; there are also pamphlets of wild theories about anomalies and historic atrocities. Despite the name, they are often printed on garishly dyed sheets of cheap pulp paper.
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