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Harbour Publishing buys Douglas & McIntyre

Howard White, president of Harbour Publishing looks over the newly released "The Chuck Davis History of Metropolitan Vancouver" with Chuck Davis' wife Edna at the book launch in Vancouver November 17, 2011.

JOHN LEHMANN/The Globe and Mail

Douglas & McIntyre, flagship arm of financially stressed, Vancouver-based D&M Publishers Inc., considered the country's largest independent publishing house, has found a buyer. The purchaser is prominent, long-time B.C. publishers Harbour Publishing.

"We believe we can keep it going in the same spirit, if not on quite the same scale," Howard White, co-founder and co-owner of Harbour Publishing with his wife, Mary, said in an interview Wednesday.

Given what many see as the precarious state of Canadian publishing, and D&M's filing for bankruptcy protection last fall, Mr. White confessed to some trepidation over taking on a major share of the company.

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D&M's other major asset, Greystone Books, was bought last week by Heritage House Publishing.

"I'm nervous. My heart is kind of in my throat a bit," said Mr. White, who has run his company from Pender Harbour since 1974.

"But I've long been an admirer of Douglas & McIntyre. They have a fabulous collection of books, and I'm thrilled to get the opportunity to keep them going."

The sale, details of which were not disclosed, must still be approved by the courts before taking effect, Mr. White said. He expects Harbour Publishing to assume control in a few weeks.

He said he aims to maintain both firms as separate operations, with D&M keeping its editorial office in Vancouver. "But we will combine marketing, distribution and production."

However, Mr. White said he doesn't know what share of owed royalties he will be able to pay to Douglas &  McIntrye authors.

"That's the $64,000 question. We're going to do everything we can for them, but it will have to be worked out through negotiation, on a case-by-case basis."

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Douglas & McIntyre has published many national best-sellers over the years, including Charlotte Gill's prize-winning, tree-planting memoir Eating Dirt; Wayson Choy's much-loved novel The Jade Peony; the 2010 Giller prize winner The Sentimentalists by Johanna Skibsrud, after D&M acquired the rights from its original publisher, Gaspereau Press.

Past authors include Wade Davis, David Suzuki, Will Ferguson and celebrated Canadian poet Lorna Crozier.

Mr. White said the purchase of Douglas and McIntyre may give Harbour Publishing more of a foothold outside the province.

"We turn down a lot of manuscripts, because they're too national. We only publish B.C. stuff. But it's always annoyed me that we hardly ever sell a book to 90 per cent of the Canadian market. The B.C. brand just doesn't travel to Ontario."

Mr. White said Harbour's annual sales are about $2-million, with around 450 active titles. Douglas & McIntyre has about 400 active titles.

D&M Publishers owes more than $6-million to creditors, according to documents filed to the Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy Canada. Among those owed money are a number of authors, literary agents, printers and big banks.

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With a report from Marsha Lederman

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