Since August when I last wrote about CYCO Books I have been developing a broader scheme for renewing the fortunes of the CYCO enterprise. After speaking to Hy Wolfe and establishing the fact that my help would be appreciated I have been trying to map out a useful future for CYCO. The essential situation is this: CYCO needs to move to cheaper digs or call it quits. If all that happens is that the pile of books that CYCO has now gets moved from one place to another and the pile continues to shrink and get more stolid as it sells down, then there really is not much point to the effort.
My original thought was to raise money to enable the move, get the stock organized, set up a new computer system, load it with my own Yiddish cataloging to let them do speedy copy cataloging as much as possible, set them up with a modern website complete with shopping cart and credit card capability and let them go. Beyond that I hoped to republish some of the older titles that CYCO published in the past get those moving.
Benefiting from the insights of a number of people (Zachary Baker, Fischel Kutner, and Prof. of Israel Studies (Hebrew Literature and Film) Philip Hollander, among others) and my own foolish optimism I have revised my thoughts and have begun to contact others for advice and support in the details.
CYCO has two types of resources beyond its name. These are 1) the stock that they hold, and 2) their back-list. The value of the stock is what it is - one person's gold in the attic and another person's albatross. The shorter the term the more like an albatross it becomes. The value of the back-list is much more complex. One of CYCO's great publishing achievements was the "Leksikon fun der nayer yidisher literatur," edited by Samuel Niger and Jacob Shatzky, et al. This could form the basis of a definitive online reference source for information about Yiddish literature (and journalism) comparable to the fine work done by Yossi Galron on Hebrew literature which can be seen at Hebrew Writers Lexicon. This could be the prime freeware attraction to the site which is used to sell the books. Entries could include hotlinks from bibliographic entries to in-stock inventory.
CYCO's history as legitimate publisher rather than as a POD distributor creates an opportunity for CYCO to negotiate in good faith to reprint it's own successful past publications from such marketable authors as IB Singer and Chaim Grade. Beyond that I hope to see the creation of publishing lines serving the Klezcamp and general Klezmer movement with important materials on Jewish/Yiddish music. CYCO could become a central distributor and publisher of Yiddish language learning materials. Jerold Frakes has called for a series of publications of early Yiddish texts and CYCO could be the home for that. The Yiddish folklorists discussed by Itzik Gottesman in "Defining the Yiddish Nation: The Jewish Folklorists of Poland," deserve republication in their own series. Specific authors who I would prefer to be too specific about deserve complete scholarly editions. I admit that my perspective on this in Anglo-centric. I expect that the perspective from Israel might be different and I will be soliciting it.
I hope to be able to make specific proposals about all of this by the end of the month. I hope to then push through a flash round of fund-raising for the transitional period in November and begin effecting the creation of a modern working business model for CYCO in December and January. The new publishing and educational business will take longer and require grants of support. I am not sure if CYCO is a 501C3 non-profit, but it will have to become one if it is not already. It will certainly need a new and revitalized board and I hope to dragoon as many major figures in the Yiddishist world into the enterprise as I can.
One might ask, wouldn't this be better left to the National Yiddish Book Center. Perhaps. But I think that there is room for more than one idea about what should be done in the world of Yiddish books. I have certainly been going down a different path from the NYBC with Yiddish books for years as a bookseller. I think that CYCO can be a another worthwhile path in Yiddish publishing other than that of the NYBC.
If you would like to help and have any ideas, please let me know (Mom and Dad, send money!).