For all its suc­cess, the Lon­don Review of Books strug­gles to make mon­ey. It owes its con­tin­ued exis­tence to the gen­eros­i­ty of Wilmers her­self, who reg­u­lar­ly siphons in cash from a fam­i­ly trust fund. […] The fam­i­ly mon­ey means the LRB nev­er has to wor­ry about pay­ing back its loans – in Jan­u­ary 2010, the mag­a­zine was esti­mat­ed to be £27m in debt to the trust. And yet it still man­ages to pay its writ­ers at a base-rate of 30p a word (ris­ing by a con­sid­er­able mar­gin if the arti­cle is longer than aver­age). […] Is it sus­tain­able, I ask the LRB’s pub­lish­er, Nicholas Spice? He looks vague­ly shocked at the sug­ges­tion. “Oh no, it’s not sus­tain­able in finan­cial terms,” he says. Spice has a pleas­ant­ly straight­for­ward man­ner and a faint­ly mil­i­tary demeanour. He is the kind of man you sus­pect would be inca­pable of telling a lie, even though some­times he prob­a­bly should. “It los­es a lot of mon­ey,” he con­tin­ues cheer­ful­ly. “The most impor­tant thing is that it has always had very gen­er­ous sup­port from its share­hold­ers. And we’ve had the same share­hold­ers since 1980, which is very unusu­al – I should think unprece­dent­ed – for a lit­er­ary pub­li­ca­tion or arts organ­i­sa­tion. The great thing is that we have been able to invest in cre­at­ing a mar­ket for a very good edi­to­r­i­al prod­uct.”

Is the LRB the best mag­a­zine in the world? | Books | The Observ­er

Once again, an exam­ple of how the mar­ket will not always pro­vide. I for one am thank­ful peo­ple are will­ing to “waste” mon­ey on a pub­li­ca­tion like the LRB.

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Kars Alfrink

Kars is a designer, researcher and educator focused on emerging technologies, social progress and the built environment.