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The nano-publisher: Amanda DeMarco

Amanda DeMarco of Readux books delivers Berlin literature in English-language, bite-sized form.

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Photo by Michal Andrysiak

Amanda DeMarco of Readux books delivers Berlin literature in English-language, bite-sized form.

Is your German only good enough to order your Brötchen? Not to worry: there’s a new easy way to build up your repertoire of German literature to quote from at dinner parties. Twenty-seven-year-old Amanda DeMarco, founder of Readux Books, offers translated stories for English-speaking Berliners who prefer their lit between 5000-10,000 words. Her first set of mini-books arrived from presses on October 15 and includes Franz Hessel’s In Berlin (translated by DeMarco herself) and one Swedish title.

DeMarco came to Berlin, “the heart of European literary life”, in 2009 on a Fulbright grant. With some publishing experience in Chicago, she began her journey here in the foreign rights office of the much-respected Aufbau Verlag, one of the few Eastern publishers that survived reunification. In typical Berlin fashion, DeMarco eventually moved into freelancing, giving her the time and money to develop her side project.

Readux currently aims to publish four mini-books, three times per year. DeMarco points out that these shorter works, too long for magazines and too short to be considered novellas, risk being passed over for translations and attention, though she is adamant that this is “not a charity case” for stories which would otherwise gather dust.

Adhering to Berliners’ demands for things that are meaningful and stylish, the printed books themselves are “beautiful objects” – and affordable ones at that. Each mini-book costs €3.99, and you can experience the e-beauty of them for only €1.99 each. How are the books so affordable? Part of DeMarco’s business training was with Novellix, an indie press in Sweden which showed her the ropes of affordable but high-quality printing. Readux now works in partnership with Novellix to keep printing costs low.

What is it about Berlin that inspired DeMarco to do all this? As most entrepreneurs here attest, “the openness of Berlin is what makes it all possible”. That, and the fact that she is surrounded by an abundance of rich German literature. “‘Good books, good beer’ should be Berlin’s tourism slogan,” she says. The slogan for Readux itself reads: “Books in Berlin. Literary therapy for the lingually displaced.”

When asked if most Berliners DeMarco knows are displaced and in need of therapy, she laughs but says that helping people feel more connected to the culture around them can actually be… therapeutic. Of course, the eye-candy cover illustrations of Readux mini-books also help.

Recent favourite book: Axolotl Roadkill by Helene Hegemann.

Favourite Berlin literary place: Deutsches Theater. “Remembering how Franz Hessel described his experience coming of age before the Reinhardt era – when manager Max Reinhardt famously staged plays in a tavern next to the theatre.”

Originally published in issue #122, December 2013.