Publisher of the Month: Rucksack Readers
The most unusual thing about Rucksack Readers, the Dunblane-based guidebook publisher, is its very close relationship with its readers. "We have a lot of email dialogue with our website customers, and they tell us what they think of the walks as well as the books." says Jacquetta Megarry, who founded Rucksack Readers in 2000. Rucksack Readers has just awarded an e-newsletter subscriber £55-worth of free books to celebrate the 550th opt-in.
After a successful career in educational IT consultancy, Megarry "stumbled into publishing" in 2000. For the first few years her consultancy work also funded Rucksack Readers. As a "late-onset walker" she had no preconceived ideas about how a book should be designed.
Rucksack Readers don't resemble traditional books: they are waterproof, with drop-down maps specially commissioned for each route and some innovative formatting which has since been imitated by other publishers.
"Every feature of the design follows directly from experience in the field and on mountains, in hostile environments, sometimes at extreme altitude. The books are lightweight and rucksack-friendly because that's what walkers and climbers want. They survive rain, snow and spilled drinks. They're still legible and easy to use after a hard week in and out of the rucksack" says Megarry.
Her awareness of the shortcomings of traditional guidebooks began when she walked the West Highland Way in 1998, a 50th-birthday celebration and her first long hike. But the impetus to turn publisher came from her first ascent of Kilimanjaro in 1999. "Never having tried to climb a high mountain before, enjoying success on Kili gave me the self-belief to put my money where my mouth was."
The publishing all began in Scotland, with the Speyside Way and West Highland Way. Three other Scottish titles (the Great Glen Way, Rob Roy Way and Cateran Trail) soon followed. Later came the Inca Trail, Great Wall of China and the Tour of Mont Blanc, as well as Kilimanjaro which Megarry had summited by three different routes. Demand for an Irish series led in turn to the Wicklow, Dingle and Kerry Way guidebooks.
Seven Summits in your pocket
In its most ambitious move to date, in 2005 Rucksack Readers launched a series of pocket guidebooks to help climbers to reach the "Seven Summits" – the highest points of every continent in the world. Megarry devised the new format in January 2003 while climbing on Aconcagua, the 22,840ft summit of South America. "At altitude, every gram counts: despite the rugged binding, each Rucksack Pocket Summit weighs just 4 ounces (112 grams).
Various seven summiteers have written autobiographical accounts of their quest, but no publisher has previously tried to publish a "how-to" series. In true Rucksack Reader tradition, each pocket book has 60 colour photographs, special cartography and binding, and they make collectable souvenirs. Some will buy because they're on a mission to complete their list, but others will be content to experience the thrill of climbing the world's great mountains from their armchairs.
Aconcagua was launched in person by author Harry Kikstra in Stirling in October 2005. His next book is on Denali (aka Mount McKinley, the summit of North America) and will be shown at the London Book Fair in March 2006. As the Sunday Herald said, Aconcagua "has a tardis-like capacity for cramming in information".
"It had a long gestation period, but this series poses a huge challenge. We had to develop new techniques for presenting information punchily in the smaller page format. Also, as a mountaineer he is often away from home. He was actually at Everest Base Camp when the Aconcagua proofs arrived. He had email, but large attachments were out of the question and some things simply had to wait."
"When the Denali (McKinley) book was going to press in January 2006, Harry was busy climbing Vinson in Antarctica, his seventh summit. His achievement makes him one of only 91 climbers ever to complete that list."
Megarry's own pocket Kilimanjaro book will follow in 2006, but she is relaxed about when the series will be completed. "As a publisher, you have to adjust your schedules to accommodate expeditions that face brutal weather and hostile conditions at high altitude."
"Having started by writing or co-authoring so many of our books, I am thrilled that we now have Harry and other talented authors from various parts of Europe writing for us. Each book is an international effort, designed and edited in Scotland, printed in Hong Kong and distributed around the world."
- Add to BasketAconcagua: Summit Of South America - - Spiral
Of the seven continental summits, Aconcagua in Argentina is second only in height to Everest; despite this, it is suprisingly free of snow and ice, and experienced hikers can reach the roof of the Americas without technical expertise. This book explains how to tackle one of the world's highest and toughest treks.
- Add to BasketThe Cateran Trail: A Circular Walk In The Heart Of Scotland - - Spiral
The Cateran Trail is a 65-mile circular walk in the heart of the Scottish Highlands, following in the steps of 16th-century cattle rustlers.
- Explore Mount Kilimanjaro: Marangu, Machame And Rongai Routes - - Spiral
At 5895 metres (nearly 4 miles) above sea level, the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro is the highest point on earth that a walker can reach. As success is not guaranteed, here the author explains how to improve your chances by a wise choice of route and itinerary, by thorough preparation and by taking care of yourself on the mountain.
- Explore The Great Wall - - Spiral
The Great Wall of China is the largest construction on Earth and the best way to appreciate it is to explore it on foot. This illustrated guide offers practical information on travel and transport and includes drop-down mapping of wall and sections, with historical and cultural background.
- Explore The Tour Of Mont Blanc - - Spiral
The tour of Mont Blanc is one of Europe's most popular walks encircling the highest mountain in the Alps. This guide contains plans, summaries of each stage of the 106 mile route, where to find refreshments on the way and is made from waterproof paper.