As a 13-year-old in Scotland, Ramsey Kanaan had 15 library cards.
“I had the benefit of growing up in a household full of books,” Kanaan said.
Less than 10 years later, Kanaan went from being an avid consumer of books to an avid disseminator. He’s been working in book publishing for over 40 years.
Previously based in Oakland, California, Kanaan is now taking his publishing skills and independent, radical publishing company PM Press to Upstate, New York.
Early next year, PM will have a retail front in Downtown Ithaca.
PM Press Takes on Upstate
After spending a few years in Oakland expanding his first publishing company – AK Press – to the US, Kanaan created a new publishing company called PM Press in 2007. Now, PM is a leading anarchist publisher with over 500 books in print, and last year made $1.7 million in sales.
The original PM warehouse is located in Oakland, but they were reaching their spacial limit and the Bay Area has a high cost of living. These were two of the many reasons that Kanaan decided to buy a large warehouse in Binghamton, New York in February 2022.
PM’s Binghamton warehouse, which holds over a quarter of a million books, was a necessary change for the growing company. It will be a distribution center and an event space for authors and community members to congregate.
“The grander vision is to have more ways of getting our books out into the world,” Kanaan said. “Also the event space in Ithaca and the event space here in Binghamton will help us become part of that cultural and political fabric of Upstate.”
Spencer Beswick is a history Ph.D. candidate at Cornell University and a long-time fan of PM. Beswick said PM has been his favorite publisher for years, participating in their Friends of PM Press Monthly Membership.
“I have an entire bookshelf full of [majority]PM Press books at my house,” Beswick said. “They are central to my own academic work and intellectual and political developments.”
Beswick works part time for PM aiding their transition to Ithaca by spending one day a week at a local bookstore to learn how the book trade operates. He also helps PM at events around Upstate, including the Finger Lakes GrassRoots Festival and Apple Harvest Festival.
“I think that it’s a really exciting moment where this amazing radical publisher is now moving to Ithaca,” Beswick said. “It’s going to have this incredible effect in transforming the local political scene here and operating as an anchor for grassroots social movements and intellectual production.”
What makes PM atypical for a book publisher is that they do what Kanaan calls “vertical integration,” meaning they not only produce and publish books but also sell them.
“We believe in our books, they are not just products to us, we put our blood and sweat into them,” Kanaan said. “We take pride in our products, but for us, the challenge and hence the excitement is connecting these wonderful products with real live humans who might interact with them.”
Raymond Craib, the Marie Underhill Noll Professor of American History at Cornell, long-time Ithaca resident, and author published by PM said there’s no such thing as too many bookstores.
“I think it’s always healthy for the community to have more bookstores and to have an independent press that’s doing good work,” Craib said.
Hi there! My name is Lucy Calderon and I am a senior journalism student at Ithaca College with minors in Gender Studies and Health Policy in the Roy H. Park Scholar Program. If you care about social justice issues, and specifically reproductive health justice and access, then I am your girl! My work has appeared on MSNBC, Fox News, The Courier-Journal (the highest circulation newspaper in Kentucky), The Ithacan, Buzzsaw Newsmagazine, Dear World, and Ithaca College Television.