Our History

New Society Publishers’ roots are firmly in the activist soil of both the United States and Canada. In the US, a Philadelphia office first emerged from the Movement for a New Society during the anti-Vietnam war, offering Americans nonviolent, civil disobedience training. From this work grew the need for a publishing house, and New Society Publishers was created in the late 1970s with a mandate to publish books for nonviolent social change.

New Society Publishers’ Canadian office had its origins in British Columbia's food co-op movement of the early 1970s and the bioregional movement which began in the '80s. Known as The Catalyst Education Society, it began life in an off grid homestead in the mountains near Lillooet, BC. The fax machine was powered by microhydro, and more often than not, typesetting of The New Catalyst magazine which it published was done by candlelight.

The US and Canadian organizations came together in 1990. For five years, the two offices operated as independent non-profits governed by a mutual aid agreement. Later, in 1996, the Canadian office formed a limited company and, through a friendly buy-out, took over continent-wide operations and the complete list of books. In this, New Society was much helped by Joel Solomon and Carol Newell of Renewal Partners, whose investment in the company made it possible.

1996 also saw the company relocate to Gabriola Island, one of the beautiful northern Gulf Islands in the province of British Columbia, Canada. Our idyllic headquarters are located within a ten-acre piece of forest, surrounded by a pond, gardens and chicken yard - and many friendly office pets! 

In 2008, New Society Publishers entered a new phase of our existence when we were acquired by Douglas & McIntyre Publishing Group, one of Canada’s largest independent book publishers. For four years, New Society continued to be based on Gabriola Island and operated as a semi-autonomous entity. Following D&M's filing for bankruptcy protection in late 2012, New Society was reacquired by Chris and Judith Plant and Carol Newell in 2013.

As we enter the second decade of the new millennium, New Society Publishers finds itself to be a long-time leader in the field of sustainability. We look forward to continuing to increase the scope and relevance of our publishing program so that we can continue to provide the building blocks for a new society that has always been our deeply held mission.

For an intimate retrospective of our company history from the point of view of the Canadian principals, we invite you to read From Candlelight to Leading Lights, which appeared in the Summer 2009 issue of BC Bookworld.