As with the other media, a questionnaire specifically tailored to the working of the book trade was sent to a range of publishers in the spring of 1994. Sixteen responded, and may be regarded as broadly representative, in that they included both academic and purely commercial firms. The latter were evenly divided between those wholly or mainly publishing fiction and non-fiction. Several were part of major publishing conglomerates, and also included was one of the tiny remnant of individually-owned independent publishers which have shrunk in number from approximately 200 to fewer than ten since the end of the 1950s. Two university presses apart, virtually all the others were based in London.
The main areas covered by the questionnaires were (a) statistical information relating to the frequency and outcome of libel experience (ranging from letters before action through settlement to cases decided by jury verdict) over the preceding five years; (b) the procedures used to check manuscripts to minimize libel risks; and (c) financial and insurance arrangements. Not every respondent answered every question, but most questions were answered in full, although there was some reluctance (less, however, than we had expected) to give full details about insurance costs and 'libel budgets'. We discuss below the results of the questions, taking each category separately.
The responses highlighted certain issues and raised other interesting points, which were followed up by selective interviews. The choice of whom to interview was based largely on their