Birlinn Ltd – Passionately Independent

Birlinn Limited is an independent publishing house based in Edinburgh, Scotland. The company is built on traditions of the written and spoken word and is constantly looking to the future.

Established in 1992, Birlinn Limited publishes books under a number of imprints: 

Birlinn; Polygon; BC Books; Arena Sport; and John Donald.

The team at Birlinn are proud of the company’s reputation and prominence in Scottish publishing. We constantly challenge and nurture the talent of our authors and we push the boundaries of the imagination.  We never rest in our search for what comes next. 

Stay a while, take a look around the site: look, listen, read.

What we stand for…

Open and honest, welcoming and inclusive

The long-standing aim of Birlinn Ltd is to create an inclusive staff team and nurture writers and illustrators who together reflect the diversity and stories of our nation and the audience who will read them. Whilst we sit at the heart of cultural life in Scotland, our authors are known far beyond, and we are proud of what we have achieved together since we started out in 1992.

In order to deliver on our aim, and as we move forward, we are working to remove barriers. We seek out new talent and new collaborations and welcome the opportunities they bring.

Who takes us forward…

Our leadership team is made up of a working Board – three women and four men – from a variety of educational and social backgrounds. We are not shy of embracing a wide range of influences.

None of our books would be published without the dedication of our small but highly skilled team. We are committed to providing an inclusive, supportive and flexible working environment which acknowledges that work is only one aspect of life, promotes equality and diversity, values the contribution of all staff members and encourages everyone, regardless of gender, age, religion, identity or experience, to grow and realise their potential.

Birlinn – Scottish and general UK interest books, from biography to history, military to politics, and Scottish Gaelic. The name comes from the old Norse word ‘birlinn’, meaning a long boat or small galley used especially in the Hebrides and West Highlands of Scotland in the Middle Ages.

Polygon – literary fiction and poetry, both classic and modern, by writers as highly acclaimed as Liz Lochhead, Agnes Owens, Norman MacCaig, Robin Jenkins, George Mackay Brown, Denzil Meyrick and the author of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, Alexander McCall Smith. High profile music journalists Stuart Cosgrove, Tom Doyle, Vic Galloway and Zoë Howe all publish non-fiction with Polygon.

BC Books – Bold Books for Curious Kids – writing and illustration of the highest quality for young readers throughout the UK and beyond. BC Books is dedicated to nurturing young readers and helping them discover a passion for reading that will last a lifetime.

Arena Sport – sports books for the general trade ranging from football and rugby to golf and cycling. These books have an international as well as national appeal.

Birlinn eBook – eBooks across all imprints. Birlinn has taken full advantage of technological strides forward in digital publication. We publish nearly all of our books in eBook format as well as the print editions which lie at the heart of our business.

John Donald – our academic books on all aspects of Scottish culture, from architecture to philosophy, specialising in Scottish history.

Publishing and the Environment

Birlinn is a large, dynamic, Scottish-based publishing house with international sales and reach. Large in Scotland may still be small elsewhere – we are certainly still small in terms of the biggest, London and international-based companies and groups – nevertheless we take our responsibilities seriously. As a team we have taken full advantage of technological strides forward in digital publishing over the last decade but we are still in love with the physical book and we do all we can to make sure that our production values are second to none. Words, ink and paper make-up our books. And although wood is a renewable resource when drawn from forests that are properly managed, we have to work hard to make sure that the paper we use is from these managed sources.  Like all publishers and booksellers, readers and writers, we are aware of the impact on our world when we lose the forests that cover almost a third of the world’s surface. We are concerned at the rate of deforestation and are determined to reduce our impact.
Wherever possible, we source our paper from sustainable sources, following the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) guidelines and we use FSC Certified printers. The FSC certification can only be used by a company with a valid FSC Chain of Custody certificate – meaning that everyone in the supply chain to that company holds Chain of Custody Certification. FSC ‘provides global standards for forest management, which cover environmental, social and economic aspects. The well-being of forest communities and ecosystems is as important as replacing trees and FSC is the only wood certification scheme endorsed by WWF, Greenpeace and the Woodland Trust’. When it is not possible to obtain FSC Certified papers we apply the same high standards in our search for substitutions.

In the office…
We have moved to fully recyclable packaging for all media copies of our books distributed directly from the office.We have recycling facilities for plastics, paper and card and encourage all staff to use these facilities.We do not use single use cups in the office or at our hosted events.
For our authors…
Wherever possible and practical we encourage our authors to travel by train to events and festivals.