Some 100,000 books are published every year in Britain. This is five times the number published in the late 1960s when the post-war "bulge" generation and the expansion of higher education began to change Britain's demographics.
The tightening grip of the media monopolies means best-sellers, celebrity titles and heavily promoted authors dominate sales.
Serious non-fiction is in decline, independent and specialist booksellers face hard times and critical and oppositional publishing - books that challenge the ways things are - struggle to find a space in the marketplace.
So it takes an optimistic spirit to start a new left-wing publishing venture in this economic climate. But the grounds for optimism lie in the very crisis that capitalism is in and in the dead end into which new Labour has taken itself.
Critical voices, progressive ideas and books that give workers a sense of their power - and of the ways in which they can challenge the rule of bankers, bosses and bureaucrats - will find a new audience.
Manifesto Press is a new venture that aims to publish working-class history, socialist theory and the politics of class struggle and working-class political power.
It is launched this weekend at the Communist University of Britain with three books.
Manifesto Press is publishing the latest book by Andrew Murray, who Morning Star readers know best as chairman of the Stop the War Coalition.
The Imperial Controversy: Challenging The Empire Apologists subjects the leading pro-imperialist historians, including TV celebrity Niall Ferguson, to a withering analysis.
Murray presents an alternative reading of the record of the British empire and of other colonial powers "to develop an understanding as to why the last thing the great majority of the world wants to see is a repetition, however dressed up."
Guardian columnist Seumas Milne says: "Andrew Murray meticulously uncovers the intimate links between the war on terror and the history of empire, between colonialism and nazism, between the occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq and Britain's bloody imperial record - and shows why the cheerleaders for today's Western military interventions now want to rehabilitate it.
"The Imperial Controversy is a powerful and damning account of the real nature of 21st century liberal imperialism."
A key part of Manifesto Press strategy is to find new audiences among working people.
Published in co-operation with the RMT, Killing No Murder? South Wales And The Great Railway Strike of 1911 by Robert Griffiths has a particular resonance for the fight against anti-union laws.
RMT general secretary Bob Crow says: "Killing No Murder vividly highlights an important struggle in the ongoing line of march towards creating a fighting union for all rail workers. The infamous Taff Vale judgement, which deemed that strike action was effectively illegal as it was 'in restraint of trade,' was defeated in 1906 with the passing of the Trades Disputes Act, but the battle for trade union rights had only just begun.
"Early forms of toothless social partnership, such as the conciliation scheme foisted on the unions by the employers the following year, still needed to be defeated."
During the national railway strike which followed in 1911, two workers were shot dead by the British military in Llanelli and four more people died in the ensuing riots.
Griffiths collaborated with leading playwright Gareth Miles in the production of a TV film of these events, which was shown again recently on S4C.
The Education Revolution: Cuba's Alternative To Neoliberalism is published in co-operation with the National Union of Teachers.
Author Professor Theodore MacDonald is deeply knowledgeable about Cuban society and is an expert on its health and education system.
He says: "As one who has spent much of his professional life as a health worker in the Third World, I was privileged to see at first hand how the Cuban approaches in education and health combined in their impact on desperately poor communities.
"But behind these triumphs lay the unique majesty of the Cuban educational system. If we can understand how that works and how its parts were co-ordinated, we are in a much better position to appreciate the possibilities of practical and 'realistic' alternatives to neoliberalism as a route to the global equity we so desperately need."
This Manifesto Press partnership has opened up a new opportunity for progressive books to reach key audiences.
Under review for publication in the future are books on the People's Charter, the Charter for Women, Communist Party history in Britain and biographies of Indian independence fighter Baghat Singh and Cypriot working-class leader Ezekias Papaioannou.