Publishing: The Revolutionary Future by Jason Epstein, New York Review of Books, March 11, 2010
The publishing world is changing hugely, and fast. Strange, we don’t seem to be that affected (yet). Maybe because we do so few books and take lots of time to do each one; people are still buying them. It may also be that we’re small and can move fast, unconstrained by big corporate complexity. We’re adapting.
Charlotte Mayerson, my friend and former senior editor at Random House, sent me a link to this perceptive article by Jason Epstein, former editorial director (for 40 years) at Random House, and co-founder of The New York Review of Books, and it seems important enough to pass on. Here’s the lead paragraph:
“The transition within the book publishing industry from physical inventory stored in a warehouse and trucked to retailers to digital files stored in cyberspace and delivered almost anywhere on earth as quickly and cheaply as e-mail is now underway and irreversible. This historic shift will radically transform worldwide book publishing, the cultures it affects and on which it depends. Meanwhile, for quite different reasons, the genteel book business that I joined more than a half-century ago is already on edge, suffering from a gambler’s unbreakable addiction to risky, seasonal best sellers, many of which don’t recoup their costs, and the simultaneous deterioration of backlist, the vital annuity on which book publishers had in better days relied for year-to-year stability through bad times and good. The crisis of confidence reflects these intersecting shocks, an overspecialized marketplace dominated by high-risk ephemera and a technological shift orders of magnitude greater than the momentous evolution from monkish scriptoria to movable type launched in Gutenberg’s German city of Mainz six centuries ago.”
Full article here: https://www.nybooks.com/articles/23683