The revolution underway in publishing/article by Jason Epstein

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:

About Lloyd Kahn

Lloyd Kahn started building his own home in the early '60s and went on to publish books showing homeowners how they could build their own homes with their own hands. He got his start in publishing by working as the shelter editor of the Whole Earth Catalog with Stewart Brand in the late '60s. He has since authored six highly-graphic books on homemade building, all of which are interrelated. The books, "The Shelter Library Of Building Books," include Shelter, Shelter II (1978), Home Work (2004), Builders of the Pacific Coast (2008), Tiny Homes (2012), and Tiny Homes on the Move (2014). Lloyd operates from Northern California studio built of recycled lumber, set in the midst of a vegetable garden, and hooked into the world via five Mac computers. You can check out videos (one with over 450,000 views) on Lloyd by doing a search on YouTube:

One Response to The revolution underway in publishing/article by Jason Epstein

  1. Yes, yes, someone is actually saying the obvious. Very similar discussions took place during the early days of digital music production, and again during the early days of the World Wide Web. What did happen and what did not, in terms of the music world, would make a good Ph.D study and a good cautionary tale for digital publishing. [Sara]

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