Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Book Business by Jason Epstein

Book Business: Publishing Past, Present, and Future

Epstein, former Random House editorial director among other things in his long and illustrious career, treats us to reminiscences about the past and ruminations about the future of book publishing. Especially delicious are recollections of Doubleday's suppression of Drieser's novel Sister Carrie, the first appearance of Nabokov's Lolita, and the genesis of The New York Review of Books.

For me though, Epstein's long experience in book publishing is most interesting when applied to how the industry changed, and continues to change, over the years. I am reassured by his insistence that bookstores, like cinemas, will not entirely disappear in this new world of digital access. Years ago Epstein did not recommend to his children nor their friends to enter the publishing industry because it was an industry in decline. Today he would have encouraged them because publishing is an industry in the middle of enormous changes. I agree. There are opportunities to be seized.

A further thought. The book was published in 2001. The book is dedicated to Judith Miller. Epstein tells a little anecdote about his involvement with the CIA in Africa. Somehow it gets the mind whirling...

Related: Autopsy of the Book Business by Epstein in the Daily Beast and E-Books--This Time It's Real by Osnos in The Platform

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