Monday, March 15, 2010

Jason Epstein Speaks Out

Jason Epstein, long-time Random House editorial director and co-founder of The New York Review of Books (NYRB), had an op-ed piece in the NYRB last Thursday. Despite the fact that Epstein is now 81, he is more clear-eyed about the future of publishing than men forty years his junior.
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.
Epstein freely admits that his interest in digitization grew out of his own obsession in the backlist--previously published books still in print. The combination of the digitization and the Internet allows books to remain "in print" indefinitely. He has empathy for publishers:
With the earth trembling beneath them, it is no wonder that publishers with one foot in the crumbling past and the other seeking solid ground in an uncertain future hesitate to seize the opportunity that digitization offers them to restore, expand, and promote their backlists to a decentralized, worldwide marketplace.
Read the article here.

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