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Book Business Paperback – Jan 31 2002


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: WW Norton; New edition edition (Jan. 31 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393322343
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393322347
  • Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 14 x 1.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 272 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #747,242 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)


Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
Trade book publishing is by nature a cottage industry, decentralized, improvisational, personal; best performed by small groups of like-minded people, devoted to their craft, jealous of their autonomy, sensitive to the needs of writers and to the diverse interests of readers. Read the first page
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Format: Paperback
The preface of BOOK BUSINESS mentions the very origins of written language: cutting or "scoring" a mark onto a board. He notes that "scorekeepers still keep score on boards". He might also have added that the early scoring was the first expression of binary code, the language understood by the tiny chips that run the giant scoreboards at the Super Bowl, as well as every other scoreboard or "computer" on Earth.
Epstein gives here a curious insider/outsider account of the book business over the last half century. He was decidedly inside when he began in the fifties, working with Bennett Cerf and Donald Klopfer to "publish" such legends as Nabokov and Faulkner. His anecdote of Nabokov is a gem. He runs into the author in the bar of the Paris Ritz in the early seventies. Nabokov, in a loud Hawaiian shirt and a loud Midwestern accent, raises a toast to Richard Nixon. Why Nixon? Because he believed Nixon would eventually triumph over the Viet Cong and that would lead, dominolike, to the fall of the Soviet Union, enabling him to return to his beloved homeland.
By the eighties Epstein and his ilk are being overwhelmed by mass market forces. Chain bookstores seem to be taking over the industry and reducing drastically the numbers of titles available for sale (and by extension able to be published). The pressure of real estate costs at the malls steadily reduced the selection at bookstores to a handful of bestsellers, "whose faithful readers are addicted to their formulaic melodramas". Publishers who in Epstein's early years were like intellectual families had by the eighties been reduced to mere distributors and advertisers. Between 1986 and 1996, he relates, "63 of the 100 bestselling titles were written by a mere 6 writers".
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Format: Paperback
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Just a quick note recommending this short book. Epstein, who spent most of his career at Random House, remarks on how publishing has changed over the years, with plenty of juicy anecdotes. Forex, the Dickens:
As you may know, the US was a book-pirate haven in the 19th century, and Harper Bros. grew to be the nation's largest publisher by pirating Dickens, Thackeray, the Brontes, Macauley -- really, the entire roster of bestselling British authors. Macauley's (pirated) History of England sold a remarkable 400,000 copies here.
Charles Dickens, who kept a close eye on revenues, made a trip to the US in the 1840's, to protest the theft of his work. His plea was ignored, and he didn't much like the country, either. He wrote a short, glum account of his visit, _American Notes_, which Harpers promptly pirated.
Dickens recounts a train trip from Washington to Philadelphia through what he thought was a storm of feathers, but which proved to be spittle from passengers in the forward coached. He also reported that US Senators spit so wide of the cuspidors that the carpets were "like swamps".
WH Auden, Epstein reports, had the disconcerting habit of showing up an hour or so early for parties and dinner invitations, so he could be home in bed by 9 PM.
Epstein was the first to publish a line of quality paperbacks (Doubleday Anchor) in 1952, and was a founder of the NY Review of Books. From his memoir, I'd say he had an interesting and fun career in publishing .
Happy reading!
Pete Tillman
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Format: Paperback
The world of book publishing and all of its adjunct business like book superstores, are an interesting yet hidden mystery. (Or at least I feel that way)
The author takes through the journey of publishing and his life, which are tightly intertwined. He starts with the early and maybe exciting years of publishing in the 50's -60's to the movement of paperbacks to quality and outside the drug store.
Along the way he also shares with us his prospective on the current book publishing/selling/writing situation around us. While I don't want to say much about this part, he doesn't paint a good picture of the overall situation.
But then after describing the current situation he takes to his idea, vision, and hope for the future of publishing were authors would sell directly to readers.
This is a fun and educational book to read for any book lover. I high recommend it to everyone.
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Format: Paperback
A very enjoyable,well written read. As with most things the reader will be the one who makes the decision on how the book business will go,not the authors, publishers or the booksellers.This has happened in most fields and the industry stalwarts have,with the best of intentions,tried to control the changes,or at least tried to keep up in their own way.However; the "tried,true and knowledgeable" have usually been swept aside by forces "outside" the industry.This has happened with all forms of marketing as evidenced by "box stores" ,restaurant chains,the cars we drive,the clothes we drive,the music we listen to,etc. The book industry is like any other where the "establishment knows what's best"and acts like the person whose preference for lunch is cavier,blue cheese and a glass of wine;opens a restaurant and offers it to his clients,gets very little business,seethes,looks on his potential customers as lowbrows when they disagree with his choice;and goes broke.In the meantime another decides to cater to his customers and offers soup,sandwich and "free" coffee and prospers.The diner decides! Like it or not it was the voters who put Schwarzenegger in power in California yesterday;not the political establishment, regardless of stripe.
Socialistic type control by the establishment with grants,in-house editions,best seller lists,establishment, as opposed to reader,awards,etc.remind me of the days when the franchise owners tried to use black-outs to force fans to their games.The fans will decide if they want to go to the stadium,what team they want to watch and how much they want to pay; the same with readers.
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