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A half-century length career in book publishing is my dream, and Jason Epstein is the icon and achiever of this goal.
Epstein is kind enough to expel his knowledge and experience of the publishing industry in his professional memoir, Book Business: Publishing Past, Present and Future. While catered toward the niche group of people interested in book publishing, this is also a wonderful tale of history and the way relationships with books have evolved throughout the 1900s.
This iconic career began when Epstein stumbled across an editorial position
with Doubleday in his early 20s (and I do mean stumbled, he claims to have known nothing about publishing at the time when the opportunity was offered him), during which he repeatedly said he was ready to pick up and leave at a moment’s notice, though he ended up staying there a decade. Within that decade he was the man responsible for the invention of Anchor Books – the imprint responsible for the “quality paperback” book, which made literature more affordable for the masses as opposed to the superior quality, expensive hard cover novels.
After that success, Epstein moved over to Random House, now the world’s largest trade publisher. When Epstein first made the career transition Random House was a family-style business located within the wing of one New York mansion, in which he tells tales of famous authors delivering manuscripts in slippers and spending the night on couches (and not always alone!).
Epstein is a big-picture businessman. Able to look at book publishing from the editorial and quality of literature angle, as well as the ability to envision new venues for sales and marketing, he is a man I would trust to carry a book from conception to success.
Responsible for numerous advances in the publishing industry throughout his career, Epstein was among the first to embrace the online retail giant in its struggling years, Amazon (ironically he found fault with Amazon’s business model, which has boomed since the publication of this memoir in 2001). This enlightening book, surprisingly small in statue considering the wealth of information contained within, cites book publishing to be on the edge of a vast transformation, in which I see future opportunities without bounds.
Since this publication, Epstein has capitalized on some of his own visions mentioned.
In 2004, he launched “OnDemandBooks.” With yet another invention on his repertoire, the “Espresso Book Machine” is available at locations throughout the United States, Canada and England for on-demand, affordable printing of books
Read this if: You’re interested in hearing a behind the scenes tale from a publishing great, and how the industry has changed in a mere 50 years and the how the transformation may continue.
Avoid this if: You’re looking for a raucous tale filled with gossip and dirt on some of the most respected authors. This is not a tell-all, but a memoir of an accomplished career.
- Title: Book Business: Publishing Past, Present and Future
- Author: Jason Epstein
- Publisher: W.W. Norton & Company
- NovelWhore’s Grade: A-