Making Books

Making Books

The Business of Books: How International Conglomerates Took Over Publishing and Changed the Way We Read
by Andre Schiffrin
Verso Books, 2000, 181 pp., $23

Book Business: Publishing Past Present and Future
by Jason EpsteinĀ 
Norton, 20001, 188 pp., $21.95


The book business has never occupied the American imagination the way the more glamorous entertainment industries have. But thanks in part to the publication of two memoirs by leading editor-publishers, publishing is getting another shot at describing that particular breach between the ideal and the possible in which all those who profit off ideas must operate.

Andre Schiffrin, former managing director of Pantheon Books and now publisher of the New Press, and Jason Epstein, founder of Anchor Books and longtime editor in chief of Random House, are successors to the golden age of publishing. Although not exactly contemporaries, both were young men after the Second World War and before the corporate consolidation of the esteemed New York family firms, many of which bore their owners’ name. Schiffrin and Epstein entered a publishing world that was in flux but still thriving.

The war proved a boon to the book business; brisk sales of maps, atlases, and books about Europe and the war led to increased sales of other genres. This period, too, marked the first time that publishers began operating as real businesses aided by a national concentration of interest and civic energy, publishers began to take their first cues from the marketplace about how to tailor their books not just to an undifferentiated mass of readers, but to specific markets.


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