Publishing Talks: David Wilk Interviews Don Linn
In this series of interviews, called Publishing Talks, I have been talking to book industry professionals, each of whom has a different perspective about the future of publishing, books, and culture. This is a period of disruption and change for all media businesses. Publishing has been a crucial part of human culture for as long as people have been writing and reading.
How will publishing evolve as our culture is affected by technology, climate change, population density, and the ebb and flow of civilization and its economics? Publishing Talks interviews help us understand the outlines of what is happening, and how we might ourselves interact with and influence the future of publishing as it unfolds. Publishing Talks interviews give people in the book business a chance to talk about ideas and concerns in a public forum that are often only talked about “around the water cooler,” at industry conventions and events, and in emails between friends.
I believe that these interviews give people inside and outside the book industry a chance to hear first hand some of the most interesting and challenging thoughts, ideas and concepts that are currently being discussed within the industry.
I’ve know Don Linn for a number of years, dating back to when he took over the then beleaguered Consortium Book Sales & Distribution, the very excellent but financially challenged distributor of independent literary publishers based in St. Paul, Minnesota. At that point Don took on the very tough job of running a stand-alone book distribution business at a time of great flux in the book business, and did a very fine job of it, by all accounts, finally selling Consortium to the much larger Perseus Books, where it and its many outstanding publisher clients have found safe haven. Don later went on to be publisher at Taunton Books in Newtown, Connecticut, and now has joined the ranks of the independent publishing professional. He’s blogging too, his Mississippi roots showing, at Bait ‘n’ Beer which is both entertaining and edifying.
Here’s his current bio: “Don has a sordid past as an investment banker, cotton and catfish farmer, book distributor, publisher, entrepreneur and general ne’er-do-well. He’s a graduate of Harvard Business School and Vanderbilt University and is endlessly fascinated by books and publishing and their collision with technology. Among other things.”
Don’s intelligence and wit are on display in our talk. His business background and love of books, publishing and the people in the business provide him with a really interesting perspective, and it’s clear he has been thinking hard about the book business and where it is going. He wrote a terrific report on the recent O’Reilly Tools of Change that attracted my attention, and led to this conversation about where publishing is headed in the emerging digital distribution environment. I think his views and opinions will be valuable to publishers of all sizes.