Publishing Talks: David Wilk interviews Jason Epstein

In this series of interviews, called Publishing Talks, I have been talking to book industry professionals about the future of publishing, books, and culture.  This is a period of disruption and change for all media businesses.

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.

These interviews give people in the book business a chance to talk openly about ideas and concerns that are often only talked about “around the water cooler,” at industry conventions and events, and in emails between friends.
I believe 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 being discussed within the industry.

Jason Epstein has led one of the most creative careers in book publishing of the past half century. In 1952, while a young editor at Doubleday, he created Anchor Books, which launched the so-called ‘paperback revolution’ and established the trade paperback format. In the following decade he became cofounder of The New York Review of Books. In the 1980s he created the Library of America, the prestigious publisher of American classics, and The Reader’s Catalog, the precursor of online bookselling. For many years, Jason Epstein was editorial director of Random House.   He is the recipient of many awards, including the Curtis Benjamin Award of the American Association of Publishers for inventing new kinds of publishing, the Lifetime Achievement Award of the National Book Critics Circle for creative publishing, and the National Book Award for distinguished contribution to American Letters.  As an editor, he worked with many well-known novelists, including Norman Mailer, Vladimir Nabokov, E. L. Doctorow, Philip Roth, and Gore Vidal, and important non-fiction writers as well.

Most recently he has spearheaded the creation of the Espresso Book Machine as co-founder of On Demand Books, and is the author of Book Business: Publishing Past, Present, and Future and numerous articles and essays.

For me it was a great honor and pleasure to talk to Mr. Epstein at his kitchen table, first about his incredible career in publishing, then about his current work with on-demand publishing, and of course, his many ideas about the future of books and publishing, all of which deserve the close attention of all of us who are trying to figure out where books, publishing and literary culture is headed.  His vision of the evolving future of the nature of publishing and the value of traditional editorial skillsets will be of particular interest to many listeners.