Publishing Talks: David Wilk interviews Rich Freese

In this series of interviews, called Publishing Talks, I have been talking to book industry professionals and other smart people about the future of publishing, books, and culture.  This is a period of disruption and change for all media businesses.  We must wonder now, how will publishing evolve as our culture is affected by technology, climate change, population density, and the ebb and flow of civilization and  economics?

I hope these Publishing Talks conversations will 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 and around 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 and they 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 by people in the book business.

Rich Freese is well known in the book business as a successful member of a very small “fraternity” of distribution experts who work in and understand the intricacies of sales, marketing, warehousing, logistics, and balancing customer and client relationships.  He has worked in publishing for his entire adult life.  He’s a smart, dedicated and forward looking professional.  Rich worked for independent publisher distributor National Book Network for a number of years, moved on to run Motorbooks International, a specialist publisher and distributor, then became President of west coast based Publishers Group West, and after a brief stop establishing a distribution division for the printer, Bookmasters, and has now returned to be the President of NBN, which is based in Lanham, Maryland.

Because book distributors stand in the middle of the supply chain, their worldview is often broader than other entities within the book business.   Rich’s breadth and depth of experience in publishing and distribution gives him a unique vantage point from which to view and understand the publishing industry.  I thought it would be interesting to talk to him broadly about his current perspective on the ongoing changes in the industry, with some special reference to developing e-book distribution models, the particular issues for independent publishers, and the evolution of publishing models.  This talk ought to be particularly useful for independent publishers and anyone interested in their future in a chaotic, challenging marketplace for books.