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Daniel Okrent on 21st Century Writers: ‘You Need Talent, Shoe-Leather and a Laptop’

okrent.jpgOne of journalism’s most celebrated editors and authors started his career in the publishing industry–editing at Knopf, Harcourt, and Viking.

Today’s guest on the Morning Media Menu was Daniel Okrent, author of Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition and the former public editor of the NY Times. He talked about Prohibition, history writing, and the role the media played in banning alcohol. He also shared thoughts about the future of writing.

Press play below to listen.

Here’s an excerpt: “Once we get past the limitation of the physical entity we will see some promise for [digital publishing]. It used to be if you wanted to compete with the Boston Globe fifteen years ago, you needed $100 million. Now if you want to compete with the Boston Globe, you need talent, shoe-leather and a laptop.”


He continued: “I was in the book publishing business 30 years ago, and it was a very, very different business then. I’d like to say that things have gotten better, but that wouldn’t be the case. We’re at a really critical moment for the future of book publishing–publishers are having a very hard time finding out where they fit, the number of bookstores have plummeted.”

Okrent added a note of hope: “On the other hand, I take comfort in the fact that what matters are the words and the pictures, and not the physical package it comes in–I think digital publishing is very very promising. The Kindle, the Nook, the iPad, I think these forms of delivery will ultimately be good, we just have to get used to them.”

He also spoke about his book tour: “It’s discouraging. There are far fewer local media outlets. Those that exist are good–I’ve had some great interviews and people have been very nice about the book…but there just aren’t that many places to go.”

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