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Richard Nash: Book Publishing 10 Years in the Future

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Former publisher, Richard Nash has never been one to hold back his voice on how he feels the book publishing industry needs to make dramatic changes.

We asked him what he sees happening in the next 10 years and here is what he had to say:

Richard Nash:
1. Most predictions for 2020 that are not actually wrong will happen by 2015 or sooner.

2. Most predictions for 2020 ungrounded in history will be inadequate.


3. Most predictions for 2020 based on models derived from controlling the supply side, that is, from the monopoly on the means of producing and distributing books, will be wrong. By which I mean, the supply chain book publishing and retail model is ending. The book retail chains will disappear, just like Circuit City, Sharper Image, Tower Records disappeared. And the corporate publishers will likely all but disappear just as Atari, Digital, Wang disappeared though the backlists will be spun off to private equity companies looking for semi-predictable IP-based cash flow, and a couple of front list publishing enterprises will likely be operating trying to emulate the Hollywood blockbuster model with just about enough success to be able to stay in business.

4. Long-form text-only narrative will continue to thrive as it has since cavemen gathered around the fire, just as painting has thrived since Lascaux. The advent of more and richer iterations of multimodal entertainment and edification will not kill off others (either multi or single mode) in the future, just as they did not in the past, though they certainly will kill businesses with an overdeveloped sense of entitlement based on past success in a given mode.

5. The mechanically reproduced object will have its aura restored in this Age of Digital Reproduction and we’ll wish, again, that Walter Benjamin could have seen all this.

6. In 2020 we will look back on the last days of publishing and realize that it was not a surfeit of capitalism that killed it, but rather an addiction to a mishmash of Industrial Revolution practices that killed it, including a Fordist any color so long as it is black attitude to packaging the product, a Sloanist hierarchical management approach to decision making, and a GM-esque continual rearranging of divisions like deck chairs on the Titanic based on internal management preferences rather than consumer preferences.

7. In 2020 some people will still look back on recent decades as a Golden Age, just as some now look back on the 1950′s as a Golden Age, notwithstanding that the Age was golden largely for white men in tweed jackets who got to edit and review one another and congratulate one another for permitting a few women and the occasional Black man into the club.

8. In 2020 the disaffected twentysomethings of the burgeoning middle classes of India, China, Brazil, Indonesia will be producing novels faster than any of us can possibly imagine.

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