Old Hands, New Media

Jun 12, 2010

Rochester, New York

Over the past two days here at the Future Of Reading Conference at RIT there’s been two talks by publishing industry insiders – Molly Barton of Penguin Books and Jane Friedman, former longtime President and CEO of Harper Collins Publishers Worldwide.

There’s a big difference in age between them. One of them is young and one of them is, well, probably a grandmother. (Didn’t ask, but she mentioned she had four sons.) One of them under­stands where the publishing of books is headed and the other one seemed a little stodgy, frankly.

Here’s what they look like. Guess who’s clued in, who’s not:

Molly Barton
Jane Friedman

Jane Friedman, Clued In

In the days of print, competition between the major publishers could afford to be a “gentlemanly” affair. But in these days of digital and print-on-demand, it’s guerrilla warfare. Jane Friedman brought up the fact that there’s 80,000 independent publishers in the USA. Twice. She gets it. And she gets the change in mood, too. It’s not just digital distribution, there’s a change in expectations. Many readers want to feel a relationship, a connection to the author. A name on a book cover isn’t enough. And readers want to get the book they want, whenever they want it, on whatever device they’re using, wherever they are. She gets that, too.

Jane Friedman is co-founder of start-up publisher Open Road Integrated Media. And for the first time, they are publishing digitally, with no accompanying print edition, Negotiating With Evil, by Mitchell Reiss.
Let me say that again: no simultaneous print edition.

Hey Jane, How ‘Bout DRM?

After her presentation, I asked Friedman if all of Open Road’s titles were DRM’d (Kindle, Nook, etc) and she said that at the moment, all of them were. I asked if they were considering releasing anything under trusting, open licenses and she said it wasn’t out of the question but that Open Road is a very new company, give it time, and certainly anything and everything that gets books into the hands of the most readers and generates revenue for the authors is on the table.

OK. Maybe someday I’ll be able to quote a paragraph or two without jumping through hoops. (Or, alternatively, downloading the cracked edition which we all know will exist. Not condoning, just saying.) But in the meantime, it’s refreshing to see somebody with long experience thinking anew and acting anew.

Next, more from the conference: Chris Anderson of Wired, Jon Orwant of Google Books, and my new hero, Richard Lanham, Professor Emeritus at UCLA.

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