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Books / Media, News, Technology, Thoughts

Yes Mr. Galassi, There WAS More To Publishing Than Met The Eye

I try not to beat dead horses.

But in this case I will make an exception.

Once again we have a book publisher railing against the rising tide of electronic editions.

Yesterday’s Op-Ed page in the NY Times featured a column by Jonathan Galassi titled “There’s More to Publishing Than Meets the Screen” in which he enumerates the many [important] ways that publishers add value when they bring a book to market. His points are well taken.

Tip Of The Day: Go Long Black Swans, Go Short Publishers

Then, using William Styron’s work as an example, Mr. Galassi goes on to make his real point, which is that he wants [exclusive] distribution rights for any book that he has ever published should they be released in digital form. Even though this was (obviously) not included in his original contract with the author.

Recently, a new, previously unimagined version of [his] work[s] became a possibility: Mr. Styron’s books can now be reproduced and distributed electronically. The author’s heirs hold the copyright to his work. But should another company be able to issue e-book versions of Random House’s editions without its involvement?

Mr. Galassi, I notice that you dedicate all your very valuable column-inches to publishers, editors, writers and the [villainous] copyright-owning heirs.

I must confess however, that as the actual consumer who purchases your product and supports your industry, I feel just a bit left out.

Believe it or not Mr. Galassi, we readers do worry about the health of book publishers just as we do about newspaper publishers. We are all in this together.

I am impressed with, and respect, your background:

Jonathan Galassi (1949 – ) born in Seattle, Washington, is the editor-in-chief of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, one of the eight major publishers in New York. He is generally regarded as a major figure in American publishing … Galassi graduated from Phillips Exeter Academy, and from Harvard College in 1971. He was a Marshall Scholar at Christ’s College, Cambridge … Galassi is also a translator of poetry and a poet himself.

Since I’ve got a few years on you, I feel comfortable offering some free advice.

Please add businessman to that list of achievements.

[Final note. As I’m sure the reader will surmise there is much more going on here than meets the eye. A number of lawsuits are now winding their way thru the courts whose subject is the ownership of digital rights when book contracts were drawn up and signed before anyone thought about the possibility of electronic editions. Mr. Galassi’s op-ed piece is probably in part honestly felt, but it is also in part a Negotiating / PR initiative attempting to shape public opinion. If the publishing industry put as much effort into serving the desires of their customers as they do in trying to hold onto outdated business models we’d all be much better off.]

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