Merchants of Culture: The Publishing Business in the Twenty-First Century Paperback – 16 Mar 2012
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"A fine–grained snapshot... of the terminal struggle of traditional publishers. [Thompson′s] mordant picture of an industry in crisis gives publishers, writers and readers much to think about."
Jason Epstein, The New York Review of Books
"Enlivened by pseudonymous interviewees who are remarkably and tantalisingly candid."
"[Thompson] draws on valuable interviews and the mass of statistics that the field itself devours in search of success. He offers a calm, relatively sanguine account of contemporary publishing, a world dominated by the $6 million advance, the blockbuster and the buzz."
Times Literary Supplement
"Thompson bring forensic keeneness, acuity, breadth, depth and wit to this page–turning study of the book trade, its denizens, demons and deities. [Merchants of Culture] ought to be prescribed reading for publishers, booksellers, writers, authors, reporters, reviewers and critics."
Mail & Guardian, South Africa
"John B. Thompson′s research has produced an excellent history and analysis; it′s a wonderful book, highly recommended."
Australian Book Review
"The single most impressive fact to drive home about this remarkable book is that Thompson displays a rare gift, that of presenting a world of the most heart–stopping complexity in short, simple, inter–related steps ... This is a book to buy and use and keep on your shelf."
"A superb history and analysis of publishing and bookselling, from the 1960s to the present, against the background of the rapidly expanding digital media. A salutary, scary read."
John Conwell for The New Statesman
"A thorough and thoughtful analysis of publishing as a relatively self–contained world – a ′field′ obeying rules that are ultimately economic, but in ways refracted through maneuvers and conflicts that defy simple cost–benefit analysis. Anyone interested in publishing will want to read it."
Inside Higher Ed
"For some time to come, this is bound to be the definitive thing to read for anyone trying to understand the infrastructure of book culture – especially as it has taken shape over the past two or three decades."
"This impressively comprehensive and revealing analysis of the structures and processes of modern publishing is timely as the industry faces its digital future."
Katharine Reeve, Times Higher Education Book of the Week
"Thompson′s study is one of the most valuable studies on publishing in recent decades, and promises to be the new reference point for sociological research on the publishing industry."
"A very valuable book that is likely to become the standard reference on the Anglo–American publishing industry for many years to come."
"For the uninitiated, Merchants of Culture provides a very perceptive, thorough and in–depth view of how trade publishing really works in the English–speaking world today. For those of us in the business or for writers who are mystified by their publisher′s behavior, it offers a penetrating account of our business by a very shrewd, analytical observer. This book is the only thing I′ve ever read about our industry that has really got it."
William Shinker, President and Publisher of Gotham Books and Avery Books, Penguin Group USA
"Thompson′s analysis of UK and US trade publishing is extraordinarily acute and insightful. It should be required reading for new entrants to the industry – but it will also illuminate many things for old publishing hands."
Helen Fraser, Former Managing Director, Penguin Group UK
"This uncommonly perceptive and thorough study tells you all you need to know about the publishing industry at a time of momentous change."
Drake McFeely, Chairman and President, W.W. Norton & Company
"One of the most intelligent and accessible accounts of the curious business of trade book publishing I have read. Anyone interested in knowing more about how our industry works – and where it might be headed – will find this book invaluable."
Morgan Entrekin, CEO and Publisher, Grove Atlantic
"An eye–opening tour of both American and British trade publishing. Even veterans in the publishing world will learn a lot, and novices will feel welcome, in this behind–the–scenes examination of how book publishing works in an age of mass marketing and digitization. Thompson knows more about contemporary publishing than any other scholar. He asks just the right questions of his sources, and their responses offer unique and illuminating testimony from an array of publishing insiders. Theoretically sophisticated but not burdened by academic apparatus, this is a landmark work."
Michael Schudson, Columbia University
"Thompson′s ground–breaking research into the world of consumer book publishing provides a fascinating insight into the high–risk culture on both sides of the Atlantic. Revealed is the world of agents and scouts, of auctions and deals, often with large sums of money paid out to authors, as publishers gamble in the hope of signing the next Harry Potter or Dan Brown. His work is of the highest quality and should be read by all those concerned about our literary culture and its future."
Angus Phillips, Director, Oxford International Centre for Publishing Studies
"From now on whenever anyone asks me how they can get published or get a job in publishing I′m going to tell them to buy this book because it is simply perfect at summing up how the whole messy business works and explaining why it very frequently doesn′t work. It teaches a careful reader as much as any three year degree course on the subject."
Andrew Crofts, author of The Freelance Writer′s Handbook
Karen Ball, author of Starring Me as Third Donkey and several other children′s books
"The book is written in a style that is both elegant and easy to follow. There is a good balance between, on the one hand, dry numbers and figures and, on the other, colourful anecdote and informative metaphor. Thompson s own book is a comprehensive and rigorous history of trade publishing, which will lead both scholars, editors or people with a more general interest in publishing to think about books in new and more complex ways."
Helena Agustí–Gómez, University of Glasgow
From the Back Cover
The world of book publishing is going through turbulent times. For nearly five centuries the methods and practices of book publishing remained largely unchanged, but at the dawn of the 21st century the industry finds itself faced with perhaps the greatest challenges since Gutenberg. A combination of economic pressures and technological change is forcing publishers to alter their practices and think hard about the future of the book in the digital age.
In this book the first major study of trade publishing for more than 30 years Thompson situates the current challenges facing the industry in an historical context, analyzing the transformation of trade publishing in the United States and Britain since the 1960s. He gives a detailed account of how the world of trade publishing really works, dissecting the roles of publishers, agents and booksellers and showing how their practices are shaped by a field that has a distinctive structure and dynamic. Against this backdrop Thompson analyzes the impact of the digital revolution on book publishing and examines the pressures that are reshaping the field of trade publishing today.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title. See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
Particularly during the last decade, the development of digital technologies have revolutionised publishing. Authors now write their books using wordprocessing. Publishers have digital work streams that connect the different elements of of their value stream, including proofreaders, typesetters and printers, as well as the archival process. Print on demand digital printing has of course opened up opportunities for self publishing (think Blurb), but it also creates new opportunities for small publishers and specialist texts. Kindle and other e-books are beginning to change the economics of bookselling, and indeed book publication.
Thomson has unprecedented access to major movers and players throughout the process and is used this to interview many of those who are deeply involved in the current industry, sometimes in changing it. His book is readable and thought-provoking. Most authors will certainly get important insights about the role of agents.Read more ›
This book looks at where the publishing industry came from, and looks in detail at it's more recent history, the seismic changes brought about in the last 30 years by things like the Net Book agreement (and the effect of it on book retailers), the advent of electronic publishing, the ability of just about anyone to pirate books with photocopiers and scanners, the incredible advances in publishing techniques and technologies and the tortuous changes and complexities of how publishing is financed. It looks at how the publishing industry itself has had to continuously restructure, regroup and reinvent itself to account for ever more new channels and styles of publication. It looks at the dangers of dominant publishers, and revels in the almost seditious activities of the small players.
If that all sounds like a rollercoaster ride, it's because that's exactly what it has been, and will continue to be. My own interest area is in the effect on traditional publishing of electronic and online publishing, so although I skimmed the sections dealing with other matters I concentrated more on the sections concerned with e-everything. I did find the section on early publishing very interesting, I'd never really thought about how much the advent of internationally organised publishing must have changed the world.
On the e-publishing sections, Mr Thompson seems to reserve judgement on issues such as "will dead tree publishing survive" and "will people continue to pay for published work".Read more ›
This is not one of the books that goes into gross detail about what exactly folio and quarto mean, or about the business of Gutenberg. It's a relatively up-to-date and comprehensive look at the business of selling books. Instead of just pulling together a narrative based on clippings however, Thompson has spoken to many players in the industry and provides - often unattributed, for the sake of being able to gain frankness in return for anonymity - quotes from publishers, agents and booksellers.
The first few chapters deal in depth - and more entertainingly than you would think - with the shifts in bookselling in recent years, the rise of the literary agent and the now 40-50 year shift towards publishing houses merging, being acquired and scaling (or not, as the case may be with "decentralised" or "fragmented" publishers). It then moves on to an analysis of the digital revolution, a section I suspect will date quickly, alas, as it might prevent this being considered a classic work.
Of course, this book is not a career guide, but it does map out the roles and gives a taste of where the industry has moved recently, and where it might go soon. I would therefore suggest it as useful background reading for anybody interested in the trade. I'd also encourage people who care about the future of the book - and who want to understand how we go here - to read it.
What strikes me though, is the appeal to a general reader.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Very good book. Swift delivery. Recommended by daughter and universityPublished 7 months ago by S. Cooper
An articulate, well-focused review proving expertly informed insight into the publishing industry. Essential reading for anyone studying this area. A foundational book!Published on 12 Jun. 2014 by Dr Susan V. Scott
Any author, agent, editor, publishing company CEO should purchase this book. I was not aware of all the details involved in publishing a book. Read morePublished on 29 May 2014 by Kuldeep Singh
There are remarkably few books that examine the US and UK book industry in this kind of detail and with such understanding of the processes, and this one is also very readable. Read morePublished on 25 Jun. 2013 by Amazon Customer
How deliciously ironic that this title, of all titles, is not available in Kindle format! (Hence the single star rating.)Published on 5 Nov. 2012 by Mark
I'm an MSc Publishing student and this book was on my reading list - certainly one of the most interesting texts on my list, it's well written and not overloaded by statistics. Read morePublished on 14 Oct. 2011 by L. McDowell
An enormous amount has been written, both online and in print, about the publishing industry in recent years - some of it perceptive; a little (a very little) well-informed; much... Read morePublished on 31 July 2011 by B. Bennetts
Thompson's target audience appears to be people with a professional interest in book publishing, but it would be a pity if his occasionally dry style were to put off the more... Read morePublished on 17 Jun. 2011 by Amazon Customer
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