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Good or Bad: The Future of Publishing

abstract:The firing of Ann Godoff, from her position as editor in chief and publisher of the Random House Adult Trade Group division, by Chairman and CEO, Peter Olson caused a rift in the book publishing world that has put people up in arms. 


July 21, 2003
— The debate about the future of publishing continues, growing heated with the recent, unceremonious firing of one of publishing's respected literaray editors. "Nothing Random", an article in the July 20th issue of  the New York Times magazine examines the issues.


"Olson was perceived to be sending a clear and, for many, disturbing message, both to those within Random House and to the greater publishing community: financial success, rather than literary excellence, is the goal."


"Book publishing has always been a mix of high and low [brow literary sophistication] and publishers have established themselves along those lines with authors and their reading public. Who they list and how they promote is part of what goes in to the equation.  "If [Olson] could fire someone with the serious reputation of Ann Godoff because she wasn't turning the same profits as publishers of romance novels and cheap thrillers, then he clearly had no serious respect for books."


A former high-ranking Bertelsmann executive said of Olson: ''Peter's personality is complex. He is an intense reader, but he doesn't represent the old book publisher's image. He is not close with authors or publishers. He doesn't go to cocktail parties or schmooze agents. He reads, but Peter could be running an investment bank or the accounting department at BMW. He has that sort of mind, and that sort of mind is not usual in book publishing.''


With her reputation and support by key authors who have followed Ann Godoff to her new post at Penguin, does she represent a dichotomy between book publishing needsóliterary merit versus commerce? What are your views? Read the excellent article "Nothing Random" in the July 20th issue of  the New York Times magazine.



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