There was, so I am told, a time when a set of leather elbow patches and a love of yellowing paperbacks was enough for a successful career in publishing. In those halcyon days, things worked as it was deemed they should, with the extent of your local independent bookstore’s customer base matched only by the length of the lunches enjoyed in this most genteel of industries.
Nowadays things are different and someone with even the most casual of interests in the world of books will tell you that the industry faces a set of unprecedented challenges. As such, your average Contemporary American Literature graduate can now expect to see a look somewhere between disbelief and panic on their parents’ faces when they tell them they intend to climb aboard what most consider to be sinking ship.
But an industry in flux is not an industry in decline; there is another way of seeing things. These changes constitute an unprecedented opportunity for those wanting to get into publishing. An opportunity for innovation and dynamism. Some of the startups exploiting this current liminal state were featured in the showcase at the recent TOC conference, and I got a similar impression talking to people at Bookmachine unplugged. So our apocryphal graduate need not worry. With no preconceptions about how things should be done, he is climbing aboard exactly the right ship.