Shut Out the Lights on Commercial Publishing

David Lynn
August 22, 2006
Comments 0

After 25 years in the publishing industry, the last several years as editor in chief and then publisher at Harcourt, Andre Bernard has had enough. He recently resigned, quietly and with typical class, to become Vice President at the Guggenheim Foundation.

This is undoubtedly a good thing for Andre, but it’s a real loss to commercial publishing. Andre was among the last of the good guys. He cares passionately about–get this–books. I mean, how quaint can you get?

You’ve heard it all before, about how almost all the major houses are now owned by corporate conglomerates in Germany, Holland, elsewhere. The only thing that counts is the bottom line, and if self-help manuals and cooking books are hot, well that’s the way to go. The DaVinci Code wasn’t the worst thing to happen in years because it defames a church (or is merely badly written–a beach read, no more). But it’s made a ton of money, and the corporate finance types want to know why their publisher can’t produce a DaVinci Code. The blockbuster is their holy grail. The mid list, a once honorable and honored core of any new season’s publishing, is all but defunct.

Andre Bernard fought the good fight, day in and day out, never more so than in the last few years when, as publisher, he went toe to toe with the corporate guys. He held the line as long as he could. But 25 years is a long time.

I feel good for Andre. I feel bad for the rest of us.

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