Jason Epstein on the Book Apocalypse

January 13, 2010

Jason Epstein ran Vintage Books and Anchor, co-founded the NYRB.  Lately he’s involved with the company behind the Espresso Book Machine, a POD device, and appeared on Charlie Rose with a slump when forced to admit that yes, many (most) book industry jobs are just about obsolete.

He looks far less uncomfortable than the superannuated media barons while talking about it.  He actually understands (much of) the tech and the processes, for one thing. He talks of meeting Larry Page, Google’s co-founder, and swats him away gently: “He didn’t know much about books.  He’s an engineer. He thinks of books as manuals, as containing information. …but the book itself is the information.”  Search that, Page boy!

But you can still kill the sound and just watch the body language.  Apologetic, resigned, beads of flopsweat leaping from his brow (almost).

Charlie Won’t Let Me Embed So You Must Click to Watch

I’m not sure why I watch these things.  From my far-off vantage point (former freelance reviewer, now blogger, contractor for a university press, anti-coastal) it’s just an old infrastructure fragmenting. And the people matter more than the structures around them.  Besides, these little pockets of mind come and go after the few decades they get.  Epstein’s lasted longer than most.  Cities could foster these small ecologies well last century; I’m not sure where to go in this one.  At any rate, I appreciate Epstein’s continued entrepreneurial push.  Book industry exploding, form a POD company.  He did found the NYRB during a printers’ strike, after all.

And the poor guy came on the air to promote his book Eating: A Memoir.  Wants to talk about apple pie and Charlie won’t shut up about big issues.  Typical.  Still, Chez Panisse!

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