BTB #311: A New Job Description for Books

Richard FosterOn the leafy campus of Yale University, the view from the summer session at the Yale Publishing Course was of lush chestnuts and towering ivy. Tranquil as it seemed, warned a lecturer, danger lurked for book publishing businesses.

That startling call to attention came from Richard Foster, senior faculty fellow at the Yale School of Management and managing partner of Millbrook Management Group. “We need to think about what the job of a book is,” he said.

“Books will be around, whether we recognize them in their present form or not is hard to tell. I’m not sure that if we define a book as a paper thing that falls on the floor and goes thud, however, that those are going to play the same role,” Foster elaborated later for CCC’s Chris Kenneally. ”But I believe that we’ll be reading more; we’ll have more outlets for print; we’ll have more outlets for great ideas. And the cost of that is going down, not going up.”

Bestselling author of Innovation: The Attacker’s Advantage (1986) and Creative Destruction (2001), Foster pointed particularly to the rise of self-publishing, and noted the recent Pearson purchase of Author Solutions. “I think it’s exactly the right thing at the right time. Pearson, not only in book publishing, but throughout their enterprise, are engaging in systematic program of creative destruction of the old Pearson as we knew it before. And they’re doing a rather good job of it. They are determined to change their mix, and they are determined to be a survivor into the future. And I think they’re doing an absolutely great job. I think their executive committee really understands what this is all about.”

The Yale Publishing Course (YPC) offers mid to senior-level publishing professionals from all over the world access to industry experts and a cutting-edge curriculum focusing on the most crucial areas in publishing. During the week-long programs in book and magazine & digital publishing, YPC participants learn new leadership skills and develop their global network and perspective. Follow YPC on Twitter #YPC2012

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