Merchants of Culture – new edition for a changing industry

When John Thompson‘s Merchants of Culture appeared in the summer of 2010, it was the first serious study of the publishing industry in many years. Thompson compared himself to an anthropologist studying his subjects in order to explain a field of human activity that strikes many outsiders as baffling and often irrational.

The industry recognized itself in the portrait that Thompson drew. One reviewer said succinctly: “If you want to understand the publishing industry, read this book” and one New York Times bestselling author called it “a must-read for anyone hoping to become a published writer, or who already is one”.

Now, some eighteen months later, comes a substantially revised paperback edition which takes into account the profound changes affecting the industry as print sales shrink and uncertainty grows over where power will reside in an electronic future in which the roles of publishers, authors and agents are set to change.

To listen to the complete interview, click here. For my original interview from the summer of 2010, click here. And to listen to extracts from our conversation, clink on the links below:

1. “It is to some extent a test of whether I have got it right that [publishers] recognize their world in the account that I have given.”

John Thompson reflects on the warm reception the first edition of this book received from an industry undergoing profound change. To listen, click here [2:06].

2. “By the summer of 2011, it was clear that the industry was going in a certain direction and that the ebook revolution had become a reality.”

John Thompson discusses the dramatic changes that occurred in the world of trade publishing between Merchants of Culture‘s first publication and this new paperback edition. Click here [2:56].

3. The ebooks future had been long foretold and was slow in coming. Was the advent of Amazon’s Kindle in autumn 2007 the key tipping point that changed publishing? Click here [5:22].

4. The key question: why has the ebook caused such a profound existential crisis in the publishing industry? Click here [5:35]

5. Finally I asked John Thompson if he felt publishers were doing enough to shape the future, or were they ceding control to retailers and technology companies? Click here [4:06].



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