Lantern Books Exec ‘Cynically Optimistic’ About the Future
Are you more or less optimistic about the book publishing industry today than you were five years ago?
Rowe: Well, I think publishers are preternaturally incapable of being enthusiastic. The reason being that every book that we produce, we hope and we pray, and we have great aspirations for thinking that this book will be the one that breaks out, the one that will do gangbuster business … and we’re always amazed at the ones that do well and the ones that don’t do well. We’re all searching for that magical formula that will somehow guarantee that the book does very well. As a result, I think we’re a cynical bunch.
On the other hand, I don’t think that we’d be in this business unless we believed passionately in writing and books and communication … and it’s a passion for us. So I would say that we are “cynically optimistic.”
But I will say … I think everyone is very anxious, because we just don’t know where we will end up. It might be the case that in 10 years’ time you can go into any bookstore, photocopying center or any mailing company, and be able to go to a booth, order a book online, get it printed out then and there, and walk away with it. And you can do that anywhere in the world. That will still be a book that’s printed, the copyright will still be protected, and the publishing company that’s produced the book … will still get some money. But it will dramatically change the nature of the industry, and I don’t know what effect it will have.
If I were a shipper of books, I’d be worried. But as an environmentalist, I’m thrilled. Why are we shipping vast amounts of books all over the world when they can be done electronically?