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Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Books: Humanity's 'Backlist'

“What is true for book publishing is true for civilization: the books that survive the test of time are humanity's backlist, our collective memory.” – Jason Epstein

 When it comes to books and their history, Jason Epstein, who was born in 1928, knows of what he speaks having led one of the most creative careers in book publishing in the last half of the 20th century.  In 1952, he created Anchor Books, which launched the so-called “paperback revolution,” and established what became known as “Trade” paperbacks (the larger format size).  Epstein also co-founded The New York Review of Books, and in the 1980s he created the Library of America, prestigious publisher of American classics, and The Reader's Catalog, the precursor to online bookselling.

While at Random House, he edited well-known novelists like E. L. Doctorow, Philip Roth, and Gore Vidal and was a major contributor of essays to the writing world.

Author of the best selling Eating: A Memoir, he was                        
the first recipient of the National Book Award for Distinguished Service to American Letters, received The Curtis Benjamin Award of the Association of American Publishers for "creative publishing," and was given the lifetime achievement award from the National Book Critic’s Circle.

Unlike some other longtime publishers, he embraced technology as a way to advance bookselling, noting, “The revolutionary process by which all books, old and new, in all languages, will soon be available digitally, at practically no cost for storage and delivery, to a radically decentralized world-wide market at the click of a mouse, is irreversible.”

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