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Literary Festival 2011 - The Making of Bestsellers


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Speaker(s): John Thompson, Andrew Franklin
Chair: Liz Chapman

Recorded on 17 February 2011 in Sheikh Zayed Theatre, New Academic Building.

The world of book publishing is going through turbulent times. For nearly five centuries the methods and practices of book publishing remained largely unchanged, but at the dawn of the 21st Century the industry finds itself faced with perhaps the greatest challenges since Gutenberg. A combination of economic pressures and technological change is forcing publishers to alter their practices and think hard about the future of the book. In his book, Merchants of Culture|, the first major study of trade publishing for 30 years, Thompson situates the current challenges facing the industry in an historical context, analyzing the transformation of trade publishing in the United States and Britain since the 1960s. He gives a detailed account of how the world of trade publishing really works, dissecting the roles of publishers, agents and booksellers and showing how their practices are shaped by a field that has a distinctive structure and dynamic. In this discussion Thompson will show how an understanding of the publishing world can shed light on what makes a bestseller today and he will reflect on the key challenges facing publishers and writers as the book - one of the oldest of our cultural artefacts - enters the digital age.

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