i traveled with i was with the bureau chief in with texas monthly i travel i heard comanche stories and we love 1/2 to go to amarillo or lubbock. [laughter] that sounds strange but it is true of. it was a bit of just of understanding what the planes we're and the plains indian. that comes through the book as the yankees are learning some stuff and that informed a lot of the book because none of this is marvell marvell -- normal.
>> we are told almost on a daily basis that publishing is a crisis. one of the things i like to talk about it is publishing seems to me perpetually in crisis and seems like publishers exaggerate in order to keep advances for authors about. [laughter] but to start at the beginning, you talk a bit about your father in france and his publishing venture that began as i understand it began publishing?
>> and unfortunately, though, he -- eventually he joined the major publishing house of gally moore which was one the initial targets of the germans when they came in, and the german ambassador knew him extremely well and loved there for many years. they had figured that there were only two institutions that they needed to take over and control. one was the bank of france, and
the other was galilee moore. they were told if they closed down, they could reopen. they had to hand over the editorial output to a fastist author who was nearly fired and stayed there until he committed suicide until the end of the war. it wasn't always go right, no matter who your sponsors are. >> it's interesting how you look at it how incredibly careful they were and how they planned everything. they knew france in the 30s was filled with anti-semites and people who were fascist themselves. they made moviedexs. they put them all in immediately.
and in many cases, more than the collaboration were even more so the nazi occupiers were. i just finished reading allen's new book on cultural life in france during the occupation. he among many others points out how remarkable it is that the country was that ambitious in his dealings with jews. and, of course, america was that much better in those days. which is why so few jewish immigrants were allowed to come here before and during the war. but the french really were the case at that time. >> and just before we go across the atlantic, the reason that your father was bought out was that the successful playout. >> right. >> and both of those? >> those were mercenaries of classics. the french classics. the classics are around the rest of the world.
and so the library of america here is an attempt to copy that model of having a really good selections. and well -- they were lather bound, and very, very handsome. but they weren't meant to be that expensive either. so people started buying them. it was less expensive than buying all of the items. >> it became the backbone of the empire? >> it certainly became an important part of it. after the war, they tried to deny that my father had ever been there. they were ashamed of having fired him. until i started writing this book, they kept up the official lie he had nothing to do with it. when my first book came out, they threatened to sue if i told
the story. of course, they had no grounds to do so. didn't manage. you consume the debt in france. which is very dangerous, by the way. [laughter] >> so then you came to new york in 1941? >> '41, yeah. the germans came into power on my 5th birthday, which was inconsiderate of them. we had to celebrate the day before. then it took a long time to get up. it look a very long time. we arrived in august of 41 just before the america war. >> and then your father once again took up publishing? >> right, he started publishing the french war writers. i don't know if they mean anything to anybody here. at that time, there were a lot of people writing them. which was the first anti-german
book. and it was published in france. but it was by an underground publishers called the midnight editions. they could only do 300 copies of the book. they started out in england and scattered them over france. which always made me feel that was the best way of distributing the book. >> distribution, we'll that. we'll have the -- >> you are not going to get aerial distribution. >> give me a plane. for an air force. >> i think one plane would do. >> stopping and starting. so this was -- was that book -- was that the beginning of the french resistance. was that pantheon already? >> it started under his own, and he joined the german publishers called curt wolf and his wife
helen were running pantheon. he tried to publish here at the time. it was very difficult for both of them. there were booked publishers simultaneously. and the choice in ah tree -- australia. it was published at english and german at that time. there was not knowledge of that going on in german -- >> no, before the war, they sustained the industry in. it was the major export market. particularly for the very light musical stuff that he liked to produce. when i was a kid, living next to
yorktown, yorkville as it was called in those days,86 and german avenue, there was still milwaukee and other towns. but those were the old germans that lived here. they pronazi, they were not going to be stuck. there was enough refugees that could read it. >> also french? german and french? >> my father's book were done in german and french and english. there was a population which was sizable of the immigrants here. they wanted to know when was being written back home. the difference was, of course, as you all may or may not know, there was -- at the new school there was a major french university which had strauss and paris, and alvin johnson set up the french university in exile.
it was major, while many of the american universities were not ready to take on the exile professors, because most of them were jewish. you know, when i started out in the college at the '50s, there was one jewish professor at yale, one at harvard, one at princeton, two at columbia, because they were in new york, they made a concession. [laughter] >> but, you know, the anti-semitism which we talked about earlier as existing in america was very strong. the role of the new school played here was fantastic. that's why you have willie brandt, and the germans later after the war were grateful for what the new school had done. >> so this small publishers that was publishing in german, french, and english, eventually it took off. >> eventually it took off. partly because of the doctor, which sold, you know, like one million copies in hard cover and the paperback.
>> because he won the noble prize? >> because he won the noble prize and because of the political noise around the publication of the book. the first printings was 4,000 copies, whichs the right one for a difficult russian novel. it shows you can't always guess what the right printing is going to be. >> that's not the only thing. did pantheon not publish the essays of charles linberg's wife? >> yes. it maybe a title that you are more familiar about than the other books you have talked about. that was again a total coincidence that they met ann linberg at aspen and got her manuscript. dubious, because her husband was one the allies of hitler before
the war and made a great point of not entering the war. he was so important in his youth that he finally discredited himself even with the press before he got too far. which he had, of course. >> so -- but this is a lesson about publishing. it seems to me that two exiles, two refugees end up publishing the essays of the life of a famous american and the semitism. >> well, it is a curious story. i don't know the full gram of cocaine -- full background behind it. everyone had forget linberg's politics. she shared them. indirectly, she helped pay for the publishing companies. i guess it was a good thing. >> then to move forward a bit. pantheon was bought in 1960. >> yes. >> they brought you in to take over? >> well, not quite.
i mean i had never thought i would work there. my father had died when i was very young. the wilson never suggested they would want me to come there. i worked for the paperback which is where i started out in the publishing. they realized after the wolfs had left, they needed somebody there to be an editor. i came to do that at pantheon, and gradually began to run the place as time went on. i was about the anal of most of the people in the audience at the time. which was interesting, the random house people were willing to let me do what i thought should be done. that's the enormous difference between then and now. the people who ran random house, bob haas, was a real publisher. they believed in what they were
doing. and they knew a publishing house isn't like an archaeological cut. they needed different generations. and in my case, they wanted to do different things, which random house was beginning to give up on. i was given card. i knew i couldn't lose a lot of money. if i saw something that i thought was important, i was allowed to publish it. nowadays, that's out of the question. i remember being in the paris bookstore and picking up a book and looking at it and thinking this looks interesting. maybe we should translate it and we did. we published him thereafter. but we lost money on it for the first ten years or so. and nowadays, you know, somebody came up and said let's publish
fuco, trolsky or whatever, they would say what did they last book sell? what's the audience? it looks innocent. it's a framework. it's a kind of iron mask that you put on publishing which makes sure no new ideas are going to come through. that's useful to the conservative political content to many of the owners. because new ideas don't have a preestablished audience by definition. my german publisher, vonngebach pointed out that his first book sold 800 copies. i discovered the over day that becket's first book sold three
copies. but they had distribution problems. [laughter] >> you know, those books would just not be published now. there's no way it would get through the machinery. and when i interview young people wanting to come and work with us, they know that there is a profit and loss sheet kept on them at the amount of money made by each book is recorded. and they know the last decimal point what their percentage is. that's a very effective way of controlling people. because if you are going to threaten your career by publishing the kind of book, you know, you are going to think twice. and it's interesting that over the years, you know, we've talked an enormous amount about how dictatorships control the press, how people are controlled under the communist regime and so on. the capitalist control is every bit as much. you are not going to get away with murder in one book in a firm.
no matter how good it maybe. that's a major change. >> but i wanted go back to the '60s. because the '60s, we lived under capitalism. yet, i made a list of books that you published at pantheon in the '60s. "making of the english working class," also e.e. carr, eric hobbesbob, you published r.d. lang, you published merdol, and then fuco. when you discovered fuco, how did you -- you were going to britain a lot? >> france and britain and germany. >> and i would talk to people. who's? >> you'd short of look and see at the bookstore. >> yeah, go to the bookstore. read the reviews. it wasn't that hard. you know, i have written a memoir called "a political
education" which is when i talk about the mccarthy period when i came of age. that had the affect of really eliminating from the american life a lot of the thought from europe or even in america that was at all dissenting; right? when i published tromsky's first, he had never been published before. people who were known there and were not -- more or less kept out of the mainstream of american life. in the '60s, it was very easy to find. there were lots of good authors like these. who -- i mean i had gone to university in england there. i knew english. english publishing hadn't been changed in the way it was now. you could go and find really important booking being published in some cases by small firms. there was a lot going on.
>> how did that first -- how do those -- those fuco books, they were reviewed; right? they were ignored? >> negatively. that's another interesting aspect. you know, we talk about iron curtains. but we don't talk about i guess the paper curtains in most of the professions. my member review that complainted about his footnotes. was it peter gay? a distinguished american historian. the point was that fuco had written the book in poland. he was working from memory. he didn't have the archives at his disposal. so the footnotes were dicey. instead of dealing with the ideas in the book, you zoom were something that you can complain about when you want to talk about new ideas. lang's work was never reviewed
by any psychiatric journal, and it was called anti-psychiatry in those days. those weren't reviewed at all either. it's interesting to look and see if profession by profession who's open and who isn't. and it takes a while. fuco was not invited to speak at the american university during the first ten years. ever. when he was finally invited to the university, it was because of ability to speech poland. the polish would flock to heard him. yale and harvard weren't about to flock to him. >> you couldn't get him on book tour? >> we could get him on book tour. no university was going to invite him to speak. it changed later. but it took a long time. >> so this was the great run in the '60s and '70s for pantheon. and then things started to
change. they began to change when new house brought random house. >> pretty much so. and by the way, it's not just pantheon, you know. in the business of books, which published 10 years ago, i did an analysis of the catalogs of the 10 major houses in america. all of them from 1950s, '60s, '70s, et cetera to 2000. when the book came out. you know, you look at them in retrospect. you know, harper, for instance, which is new all showbiz boyography. >> and our book about the financial crisis. [laughter] >> congratulations of getting through. [laughter] >> but, you know, you look at 1950s, '60s, those catalogs look like university press catalogs, and very good university press catalogs. you know, they were publishing
this like the ones we mentioned. you know, the civil rights movement, the vietnam war, there was a huge cascade of political stuff from everybody. things changed enormously and that's my argument when corporate takeover changed the ownership. but in those days, i mean if you look at what -- what publishing was about, not just in the u.s., but everywhere else, it was very open. you know, you had a huge amount of stuff coming out in the postmccarthy years, '60s, you know, it's interesting to look and say was '68 the cause of the book, or caused by the book? and a lot of the books that were influential came out before '68. >> what starts happening in the '80s? not like you are getting calls not to publish certain books; right? >> well, you know, when large
conglomerates take you over, there's always the same pattern. i described it in the business of books and publishers in other countries told me that was the funniest part of me -- of the book, because they had been told exactly the same thing verbatim when they were bought. i came and said, of course, i bought you folks because i admire what you are doing. i wouldn't dream of changing anything. you continue before, et cetera, et cetera. but, of course, he didn't mean it. and what he intended to do was to completely change the nature of what was being published by random house. and he did so very quickly. i mean he would sign up, trump, for instance, for his book, that kind of thing, and various other people of that literary quality. and at the same time, he would, you know, -- i don't want to go into all of the details. he changed the structure of the firm. toys going way down in market. which didn't work very well.
and finally, at the end of the exercise, they ended up selling to a german firm. and now most of the american publishing is owned by con glam -- conglomerates, which is not to be fooling. the reason that viking is owned by pearson which owns the financial times, they own the whole group, et cetera, et cetera is one the leading publishers of french conglomerate, all of these people, many of whom wanted to get out of the trap of publishing in their own native language; right? bertleman was willing to take that risk, because they knew the english was limited. once they got into english, it was safer. they changed their name to
random house, which sounds funny in german. the other part was the basis of the business of books, all of these conglomerates owns newspaper, tv stations, cable, et cetera, et cetera. and they made a lot more money than publishing had ever made. publishing in all of western europe and the u.s. and england, et cetera, throughout the whole of the 20th century made roughly between 3 and 4% per year as an average taking the most commercial terms and the least commercial. which doesn't mean that alfred went into the poor house. it was perfectly reasonable to make that kind of money. it was not the huge gains that you made in other areas, which were for the most part cut by advertising, which is what kept newspapers and so on at a level of making 26% every year. so the conglomerate owners would come and say, look, you are lovely people.
but we can't subsidize you. that's the way they would say it. the other people in the group are making 25%. you guys are making 4%. at the very at least, you should be making 15%. and so that's what happened. and -- that's what's shown in the list of catalogs that we talk about. the whole content changed, and whole areas. everybody goes into the bookstore. there are lots of books. what's he going on about? there's more there than he can read. on the other hand if you look whether it's -- evens out which has done a better job of maintaining itself, or murdoch's people. you see that whole areas had disappeared. harper had a huge list in art history, for instance, and religion, and scientific thought and philosophy, et cetera. all of those areas have disappeared. maybe the university press will publish. now the university press feel
they all have to make money. and a lot of them like nyu here, are not even subsidized at all by the university, they don't even have to pay rent. so all of the possible publishers for these many fields have pretty much disappeared. and you only have a small handful of independent some of them not for profit, to generate more not for profit de facto who are willing to take on those books. that's when my colleague and i all left. because we objected to the changes that were being imposed. we started the new press, it has a not for profit, because that was the only way we were going to be able to publish the kind of books that we were talking about. >> in 1990, you left pantheon. >> yes. >> at the time, some of your former colleagues wrote a letter
saying pantheon was wasteful with money. did pantheon make money? >> yeah. pantheon had always made some money. not a huge amount. but enough to pay the cost, the real cost, that is. what happened -- when the tally was brought in by new house to change everything to be brought in, we had to change our thinking. it was a new ideology. it was no longer find the lest books. every book must make money. bar none. he wanted to get rid of pantheon, because he said, look, the money that we are making publishing "mouse" by speiglman should be used to pay for the books by fuco. that's the way publishing had always worked. the new ideology said forget
about it. the purpose is to make money. the idea is to be judged by how valuable it is in the marketplace. when it was clear that that's what they wanted us to do, and they said, by the way, stop doing so many books on left, obviously that was part of the agenda. we knew that there was just no way, you know, we could stay. so we left. the people who stayed behind, a) had to rationalize the fact that they were staying behind, many who left in the next year or two. they were given a series of fraudulent figures which gave the impression that we had lost money which was totally inaccurate. "the new york times" and the others played along with that, and nobody bothered to talk to, you know, they could have talked to the former president of random house who had also been fired. how come you kept these people
all of those years if they were losing money? he could have said no, they weren't losing money. what's interesting on the whole in the u.s., not in europe, the press went along with the line. should intellectuals be allowed to continue allowed money making, or not because they are bound to lose money and so forth. they went along with the party line basically. >> so if pantheon was making money, you started the new press in 1990, soon after leaving pantheon, why did you decide to make it nonprofit? >> well, because we weren't making enough money. i mean the whole point, you know, we more we were more thang even. we weren't ever going to make the 15% that investors wanted. we wouldn't have found private investors. because that's the money that they wanted. in the parallel fashion, we talk
about all of the newspapers, many of them aren't aren't -- te "chicago tribune" "l.a. times" a lot of other papers have closed down. a large part of this book is devoted to that issue. they were no longer making 26%. the night ridder change had the misfortune of making 19.6% the other year. they were sold off. they were sold off even if it meant closing down some of the newspapers. so you have a problem. if you have the investors, if the investors at new house figured the least they should make 25%, anybody that makes less than that, doesn't make sense. if you discover that you can sell fraudulent mortgage, no capitalist in his right mind is going to invest in the bookstore or newspaper.
the purpose in the money that we're talking about tonight, if that's the case, what's possible? how do you keep print alive in book form or newspaper or even on the kindle. it doesn't matter. how do you keep the content going in a system which is no longer going to invest the money that you need to do it? invest the money and invest the time. the time is very important. i mean my last year at pantheon, "the new york times" always has, you know, the list of the ten best books. we had two of them. each of which had been commissioned 25 years before. now any accountant would have told you, 25 years at 4% inflation, you've lost your investment. write them off. forget about it. and they would have been right, of course. those are extreme examples. i don't like telling authors that example. it encouraging them to delay delivering their manuscripts.
time is important. time is important to bookstores. i've talked to people in the big chains who said they have stacked up on the seller in the front, because they know it's going to be on "the today show." and if it's not the day expected, the books are sent back. if itst not on "the today show" following week, it's sent back to the publisher. time is something that's very valuable. again, the current system in the bookstores is based on how many dollars on square foot do you make per hour means that, you know, the chains are going to choose fewer and fewer books and, of course, they will have gotten rid of all of the independent. when i was a kid, i worked on the book shop down the street, there were 336, now they are under 3, including the chains. it's understandable. they set out to open their
branch in front and give the best sellers, you know, for the first few months until they had sunk the independents. they were there on their own. what they didn't realize, somebody else can do to you like you've done to others. costcos and others started selling at cost. in england, "harry potter" which had a 20 pound price was going for one pound in the price. it means that the stores were not getting the sales that they needed to pay for the rent. >> when you talk about the chains, barnes & noble and -- >> and borders. >> that's what we're talking about. walden books? >> yeah. they just closed half of their stores. when i was a kid and went to the
new school, there were lots of good bookstores. they had their own bookstore at pantheon, paid for by a foundation, that i might point out. some of the pillars of the publishing industry and the bookstore, the newspaper review. >> right. >> you said something interesting. that there's -- one the reasons that they are disappearing is the ad money from the publishers is now going to barnes & noble. >> right. the chain to pay for what they call cooperative advertising which is a euphemism for bribery. they will put your book in the front if you pay them extra whatever. >> people don't know this. book at the front doesn't get there because the staff has taken the initiative. >> if you see ritz crackers at
the front of the store at the grocery store, it's not a staff pick. the people at the bookstore staff that can get you what to pick, barnes & noble people are paid less than at mcdonald. this is not somebody that you are going to ask for advice on which the latest novels to read. they won't know what's there anyway. i did the analysis of the foreign fiction at barnes & noble. they would buy 300 copies for the 1,000 stores. which i joke was 100 pages per store. then they would return 90% of the books. i finally said to our sales people, look, we're not selling the books, we're lending. we are helping them decorate the books. they have cut by 80% the number of titles that they have. you know, the idea that a bookstore, which, you know, when i worked at the 8th street
bookstore, the good bookstore wasn't just the place that had the book that you wanted. they had the book that you didn't know you wanted. they had the whole range. that's what makes them the backbone of independent publishing. i was in france on a book tour. i went to a tour town in a bookstore. we had just published a french writer, which was a funny and good book. i said since the name was appropriate to the town, i said how many copies did you guys sell? he said guess. i said what 50? 100? he said 2,000. they had sold more books in the bookstore than we had sold in america. partly because they had a staff that liked the book. what is good? they would say try this one. every publisher in france says
they live because of the book. if you want to sell a book with new ideas because of poetry or fiction or nonfiction, it's the small independents that carry it. >> and so you talk about what other bookstores are doing to keep their looks alive? >> well, a lot of what i'm talking about can be changed by using the legislation. everybody has antitrust lawson the -- antitrust laws on the book. the big conglomerate should never had come to be. there's a europe commission in brussels that have stopped some of the mergers from taking place
that would have been harmful. beyond that, there's legislation that says you can't discount books for the reason that i mention, you don't have the chains cutting down the vice and knocking out the independent. that means there are thousands of bookstores around. in germany, there's 8,000 bookstores. which is, you know, a lot of bookstores. one of the things i asked once, the german culture minister, what would happen if that law would change, we would lose half overnight. >> you are literally not allowed to sell a book too cheap. >> of course. even when we discount, we saw this happening in the news industry. when you are allowed endless discount, the publishers raise the cover price to they are still getting the same. the small independents are knocked out. you know, if you look at what happened, you can see what would
happen or come close to happening. and in the book industry. now what i've done in the book here is to show very concrete exactly what happened, and how they have decided not just with books, but newspaper. if you want a democracy and a country in which ideas are exchanged, you have to save the word. in france, you know, there's a whole program of helping bookstores, lending them money if you want to start a new bookstore, you can get up to 40,000 euros, you know, to help set up the shop. a lot of cities help under write the rent. it's a question of keeping the middle of the downtown alive. which is a question, of course, that applies to most cities in this country. if you don't want everybody going out to the edge of town to buy and so on, are you going to keep alive? you know, the culture of a city,
whether it's a moving house or a bookstore. one the things they have in france, there are 1,000 movie houses called art and experiment. which are art houses. they keep, you know, they keep the whole culture film alive. and they get $10 million a year paid for by tax on the multiplexes on all of the big commercial houses. now, you know, when i was a kid in new york, they were just endless houses here. now there are a few left. film is the only not for profit. they started out with 70 folding chairs a few years ago, and now they are extremely successful. but in most cases, the figures in the chesney book, used to be 10% of the films in america used to be from overseas, because of
this network of art houses, forget the foreign language houses. now it's less than 1%. because you have your multiplexes, the multiplexes are doing exactly what the bookstores are doing. if the movie, no matter how good or whether it's from doesn't make money in the first few day, you drop it. give the secret screen to whatever is making the most money. the choice that you have in books or movies, it's constantly being narrowed. you can say, well, okay, we can't see the korean movies in new york that we see in paris all the time. big deal, you know? when you look at the overall picture, then what you do is you end up with the iraqi war. because the press, you know, was pressured by condoleezza rice that called in all of the heads of all of the networks before we went into afghanistan, and said i don't want to see any wounded
civilians on your screen. they are not dumb, they knew the vietnam war ended. you still don't see a wounded civilian on any of the network news program, whether in afghanistan or iraq. the pressure worked. because awful these -- because all of these companies, you know, were depending on the bush administration to give them new legislation which they wanted. to allow people to own the newspaper and the tv station at the same time. bush was about to do that when a few ngos like chesney's free press and other organizations began to raise the alarm and the people on the right interestingly enough also saw there was a danger here. within a couple of monos, there were three million letters sent to washington. bush had to pull back. and so the networks weren't rewarded as they had hoped for the support that they had given to the iraq war.
but that's -- you know, that's ultimately, -- that's, you know, the end point when you talk about the media in politics. you end up having a situation where all of the things happen because there's no one around to say wait a minute. these guys are lying to us. there were a few papers that did, but there were very few. >> so we should -- you propose in the book that we should tax google and give it to the bookstores. >> not to the bookstores. no, i say basically this. you know, the idea that people have if things are advertised, they enter it in as free. how many times have you read how much would the sunday "times" cost if huh -- if you had to pay for the newspaper? in reality, the ads are private.
you pay for the ads every time you pay for a box or bottle of water. you are paying to the company who will spend the money persuading you to buy the stuff. it's a tax. google uses the press all the time. look at the screen, they are in the latest headlines. they never pay a nickel. and they make over 25% a year, and they made, i think, $5 billion last year. what i'm saying in the book, along with other arguments, there's no reason why we shouldn't have a tax on access providers that's used to subsidize the press in the very same way in england and canada, you had a tax on your television set to pay for publish network; right? and in america, which chesney points out, which i hadn't known, when they first started pbs, all of those years ago, the commission that suggested the
tax on the television set so that pbs wouldn't have to beg from the government and give into the political pressures. when they started doing big exposes, nixon cut the budget totally. eliminated it. which is another form of censorship. the system which they have in canada and most of western europe and england, if you pay a tax on some much your communications, you know, could be the television bill, doesn't matter, towards maintaining the press, then you can still have a press that does it's job. two years ago in america, 16,000 journalist were fired. last year in the first six months, 10,000 were fired. many papers that used to have an overseas office have closed them down. and "baltimore sun" had five and they are all gone. they are all closing their
offices in the state capital which is as you know the traditional forms of corruption are the most right. so that the idea of the press has a forth estate. it was possible, still is possible. but it is becoming less and less possible under the present regime. what we are doing, we are paying indirectly for something that's beginning to disappear. 83% of the people in your age assuming there's no newspapers in the decade; right? that maybe true. the importance of the press has been it's able to check the government. now they failed in that in recent years in all sorts of ways. not just iraq, but on the whole financial collapse. there was no paper that was telling you what the economist who were predicting this were saying. so the press are not idealizing it at all. i'm saying if you want to keep the structure, at least, and
give them a chance to begin to hire folks and do their job, then you do what's been done in most of europe. there's a chapter in the book on norway, which is interesting. because the norwegian give a subsidy to every paper that's a paper and have the opinions. paper of the opinion and not just entertainment. every second newspaper in a prudential down, they still have the second paper in the prudential town, which we don't for the most part. they have a press which gets not huge amount of money from the government, but enough to keep going. none of this has affected content. no one has talked about governmental censorship. you have the same situation for the most part in sweden and in other countries. so the possibility of saving the press in that way is there. part of the problem is the press
here will never talk to you about the other models. they will never tell you what's going on in the other countries, even the guardian has belonged to a nonprofit. that's not something that you find on the media page of the "new york times". the press here is panicking and saying we're going to go down the tube very quickly because all of the ads have gone to the internet. that's where they are going to stay. there's no talk whatsoever about the alternative possibilities. again, that's the purpose of the book. >> how do we pay the bookstore? >> well, as i mention before, part of it is to have a law which says no discounting. there are lots of other things. as i mention, across the street from me in the upper west side, there were one the two lasting independent bookstores in town. two years ago, three years ago
now, they closed down because they rent had been raised so high. the stores are still empty; right? they never had anybody else to rent the store to. but they knocked them out so on the west side we now have book culture at 110th street and that's it. >> on broadway and 93rd? >> yeah. part of what any decent city could have minimal rent control where at the very least you can't rise prices. might be you shouldn't race prizes unless you can replace it with somebody going the same thing. so that every store doesn't become the bland read, which has happened here. these are not just preserving the bookstore, they are preserving the urban civilluation.
you look look -- i live in the broadway 94th street. there's hardly a store that's not a chain of some kind. you know, and paris where i live half of the year, there isn't a chain store in sight. >> i'd like to take some questions. >> sure. we have a microphone. do we have someone to hand it around? all right. let's ask some questions. >> now the first question is always the hardest one to get. >> first question. i want to say that andre's book will be available after questions. >> keep them short. >> yes. >> that's good. >> we haven't talked much about digital books.
i'm wondering what role you see book stores paying in the digital books? >> right, the last chapter is called technology and monopoly. it's about digital books. the real danger is not the technology. i think digital books will be fine. it's the monopoly that google and amazon are trying to establish. and they have come close to succeeding. and here again the antitrust fact -- pact is not being invoked. you had a showdown the other month where amazon was offering to the publishers and the authors about half of what they normally make. they were keeping the difference, of course. so that battle was temporarily won by the publisher that said, okay, you don't have our books. then amazon said we aren't going to list your books at all if you don't give us any books.
which i would have thought any antitrust lawyer would have said this is an abuse of your powers. nobody said anything at the time. that's the real battle that's going on. if you get a situation where one or two firms can control, you know, what's going to be sold in that form, then you have -- you have real problems. the other aspect and i don't know how many of you have read this stuff but robert in the new york review is the whole library issue. and he has chose to become librarian if i were precisely to be able to have a publish platform for this kind of thing. they said, you know, you can't allow google to digitalize every book in the past. it's something that should be done publicly, it's common, it should be made accessible. it should not be subject to the 25% profit that google expects to have. i think that's the real issue. and, of course, you know, google
and amazon are not going to commission the book. they are not going to edit. they are going to be responsible and that's why they want to make money, for the distribution. it's very easy to knock out the bookstores, under pay the publishers, exploit the authors, make a lot of money for yourself, and, you know, look like you are providing a public service. >> but if you have a digital book, what do you sell in the bookstore? >> if you have a digital book what do you sell in a bookstore? what does bun -- does one do in the bookstore? >> no, that's the problem. this will gradually eliminate the bookstores. the problem with digital publishing, and all of the books are available, the onlies that people really want are the best sellers. they are not going to ask for any other book which has a relatively small printing.
and that's why you need to have the bookstores. so i think -- and the amazon, et cetera, threat, and they've been a threat to the bookstores anyway is that they will eliminate the remaining stores, and, you know, that means you'll have much less access to choice. i mean everybody says, yes, you know, i can put my book on the internet and everybody will read it. well, of course, that's crazy. you know? there's millions of people who put on the first novel on the internet in the hope that somebody other than their cousin will read it. doesn't work. nobody knows the book is there. the whole publishing means making somebody publish. that's what publishers better or not manage to do. the amazon-google system works for books that people already know about. that's a very, very small percentage of the titles. again, it's great if you want to great jane austen on your
kindle, go ahead. that's not going to solve the problems of most people today. >> question here. >> i would say given that question of the potential loss of bookstores and also not wanting to be reliant on corporations like google and amazon and apple in the way they are regulating our access to digital books, do you see a role for the alternative role from books in giving the discovery of being made public? >> you know, in some ways -- it's a little early to answer that question. at the moment, only 9% of books are sold digital. america's way. europe doesn't have figured like that. there's a french publisher that did an experiment. they published series, younger
people political series, they put them on free on the web and the paper. and the sale of the paper editions is no different from what it would have been normally. which i find encouraging. so it is possible -- it maybe that you can create a duo audience, maybe the people on the web thought it was good enough to hold it in their hands and so on. we don't know the answer to that. and we -- you know, we can't really believe entirely the figures being given out for amazon. i mean amazon is making it's money by selling the kindle; right? so every figure they come out with and people have pointed out they are often disported is suggesting that everybody is going to do this. when they say they are selling more books, it means they are selling more books on kindle than hard covers and paperbacks and so on. the figures are not entirely to be believed. even if we take the overall figures in the times that 9% of
the books are being read in this way, and that number probably will increase, it'll increase only in certain categories. so i think it's just too early to know what the long term affect will be. you know, the book is still a very inexpensive and convenient object. not that many people are going to read their kindle on -- in the bathtub or on the beach and so on. i'm just anti-doe -- anecdote tally, even when i'm on the long distance flight, most people are still reading papers. whatever that means. >> yet, the book of the month clubs which were much bigger than they are now. >> right, that was prechain. the book of the month club, you used to sell, you know, at least 300,000 copies for the book of the month club selection, sometimes one million. that was because you had a country where they were bookstores only in the major