André Schiffrin spent 30 years atop Pantheon Books and now runs the New Press. In Words and Money (Verso), he complains about the supposed dominance of the corporate mentality in publishing. But he seems unable to specify exactly how this mentality has harmed the lives of readers.
Schiffrin makes sourceless assertions about slashed library budgets (in fact, from 2002 to 2008 American public library expenditures rose 9 percent in inflation-adjusted terms), and he hails Europe for subsidizing small bookstores and publishers. While insisting that public funding of media needn’t equal control, he notes that in France and Italy, “presidents are obsessed with controlling the media.”
In the meantime, Schiffrin barely recognizes the Internet and the unparalleled access it offers to book buying, distribution, and reading. You get the impression that he doesn’t really care about access to books. He’s just mad people aren’t forced to support the kind of books and businesses he likes. —Brian Doherty