Book Editor Strove to Bring Literature to the Masses

From The Wall Street Journal:

Jason Epstein spent a career in publishing trying to make great books readily available to the masses—and never lost his hope that more of them would share his enthusiasm.

As a young editor at Doubleday & Co. in the early 1950s, he launched Anchor Books, a line of paperbacks devoted to literature and serious nonfiction rather than the usual romances and crime stories lurking between soft covers.

In 1963, he helped found the New York Review of Books. Mr. Epstein later was a founder of the Library of America, a nonprofit that publishes new editions of books deemed classics.

He edited books by writers including V.S. Pritchett, Jane Jacobs, W.H. Auden and Norman Mailer. “I wasn’t used to working with someone who might be a lot brighter than I am,” Mr. Mailer once said of his experience with Mr. Epstein.

In the mid-2000s, Mr. Epstein co-founded On Demand Books to supply Espresso Book Machine printers that can produce paperbacks in minutes at the point of sale. He predicted the service would transform publishing by cutting out middlemen. Usage of the machines has been meager, partly due to resistance from publishers.

Mr. Epstein, who died Feb. 4 at age 93, remained optimistic. “I’ve never been wrong about the future of the business,” he told the New York Times in 2001. “It sounds boastful. But it’s not boastful to tell the truth.”

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (PG apologizes for the paywall, but hasn’t figured out a way around it.)

2 thoughts on “Book Editor Strove to Bring Literature to the Masses”

  1. Usage of the machines has been meager for far more practical reasons. They take a lot of space, are slow, are expensive, and have a very low number of available titles (from what I’ve read – I’ve never seen one).

    They are trying to replicate Amazon – with zero economies of scale.

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