Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Business of Books: How International Conglomerates Took Over Publishing and Changed the Way We Read” as Want to Read:
The Business of Books: How International Conglomerates Took Over Publishing and Changed the Way We Read
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Business of Books: How International Conglomerates Took Over Publishing and Changed the Way We Read

3.78  ·  Rating Details  ·  247 Ratings  ·  37 Reviews
“A riveting chronicle of the rise and fall of the American reader.”—Village Voice

Post-war American publishing has been ruthlessly transformed since André Schiffrin joined its ranks in 1956. Gone is a plethora of small but prestigious houses that often put ideas before profit in their publishing decisions, sometimes even deliberately. Now six behemoths share 80% of the mark
Paperback, 178 pages
Published November 17th 2001 by Verso (first published 1999)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Business of Books, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Business of Books

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. RowlingThe Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen ChboskyThe Bad Beginning by Lemony SnicketGirl With a Pearl Earring by Tracy ChevalierSpeak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Best Books of 1999
167th out of 264 books — 136 voters
The Name of the Rose by Umberto EcoFahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury84, Charing Cross Road by Helene HanffThe Book Thief by Markus ZusakThe Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer
Books on Books: Bookmaking, Biblioclasm, Bibliophilia
243rd out of 259 books — 302 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 529)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Justin Evans
Mar 14, 2015 Justin Evans rated it really liked it
Shelves: history-etc, essays
When I searched for this book on goodreads *by its title*, the first two suggestions were a freakonomics sequel and a Malcolm Gladwell book, which more or less proves that Schiffrin is right and large publishing conglomerates who expect each individual book to make a profit, and each publisher to make a super-profit, are simply incapable of printing good, worthwhile books.

When I finally found it, the two first reviews were both from people who read this book before setting up their own press. I
Jan 07, 2016 Hosho rated it it was amazing
At once, both an insider's personal history of publishing in America post-WWII, and a clear-eyed indictment of it.

If you've ever wonder what happened to the wide-ranging, thoughtful, and socially irascible books, those provocative and culture-making imprints like Pantheon and Grove Press, those wild-eyed, counter-culture, and truly dangerous authors and's your answer.

Spoiler alert: the risk-averse giant, greedhead media conglomerates and their cabal of bottom-line bean-counters ar
Apr 12, 2016 Matias rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ominoso y deprimente, por suerte la edición en Paraguay es de tan dudosa calidad en las "grandes editoriales" que, localmente, todavía no corren el riesgo de sufrir el mismo destino que las editoriales americanas y europeas.
Mar 23, 2014 Will rated it it was amazing
Man, it bums me out that I'll never get to know André Schiffrin, the man is in an inspiration to me starting Deep Vellum, and I strive to follow in his footsteps--for example, I wrote a little piece about starting Deep Vellum in 2014 that merely echoes so much of what he wrote in this book in 2000! Beyond prescient, a sage, a mountain of a man, a publisher of integrity, a role model. RIP, sir.

"What has happened to the work of publishers is no worse than what has taken place in other liberal prof
Aug 14, 2010 Lobstergirl rated it liked it
Shelves: books-on-books
A chilling tale of how consolidation among publishers and the demand for short-term profits led to the decline of quality books (including among university presses). Schiffrin edited at Pantheon for many years; his father, a Jewish European exile who fled Vichy France, was the founder of the well-respected publishing house Editions de la Pléiade before founding Pantheon. Once S.I. Newhouse bought Random House, things began to go downhill for Pantheon, and Schiffrin was forced out. In 1990 he fou ...more
Nov 10, 2015 Rand marked it as to-read
Recommends it for: bookwvrms
Recommended to Rand by: Brookline Booksmith
I bought a remaindered copy of this title in 2008 but never read it before later losing the copy in a move.

The two gentleman on either side of the counter when I purchased my copy made much in the way of comment upon my transaction.

Relevant link.
Apr 24, 2016 Stephen rated it liked it
Shelves: 2016
Andre Schiffrin, a longtime editor at Pantheon before he was forced out by corporate ownership who prized profit more than culture, was the founder of the New Press and, by his account, a publisher with a keen sense of scale and focus on fighting the good fight. His memoir, which occasionally devolves into lists of important writers he's published (one doesn't get the sense he's boasting about his editorial acumen; rather he touts these writers, who he clearly values), is a fascinating look at A ...more
Nov 17, 2015 Catherine rated it liked it
Shelves: read-nonfiction
A solid 3.5 stars on this one. Memoir of one of the grand old men in traditional publishing, one who watched the giant corporate takeovers and consolidations of the last several decades from a ringside seat. It's a history that ends before the advrbtnifbtge ebook, but is still quite relevant for understanding how book publishing got to the point it's at now. My only criticisms are with the rather self-congratulatory tone and a certain level of intellectual snobbery in his writing. It uncommon fo ...more
Feb 22, 2008 Tosh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Since I started my Press I've read a lot of memoirs by publishers about their presses. This is an interesting book because it deals with the nature of capitalism in the book business. Most companies are purchased by larger companies and they become something else. Sometimes they become less interesting or a water-down version of their work in the past. The argument in this book is regarding the future of publishing and how it is chasing the dollar and in results sort of a dumming down or ignorin ...more
Jul 03, 2012 Travis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Books today have become mere adjuncts to the world of the mass media, offering light entertainment and reassurances that all is for the best in this, the best of all possible worlds. The resulting control on the spread of ideas is stricter than anyone would have thought possible in a free society. The need for public debate and open discussion, inherent in the democratic ideal, conflicts with the ever-stricter demand for total profit."

"The idea that our society has been fundamentally affected b
Alia Salleh
Apr 16, 2016 Alia Salleh rated it it was amazing
In simple fluent language and sharp experienced eyes Schiffrin shared his experience in the USA publishing world, with particular concern on the effects of corporate takeovers on small independents. While the experience is American (and some British anecdotes), it is valuable for any local publishing scenes especially the dynamics of publishing houses and trends on public opinion.
Mike Violano
Aug 08, 2012 Mike Violano rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book which is part history of post-WWII publishing, part memoir, and part critique of the publishing business mergers and acquisitions and its effect on literary publishing. As a memoir, Schiffrin is more bitter than sweet although his anecdotes about authors are fun and revealing. The historical notes document the breakthrough titles and authors of classics from Dr Zhivago, Anne Morrow Lindberg's Gift from the Sea, Studs Lonergan by James T. Farrell and oral histories by Studs Tu ...more
This book isn't exactly brimming with piz-zazz. As utterly fascinating as the subjects are it reads like a scholarly journal for most of it.
The best parts are where Schiffrin gives personal insights into the lives and personalities of some the great book publishers.
There is no doubt in my mind the Schiffrin is someone I'd like to have over for dinner and listen to more stories of publishing's successes and failures.
But without that pre-dinner drink in his hand it may all still be a bit dry.
It is
Mar 06, 2008 Karen rated it liked it
I got to thinking about this book recently. (Read: I was going through piles of stuff in my room and found this in one of the layers.) Anyway,

Schiffrin's book revealed much to me about the problems and perils in publishing. He alerted me to the dangers of placing commerce before culture. He uses his extensive experience to illustrate how publishing has changed, providing a detailed and diligent account. Also, I appreciate that he offers and examines solutions.

Another reader once told me that he
Agathe B
Apr 16, 2014 Agathe B rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Parfois manichéen
Écueil ou nécessité de l'engagement ?
Un témoignage inscrit dans le passé, faisant écho à une lutte désormais perdue
Que penserait schiffrin de l'état actuel de l'édition ?
Jeff Phillips
Apr 05, 2012 Jeff Phillips rated it it was amazing
I learned of this book perusing the site of the small press Two Dollar Radio, and am glad I learned of it, and eventually read it. Not only does it reflect the publishing industry, but of production and communication in general being driven by an obsession with money and growth. The final chapter has left me reverberating with both despair at how business in general is orchestrated by a handful of corporations, but with excitement at the hope of restarting industry from the ground up, with enoug ...more
Nov 23, 2008 Katie rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Another really interesting look at the changing history of the book publishing industry from an insider. Schiffrin's book is a bit more pessimistic than Jason Epstein's (in fact, Schiffrin attacks Epstein in The Business of Books for being too optimistic about the future of book publishing). And, clearly, as Schiffrin's experience at Pantheon demonstrates, the changes that have been brought to publishing as a result of corporate takeover leave much to be lamented. Even so, Schiffrin's new endeav ...more
Apr 29, 2008 Todd rated it really liked it
Made me realize how political the book/publishing industry is. Partly an autobiography, partly a survey of the business, and very much a critique of how greedy and anti-intellectual the industry has become.

It's kind of ridiculous how many names he drops and how many people he has met over the years, but I guess it comes with the territory. For example, he signed Matt Groenig in the early 1990s just as The Simpsons was getting huge. He drops all of these names casually as well as the titles of m
Jan 31, 2009 Stuart rated it really liked it
Always was wondering just how corporate buyouts really were changing what I had access to as a reader. Well, here's the insider who has told it all. Awfully personal, awfully insiderish, but awfully clear-eyed about the corporate, bottom-line, best seller influences on the book world. Wasn't expecting to really get into this, but it was a one sitting dessert.

Schiffrin was responsible for first publishing Studs Terkel's books, found him based on some radio broadcast transcripts from Chicago. His
A careful, important informative look at the alteration of publishing from a visionary pursuit, the "gentleman's career" into a profit-driven market. Schiffrin is old-hat at publishing and a voice much needed in today's economic climate. I was reminded of the importance of small publishers and independent bookstores, and to the necessity of introducing readers to books in the old custom of intellectual stimulation and growth, distinct from the prevalent pursuit of financial gluttony.
Jul 28, 2011 Pauline rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
J'ai beaucoup apprécié ce livre. L'auteur y fait un portrait du système éditorial aux Etats-Unis qui est vraiment... très surprenant! (même si on sait déjà pas mal de choses sur le sujet). A travers l'exemple de "sa" maison d'édition, l'auteur nous plonge totalement dans son univers, et on a envie d'en savoir plus, de savoir comment les choses ont évolué.

Seul petit bémol, quelques passages un peu lourds, plus difficiles à lire.
Dec 05, 2012 Amanda rated it liked it
Very interesting read, though had some scary information about the publishing world! There seems to be more to the story though than Schiffrin offers, and I would have liked for him to explore some of the strengths of publishing house changes. All in all, though, I am a big supporter of independent book stores and publishing companies making decisions based on social change instead of profit gain.
Apr 10, 2008 Portia rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Lindsey Reilly
Recommended to Portia by: Read about it in Harper's magazine, in Schiffrin's own commentar
A very interesting accout from Andre' Schiffrin. This is a definitely a good book for anyone entering the publishing industry to read, about how very different publishing was before corporate conglomerates took over the industry. Also interesting for students of mass communication, journalism or related fields.

Looking forward to his most recent book as well.

Nov 08, 2011 Tishon rated it it was amazing
A fascinating and alarming (though not surprising) look into the world of publishing from the vantage point of a publishing vanguard. I'd recommend this to anyone interested in how we get information and who controls that information.

It's a quick, sharp and enjoyable read.
Jan 05, 2011 Kirstie rated it liked it
Shelves: misc
This book gives a history of the book publishing business starting just before World War II. It's sad to see how corporate America as really censored the market by not being willing to publish books that won't make a lot of money.
Jul 15, 2012 Brian rated it really liked it
Very educational, very interesting, but almost feels cut short. Starts slow, but then again, the first chapter tends to be when it's covering the first thirty or so years of post-war (WWII) publishing.
Chris Kepner
Aug 13, 2010 Chris Kepner rated it really liked it
This is an engrossing account of how publishing changed in the second half of the 20th century. Schiffrin discusses disturbing issues like market censorship in this informative yet accessible volume.
Kevin Kosar
Jul 06, 2011 Kevin Kosar rated it it was ok
I am glad a friend recommended this book to me. However, my review of it is less than enthusiastic. See it at
Mar 06, 2007 Johnathan rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: writers, people in publishint
This is a quick but thoroughly depressing read that shows how publishing has gotten swallowed up by big corporations. It also describes what publishing used to be like--noble and artistically driven.
May 24, 2013 Jeannette rated it liked it

Actually it was a 'fun' read. I loved to learn more about publishing. However, as much as I enjoyed André Schiffrin story, I didn't learn anything new about publishing and I'm no expert.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 17 18 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Book Business: Publishing Past, Present and Future
  • Merchants of Culture: The Publishing Business in the Twenty-First Century
  • Publishing for Profit: Successful Bottom-Line Management for Book Publishers
  • So Many Books: Reading and Publishing in an Age of Abundance
  • The Economy of Prestige: Prizes, Awards, and the Circulation of Cultural Value
  • The Coming of the Book: The Impact of Printing 1450-1800
  • Editors on Editing: What Writers Need to Know About What Editors Do
  • Every Book Its Reader: The Power of the Printed Word to Stir the World
  • The Case for Books: Past, Present, and Future
  • Common Errors in English Usage
  • Books: A Living History
  • The Subversive Copy Editor: Advice from Chicago (or, How to Negotiate Good Relationships with Your Writers, Your Colleagues, and Yourself)
  • The Vagina: A Literary and Cultural History
  • The Copyeditor's Handbook: A Guide for Book Publishing and Corporate Communications, with Exercises and Answer Keys
  • The Art of War for Writers: Fiction Writing Strategies, Tactics, and Exercises
  • The Nature of the Book: Print and Knowledge in the Making
  • Enchanted Hunters: The Power of Stories in Childhood
  • The Printing Revolution in Early Modern Europe
André Schiffrin is a European-born American author, publisher and socialist (born 1935).
Schiffrin is the son of Jacques Schiffrin, a Russian Jew who emigrated to France and briefly enjoyed success there as publisher of the Bibliothèque de la Pléiade, which he founded, and which was bought by Gallimard, until he was dismissed on account of the anti-Jewish laws enforced by the Vichy regime. Jacques
More about André Schiffrin...

Share This Book