Entrepreneur and consultant Richard Nash will give the opening address at the Australian Booksellers Association conference in July. He tells Angela Meyer why he’s passionate about connecting writers with readers in the ever-changing world of publishing.
You’re coming to Australia in July to give the opening address at the ABA conference. Can you share some of the things you’ll be discussing with Australian booksellers?
The key thing is community. While reading is a solitary activity, talking about books is profoundly social. Some of our most intimate social interactions are around books—books, after all, demand most of our minds so they are the most emblematic of our minds. Two people who’ve shared the experience of having a singular voice inside their heads for 15 hours have much more connecting them than two people who laugh at the same five generic sitcom jokes. In the US, Oprah is considered the saviour of books, but I think books were the saviour of Oprah. Her ratings were really just average, but she figured if she could get her core audience reading a book together for three months then she was there with them in their bedroom, during their lunch break, in their heads for all their waking hours. By being their book recommender, she could become their best friend, a status far more powerful than a talkshow host. And if booksellers and publishers and other intermediaries between writer and reader can learn to harness some of that power …
Can you tell us a bit about your background in publishing and what led to your current profession and interests?
I ran a quirky independent publisher called Soft Skull Press—part Scribe, part Text, part Spinifex. We were basically part of the first wave of the digital revolution, the production wave, or the desktop publishing revolution, where what it cost to design and typeset a book collapsed. My time in publishing, which effectively began in 2001, has been one of constant change and I realised in early 2009 that not only would the industry never stabilise, the rate of change was also increasing. And I wanted to be in a position where I could be better oriented.
Why is it important for Australian booksellers to be aware of ‘publishing 3.0’ and can you explain that term a little?
Publishing 3.0 could be called Publishing Ground Zero too. The business of publishing is the business of connecting writers and readers. Full stop. A reader pays a certain amount of money and/or time to the author, and some intermediaries take slices of that money the reader intends to give the writer for services we intermediaries have rendered. Given that the supply of books has increased so dramatically, we now need to justify again why we take out slices. The primary service we can offer is match-making because any website can offer selection. So we all—agents, publishers, wholesalers, booksellers—need to comprehend that we’re in the reader-writer connection business, or we’re out of business. Continue reading