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IP3 Today - The snobbery of publishing: Colin Walsh

Colin Walsh FIP3

The Snobbery of Publishing

That common leveller, the Internet, dictates that the publishing game, as we knew it in the 20th Century, is over.

Copyright protection, like it or not, will eventually go, just as the Net Book Agreement did. Secondhand books will sell in increasing quantities and the buyers on eBay and Amazon won’t give a damn whether or not the publisher and author lose out. It’s goodbye to all that. The web appeals to the many who question why publishing houses should be the gatekeepers of information. We’re all publishers now, or at least we can be.

Little of this could have been prophesised when I took my first tottering steps in publishing on the Spectator, thirty-six years ago. The most evident truism then revealed to me was that Oxbridge ruled, and you kept quiet about a ‘redbrick’ degree. Publishing was a club of certainties, where public schools and an Oxbridge college – ‘the old col’ – were a sine qua non. It was not explicit: it was simply woven into the publishing fabric.

There was, and it remains so today, also a strong ‘them and us’ barrier between editorial and advertising, between literary ability and cloggy money-grubbing. Part of my job was to hold up to four literary lunches a week, a beating both for the liver and one’s marriage. You could invite the publicity manager who would bring an author, but you would never invite anyone inky, a designer or production manager. And you did not hint, for a moment, that there was any connection between the lavish hospitality and a slice of the publisher’s advertising budget.