Pace In Publishing: The Write Stuff

Publishing Professor Jane Kinney-Denning sits down with longtime professor, champion, and founding member of the Publishing program, Professor Allan Rabinowitz, to talk about his career at Pace, why publishing is no longer an “accidental profession,” and his plans for the future.

Professors Sherman Raskin and Allan Rabinowitz

Professor Allan Rabinowitz has had a long and illustrious professional and academic career. He has worked in the corporate sector in many different capacities and as a Professor of Accounting and Publishing at Pace University for the past 50 years. With his wealth of knowledge and practical real world experience, he has positively impacted the lives and careers of countless students and colleagues as well as many business and publishing professionals. After teaching his last course this summer, Professor Rabinowitz will be retiring so that he can spend more time with his family, travel, and of course, read!

Jane Kinney-Denning:  Hi Allan and thank you for agreeing to be interviewed for the MS in Publishing blog. You have had a remarkable career in both the professional and academic worlds. Can you tell us a bit about your work and the path that led you to where you are today?

Allan Rabinowitz:  I graduated from Pace with a Public Accounting major, was set up with interviews by Career Planning, and became an Auditor for an international CPA firm. During my last year with them, I was in charge of the audit of the Crowell–Collier Publishing Company, listed on the New York Stock Exchange, which was later renamed Macmillan, Inc. It was a multinational corporation involved in publishing, printing, home study and classroom instruction, distribution and retailing, and manufacturing. The Company then hired me as Manager, Corporate Accounting Department and appointed me subsequently in a series of financial executive positions as Manager, Corporate Internal Audit; Controller, Macmillan Book Clubs, Inc.; Controller, Mail Marketing Division; Assistant Controller, Macmillan, Inc.; and Vice President–Finance, Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc.

My next position was Controller of Gilman Paper Company, which manufactured paper and paper bags, owned lumber mills and hundreds of thousands of acres of timberlands, and bred racehorses. I then re-entered publishing as the Vice President of Finance of Family Weekly (today USA Weekend), a weekend newspaper magazine appearing in approximately 360 papers throughout the U.S. This privately owned company was acquired by CBS as part of its Magazine Division. Next up was the position of Executive Vice President and Treasurer of The Scribner Book Companies, where the Board of Directors elected me President several months later. I was also on the Board of the Scribner Book Stores. Entrusted by the Scribner family to sell the Company, I negotiated its acquisition by Macmillan, Inc. and I became the President of its Scribner Books Division. After integrating Scribner into Macmillan, I joined Williams Real Estate Company as its CFO, before beginning to teach full-time at Pace in 1989, where I had been an Adjunct Professor since 1962.

At various times since 1979, I have done consulting for numerous entities, principally in the publishing industry, and conducted accounting and auditing education sessions for many organizations.

Denning: I know you were instrumental in the creation of the MS in Publishing program. Can you tell us a bit about how and why it was created?

Rabinowitz: In November 1979, I was asked by Dr. Edward Mortola, then the Pace President, to attend a meeting that would discuss the feasibility of a graduate program in publishing studies. Sherman Raskin, then English Department Chair, was also present at that meeting along with other interested parties. Over the ensuing years, it was decided that New York City was an ideal site for such a program, a beginning curriculum was formulated, New York State approval was received and an Advisory Board was formed in 1985. My years in the publishing industry equipped me to propose Advisory Board candidates who I held in high regard, a number of whom continue to serve.

Denning: At the time the program was started, publishing was still considered to be an “accidental profession.” Why did you think a graduate degree in publishing was necessary/important then? Why do you think it is valuable today?

Rabinowitz: We continue to believe that Pace was the innovator of graduate publishing education. In 1985, remarkably few industry employees had engaged in such formal studies. They were generally stereotyped as editorial, marketing, sales, distribution or production area personnel and too often considered unsuited for positions in other areas, let alone for moving between books and magazines and newspapers.  Too few of these people understood the full sweep of the publishing processes. We strongly felt this needed to change, by having publishing personnel equipped with ample understanding, mobility and enhanced ability to advance in their careers and provide enhanced value to their employers.

Today, with change in the industry occurring more quickly than ever, we want to give our students a solid base from which to launch and then maintain successful careers. This has motivated us to consistently supply them with the cutting edge of knowledge demanded of successful industry employees.

Denning: What are some of the major changes you have seen in the publishing industry that you find interesting, remarkable, game changing? How has the industry changed since you were working in it?

Rabinowitz: I recall reading and hearing in the early 1970’s that the book’s days were numbered and that they would soon disappear. Those predictions appear to have been premature but what has occurred during the past decade more than makes up for all the previous non-eventful years. We are now in an era of constant and significant change, with no end in sight. When I entered the field as an auditor in 1962, book publishing was still considered a “gentleman publisher’s” profession where mid-size houses thrived and independent bookstores dominated book retailing. At Scribner’s, privately owned before its sale in 1984, I relished that environment and the freedom of movement and innovation that it offered. Macmillan, Inc. in the 1960’s was constantly buying companies connected in any way to publishing and education. Other organizations began doing the same in the publishing industry, buying the smaller houses with well-known names, which became imprints in complex organizations. A similar trend took place in the magazine field but, despite these developments, many new magazines are launched by individuals and increasing numbers of books are self-published each year.

Denning: I know you are a collector of books and love everything about them. Can you tell us a bit about your collection?

Rabinowitz: My collection comprises in excess of 20,000 books, each of them selected by me as something I would wish to read and most probably retain. I have two good sized rooms filled with floor to ceiling bookcases, except for the window areas and doorway. There are bookcases in almost every other room including the kitchen, which houses my wife’s extensive cookbook collection, and in the garage. Some books came from the publishing companies for whom I worked but the great majority were purchased at sales in houses, garages, yards, libraries, religious institutions and schools, at auctions and at bargain prices. My workspaces at home are in book-filled rooms and I find special warmth and delight in being surrounded by them.

Denning: As someone who has a special appreciation of the printed book, would you share your thoughts about how technology is changing the industry and about eBooks in particular?

Rabinowitz: I have yet to read a book on an electronic device and have some doubt that I ever will have that need. I love public libraries and frequent them when I go on a lengthy vacation so I don’t have to carry many books with me. I applaud the use of technological advances in reading books, magazines, and newspapers and do believe that their use will continue to grow very quickly and create many new readers of all ages. I do not believe that printed books will disappear anytime soon for there are so many people who grew up with them and want to continue enjoying them. Then too, there are some types of books that will sell best in traditional form.

To read the full interview with Professor Allan Rabinowitz, visit the MS in Publishing Blog.