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.

From Gutenberg to Google

Michael Healy, Pace’s David J. Pecker Distinguished Visiting Professor in Publishing and Executive Director of the Book Rights Registry discusses how advances in technology are changing the way we look at books… literally.

When the dot com bubbled in the 90s, venture capitalists and internet startups around the world screamed that print was dead. While that wasn’t the case (and may never be), there’s no denying the impact recent strides in technology have had on publishing. Just hop on any plane, train, or automobile and look around—people are reading their Kindles, listening to the latest Audible.com download, catching up on current events via their iPad. On November 30, Professor Healy, gave one in a series of lectures on the future of the industry for the MS in Publishing Program and industry insiders.

Here, he shares some of his insight into the future of ePublishing.

You are involved in some of the seminal events that are shaping the future of digital publishing, such as working with publishers and authors on the Google Book Settlement. Can you tell us a bit more about that?

I am currently the Executive Director of the Book Rights Registry, a new organization that will be created as a result of the Google Book Settlement. As you may remember, there was a well-publicized class action lawsuit which was brought in 2005 by the Authors Guild and Association of American Publishers to prevent Google from displaying parts of books it had been digitizing through its relationships with a number of university libraries.  The authors and publishers felt Google’s display of the books was an infringement of copyright, a claim Google denied by saying it was “fair use”. The lawsuit was settled in October 2008 (although the settlement has not been finally approved by the judge). The proposed settlement contains several provisions: One is the establishment of a nonprofit Book Rights Registry that will represent the interests of authors and publishers in the settlement. The primary role of the organization will be to act as a place where authors and publishers can claim their books and register how they would like them to be used by Google and possibly others in the future.  When Google earns money from using the books, 63 percent of the money will go back to the Registry for distribution to the authors and publishers (once a judge approves the settlement). We have been waiting to hear the outcome since February of this year. In the meantime, my job is to prepare for the establishment of the new organization.

If the settlement is approved and the Google Book Settlement moves forward, how will this affect the publishing industry?

The settlement focuses on books that are largely still in copyright, but mainly out of print. These are an estimated seven to eight million somewhat obscure or forgotten books—books that you will find in libraries but not bookstores. One of the great benefits is that Google Books will create a mechanism for getting those hard to find, out of print books. It’s very good for both publishers and authors, as it gives them a new stream of revenue for books that were previously earning little or nothing, and great for scholars, students and other readers because it opens up a treasure trove of books previously hidden in the collections of libraries.

Michael Healy
Professor Healy discusses how the industry is evolving in this interview with The Publishing Point.

How did you get involved in the field of digital publishing?

I think I’m something of an oddity. I have been in publishing for about 25 years, in one form or another. Unlike many others, I never did much conventional print or book publishing. I have been in digital publishing my whole career. That can be surprising to people who think that digital publishing is only five years or as old… as old as the Kindle. It

has actually been around since the 70s. In the early days in the 80s, digital publishing was a phenomenon that mainly affected academic publishing—databases in library and universities, and ultimately journals. All of the excitement and controversy that’s now going on is because it’s affecting consumer and trade publishing, what many equate to the “publishing industry.” But there are other publishing sectors, such as academic, scientific, and medical, where digital technology is nothing new—those sectors have been grappling with its opportunities and challenges for some time.

You’ve been giving a series of lectures at Pace that focus on new developments in digital publishing. Can you provide some highlights from your most recent lecture?

This lecture is called “Building a Better Mousetrap: Form, Function, and the Evolution of eBooks.” It’s based on the observation that technology is radically changing the way books are promoted and delivered, and the way people are consuming with readers and tablets. The way we consume, market, and distribute books today—everything in the supply chain is subject to change. However, the books themselves are changing much more slowly: the content is not changing, only the format is changing… in a very superficial sense. A lot of eBooks are electronic facsimiles of printed equivalents. So I wanted to examine, with all the technology and innovation available to us, why that is occurring, is the text remaining largely unchanged?

It’s an interesting point that, in their current form, eBooks are little more than electronic versions of the print. Are there any areas where you are seeing innovation?

There are pockets of experimentation, and that’s what I want to explore—what they are, what they reveal about publishers and readers, what the next generation of digital books might look like. For example, I read a lot of books electronically and when I’m traveling, instead of buying several guide books, I load them onto my iPad. What struck

me about using these new types was how imperfect they were, how they were inferior in functionality to the ones I would have traditionally bought in print! Why are publishers so reluctant right now, to experiment in new forms? Travel, cookery, and all sorts of non-fiction books could be enhanced so easily and cheaply with digital technology, but it’s not happening in a significant way yet. There are one or two trade publishers who are starting to enhance books with video, and some, like Penguin, have been linking text to websites, TV adaptations, and video on the web. In cookery, you’re starting to see links to videos where you can see the finished recipe, or where you have the ability to enter information, such as ingredients, into the device to find a recipe. Interesting things are being done, but these are the exceptions rather than the norm. However, I think that will change. The appetite for digital books is high at the moment, so publishers are growing in confidence, and that builds more confidence in the medium.

How do you think this ability to “publish” affordably online is changing the industry? Do you find more and more people are deciding to just do it themselves?

Self-publishing is taking off—that’s an extraordinary phenomenon. I think the stigma is disappearing and it’s becoming more acceptable to do it. We’re going to see a great deal more of that going forward, particularly as more big-name celebrity authors start asking: Do we need traditional book publishers? For example, the well-known writer Seth Godin,

has recently announced he will be self-publishing his next book. That calls into question what is truly distinctive and valuable about the modern publisher. It used to be that authors needed publishers for production, distribution, and sales, but technology now is forcing everyone – publishers, authors, agents and booksellers – to ask where the distinctive contribution of a publisher really lies.  It’s a fascinating time to be in the industry for these reasons.

You recently came back from a conference in China about the future of digital publishing. Were there any surprises or new developments there?

They are grappling with many of the same sets of issues as we are in the United States. We may be a little further ahead in the process, but we’re all on the same journey. It was striking how similar the challenges are. The world really has shrunk.