Yes, the culture is changing--and accelerating. The publishing industry reflects that transformation. Information can be transmitted faster and more specifically through digital media. Movies, as even Norman Mailer has acknowledged, are the dominant entertainment medium. Television is superior at capturing the moment.
So where does that leave publishing? In that necessary and useful place between information and entertainment, a realm in which stories can be told and ideas can be articulated, meticulously and artfully, for all time. As jobs go, it is a difficult but important one.
Jonathan Karp is a vice president and senior editor at Random House. His authors include the late Mario Puzo, Po Bronson and Sen. John McCain.
The statement you ask us to respond to about the current situation for publishing in America sounds like it was written by Chicken Little. It's all gloom and doom; or in the words of the immortal fowl, "The sky is falling. The sky is falling." But the sky has always been falling for publishers ever since the first day of modern publishing when Gutenberg got his machine to run and then checked the heavens before darting off for some sausage and beer for lunch. Is it difficult for publishers to acquire and sell "difficult yet important writing"? Well, sure, but in a year when the Harvard University Press sold between 15,000 and 20,000 copies of Walter Benjamin's "The Arcades Project" and about 5,000 copies of Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri's "Empire"--books that are about as difficult and important as I can imagine--I have to count my lucky stars and believe that everything is possible in America. I thank the gods that it is possible to publish such books and survive to tell the tale.