Back in April, Penguin Random House UK Chair Gail Rebuck gave a 20-minute talk at the London Book Fair’s Quantum conference, during which she shared her views on the effect technology has on books today. According to Rebuck, books will forever remain the “DNA of our civilisation”, despite the technological changes that have already happened or will happen in the future.
That is not to say, of course, that technology hasn’t changed anything. To the contrary, Rebuck believes that publishers’ jobs are made easier by the huge amount of online research tools, since they can learn more about the world’s tastes in literature. It’s not all positive, however. Rebuck also thinks that technology has its dangers. In her speech, Rebuck noted a “concerning decline in authors’ revenues”, as only one out of ten writers live on the money they make from writing. She believes that modern problems such as price deflation and more competition from other media forms could be responsible for this situation.
That being said, Rebuck urged publishers to not think of digital and physical media as “enemies”. After all, books are books, no matter how or where they’re read. She hopes for a balanced future, one which will allow the possibility of giving young writers more options for getting published, but also one in which “the uniqueness of the author” is never put under risk.
For more than 20 years, Gail Rebuck has been the most important publisher in the UK. As the head of Random House, she’s been responsible for many literacy projects and industry promotions, achieving success in a very difficult industry. Surprisingly, no one could’ve predicted this when she was appointed back in 1991; she had a reputation as a publisher of lifestyle titles rather than “serious” books. However, in the years that followed, she has become the dominant force in UK publishing.
For Rebuck, this success has come as a result of her approach to work. Failure is not an option. She wants only the best efforts from all of her employees. However, she’s not arrogant, despite her success; she believes it’s always the authors that are responsible for a publisher’s success.
Source : Albanese, Andrew “Rebuck: technology ‘cuts two ways’.” London Show Daily, April 2016, 1
Clee, Nicholas “Gail Rebuck: making things work.” London Show Daily, April 2016, 24