National Arts Journalism Program
2950 Broadway, Mail Code 7200
New York, NY 10027

tel: 212.854.1912, fax: 212.854.8129
The Changing Business of Trade Books, 1975–2002

To order "Best and Worst of Times," please send a check for $20 payable to NAJP/Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism to:
Columbia Graduate School of Journalism
2950 Broadway
Mail Code 7200
New York, NY 10027
Attn: Best and Worst of Times

View/print the report [pdf]
Full symposium summary

BEST AND WORST OF TIMES: THE CHANGING BUSINESS OF TRADE BOOKS, 1975–2002 uses interviews, historical research, observational sessions and a detailed study of bestsellers and best books to understand the present, touch on the future and give history its due.

Veteran publishing journalist Gayle Feldman carried out this project during a National Arts Journalism Program research fellowship at Columbia University.

During the past quarter century, publishing has undergone tremendous change, driven primarily by consolidation, new technology and a general cultural shift in favor of celebrity and mass entertainment. Consolidation has taken place in every sector, from publishing houses to booksellers to distributors and beyond. As for new technology, only consider that 25 years ago did not exist. And Oprah, among others, has taught us about the role of celebrity in the lives of books, authors and readers.

Some of the headline-making challenges and difficulties we see in the book business today were already predicted more than a half-century ago. Some of what we regard as "change" isn't change at all.

Although the past few decades have brought serious distortion and increased pressures to bear on the business, they have also brought previously unimagined levels of opportunity. By studying both the wider context and the books themselves, this report analyzes these changes and how they have manifested themselves for good and for ill.

NAJP : Publications : Research Reports : Best and Worst of Times