November 9, 2015
Houghton Mifflin partners with Weber Grills, inaugurating new era of publisher-brand collaboration
by Mark Krotov
What’s the central threat to the domestic publishing industry? Is it overproduction? Is it Google Books? Is it the United States government’s consistent willingness to define consumer interest in a way that actually hurts consumers and instead benefits a rapacious mega-corporation committed to destroying competition, cultural diversity, and labor standards? Or is it the fact that publishers publish books, when they should be publishing grills and other consumer goods?
Yeah, it’s definitely the grill thing. And fortunately, the publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has come up with an innovative—if partial—solution to the problem. According to a report in Publishers Weekly:
Beginning in January, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt will become the publishing partner in the U.S. and Canada for Weber-Stephen Products LLC, the manufacturer of outdoor gas, charcoal, and electric grills . . . “Weber is synonymous with grilling, and Jamie Purviance is the perfect author and spokesman for their beloved and bestselling line of cookbooks,” said Bruce Nichols, senior v-p and publisher of HMH.
In other words, while HMH is not, strictly speaking, getting into the grilling business, it is getting into the books-about-grilling business. This is certainly a kind of progress. But books, as we know, contain lies, and novels, in particular, “are just a waste of f***ing time,” according to noted literary critic Noel Gallagher.
So to really Make Publishing Great Again (buy our hat), publishers must think outside the book. To survive and flourish, they must collaborate with brands, and they must reconfigure themselves as producers of stuff, rather than deliverers of content. A few of these partnerships are already in the works, and we at MobyLives are thrilled to announce them here.
Long live book publishing! And long live brands.
New Directions and Breitling
Publishing Robert Walser is all well and good, but who needs the anxious intricacy of a Swiss writer when you can have the confident reliability of a Swiss watch? New Directions: By Breitling is a timepiece with real literary flair, and without a speck of novelistic instability.
Knopf and General Electric
Garth Risk Hallberg’s City on Fire has been hailed for its ambition, but can novels really be ambitious? They’re just bound pieces of paper with words on them! What is ambitious, however, is Knopf/General Electric’s new line of street lights, which will make New York City look and feel exactly as it did in the 1970s. New, custom-made bulbs—nearly 80% dimmer than existing lights—will be installed on selected SoHo blocks, partially concealing Warby Parker storefronts and making parked Maseratis nearly indistinguishable from bombed-out 1977 Chevrolet Caprices. It’s a novelistic experience without the strain of actually reading a novel!
New York Review Books and University of Phoenix
Last week, NYRB published the fiftieth-anniversary edition of John Williams’s Stoner, but the company has decided that the story of William Stoner can be much more effectively conveyed by confronting readers with the reality of contemporary academic life. Look for Phoenix’s new Bachelor’s in Melancholy program in 2016.
Archipelago and Kenmore
Archipelago’s success with Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle has clarified what should have been obvious all along: people like to be reminded of the darkness and cold of Scandinavia. But why publish books about this, when you can actually simulate the climatic effect? Kenmore’s newest model, the Yngve, is guaranteed to dry out any lutefisk in four hours, or your money back.
Melville House and New Era
Seriously, buy our hat.
Mark Krotov is senior editor at Melville House.