May 28, 2021

Print primacy praised by PRH panjandrum; dohle doubles down


German inventor Johannes Gutenberg, widely credited with inventing the printing press.

We were giving ourselves a brief respite from poring over page proofs when our eye was caught by a headline quoting Penguin Random House Chief Executive Officer Markus Dohle as saying that “this is the best time in publishing since Gutenberg.” Whoa! The best time since Gutenberg! Have our eyes been closed? Always eager for good news about our vocation, we dove into this tidbit eagerly.

The article, published in the arcane and top-secret hamizdat channel known as “Shelf Awareness,” was reporting on “a conversation” between Markus (“Big Daddy”) Dohle and “organizational psychologist and author Adam Grant … hosted by Penguin Random House and Publishers Weekly to kick off the U.S. Book Show.” Um … okay! (I guess I didn’t know we still had a U.S. Book Show? Bueller? Bueller?) We pressed on avidly, almost desperate for hopeful words from above …

Markus (“Prez”) Dohle cited a number of reasons for optimism, including, uh, “robust business models” and a growing “addressable audience.” Our smiles of joy growing a bit forced, we pushed on. Markus (“Jefe”) Dohle said that PRH is “channel agnostic,” adding that “we don’t want to tell our readers where to buy books.”  Ayyyyy-eeeeuummmm … actually, managing editors at small indie-press distribution clients of PRH are, contra Markus (“Cool Papa”) Dohle, perfectly happy and very willing to tell “our” readers where to buy books. Like, how about, at independent bookstores? Or even Barnes and Noble? You could even, soon, maybe, come right the [redacted] down to John Street and buy our books directly FROM US? Or anyplace at all, really, other than [redacted] Bueller?

[Editor’s note: the managing editor has been relieved of the responsibility of writing this post. We apologize for the disruption. AS]

The article, by Shelf Awareness Senior Editor Jennifer M. Brown, noted that author Grant was a “strong sparring partner,” even as Dohle emphasized that it remains Penguin Random House’s goal to “sustain, protect, and support the authors’ income.” The PRH CEO ended by quoting iconic author Margaret Atwood’s words that “you’re never going to kill storytelling.”



Michael Lindgren is the Managing Editor at Melville House.