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'A publisher's job is to add value'

1 May 2006

'What I begin to wonder is whether we've crossed some barely visible Rubicon, beyond which commercial judgement altogether overpowers the judgement of value.

I don't subscribe to the notion that history is a dead duck, or that the appetite of readers can be satisfied by a diet of reality television

A publisher's job is to add value to the work they are about to bring into the world. An existing brand or franchise requires a great deal less risk and effort than an unknown author or a difficult subject. In the latter case the payback is less certain, the time frame longer, and the quantum smaller. But if we can't or won't tackle both ends of the equation, is there any point in being a publisher? If we leave it all to Amanda Ross (of Cactus, the originator of the Richard and Judy Book Club), already raised to the purple in the Observer's list of movers and shakers, will there be a publishing industry left to belong to?'

Anthony Cheetham, former CEO of Random Century and of Orion, now a consultant to Random House, in the Bookseller.