Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Sinking Ship



This article in the N.Y. Times details the latest textbook publishing vendor to collapse as the industry continues to flounder. It was a small shop in New York, and my alma mater Houghton Mifflin (ugh, fine, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), probably their biggest client, allegedly stopped paying them, so they stopped paying their employees. More likely, they just weren't paying them quickly enough.

That's sort of what happened when I worked at ill-fated Publicom, Inc., a vendor in Cambridge that closed down without ever paying me and many other employees our last few paychecks. (Luckily, I was like 25 years old and able to handle free time and unemployment checks with a certain grace. If that happens now I'll be S.O.L.)

The interesting thing is how well this article (sent to me by Gina, who's still in the business) sums up the work I used to find so difficult to explain to friends and family members:

"The opening pages of any respectable textbook include pictures of distinguished professors and authorities on reading or biology or whatever the subject is. They look like the people who wrote the thing, but are actually human brand nameplates. In the real world, the books are written and edited by faceless workers in textbook factory towns like New York."

Or Boston, you could add. This place is lousy with textbook companies! Ok, at least it used to be. I should knock on wood before we lose any more of them. 

(By the way it's really kind of creepy to read about your wife being a faceless person. I swear she has a face. I've seen it!) 

Anyway, it's a scary time for the business (like so many others) and I'm grateful that I got out when I could. For all of you still slogging away at the textbook factory, I'm wishing you well.


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