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William Hearst:I think this panel, which is our kickoff is kind of thinking about publishing, which is one of the components of literature. In some way its the process by which a lot of writing gets to a larger public, and it is itself going through a lot of transformations and we have three practitioners of publishing, editing and reviewing with us today. So lets just start. I'm just going to go by personal curiosity and then you guys can bend it back to what you want to talk about. But Ill startlets do this thing in kind of inverse, historical order. So lets start with you Elaine since city lights kind of predates all of us. And I guess the question I want to ask is what in the hell is going on with bookstores? Elaine Katzenberger:Well, I get asked that a lot, you can imagine and especially this is the 60th anniversary of city lights this year. So weve been celebrating the 60th anniversary of the bookstore itself. I dont know if I'm just in booster mode or in denial or what but I feel like bookstores are in a thriving renaissance at this point actually. There was a time a few years back where it didnt feel that way and certainly the media wasnt leading anybody to believe that that was the case. But I think that what's happening now is that people area certain number of people are definitely understanding the value of bookstores as physical places where you can go and experience reading and experience books and experience other people who are interested in those things. So from where I sit, it looks like, not only have a certain amount of us die hard remained open and in business, but there's a whole lot of new interesting bookstores being founded by young people who are passionate about books and reading too and passionate about that physical world in which they exist and which they're shared. William Hearst:Oscar, you're the middle aged institution on this panel, because this has been around for quite a while now and-- Oscar Villalon:Yes, since 85. William Hearst:Yeah, so that counts. Let me ask you, the thing I'm curious about is, do you see new approaches in writing? What do you look for whenI mean, how can youwhat makes an author assist a prospect? Oscar Villalon:Its actuallyits very direct. Its athe answer is voice really more than anything else. ThatsI think unsurprisingly probably the same thing that makes a bookstore successfully is probably going to make youfor us, we find to be very attractive for a writer, which is someone who has a voice, one has a particular intelligence thats coming from some place you may not have either heard from before or from a place that maybe familiar but they're putting a new spin on it. I think thats above all. You know, grammars nice, being able to use a grammar thats always good. On the back end, saves us time, but really, its really that voice, its about experience. You know, we, as you know, focus a lot on west coast writers. So a lot of the things that we see particularly on this voice as a lot of a, what you might call a, you know, immigrant literature or literature from various communities throughout, you know, the state reflective of bigger communities throughout the country, these sort of things. William Hearst:So I'm kind of curious, I mean, you spend a lot of your life on the critique side of the isle-- Oscar Villalon:Oh yeah. William Hearst:--kind of telling people and evaluating writers. Now you're kind of on the publishing side. What difference in perspective do you see do you experience? Oscar Villalon:Well, you know, now instead of, you know, you having to read my criticism, you get just to get just to read what I liked, you know. It cuts off the middleman, which is really-- William Hearst:We used to read what you dont like, now were-- Interviewee:Exactly. Now the things I dont like, youll never have to know about it. Its not in [???][0:03:57.7] which is, you know, much more gratifying I think, you know, for me, to be able to, you know, actually put the spotlight on someones work you really like, you know. But its implicit that we approve this, and it also, you know, its anotheras a critique, you know, one of the things you do hopefully as a critique as you're trying to discover either new talent or trying to get people to appreciate established writers who, for one reason another have not been given their due. And its about support, it really is, its about support I think, and its also about guiding and educating readers as to what you think they should be reading because they might get a lot of pleasure out of this or a lot of enjoyment or something out of this. And you know, so this is sort of like an actual extension of that by, you know, working with Laura and finding these sort of writers and again supporting them in this way and sort of different way, except now the really big difference is that unlike anything I had to do with, you know, you have the chronicle or for KQED for the California report, we do a lot of events behind that too. So not only are you, you know, publishing writers who you enjoy, who you want people to know about but you're setting up readings or doing a variety of things either through the online to get as many eyeballs as possible to see how people know about this. William Hearst:John, lets go. So you should say a little bit about what Byliners for people that dont know. But you're really at the cutting-edge of almost a new sort of literary form. Why dont you talk about that for a split second. John Tayman:Well, Byliners two years, about two years old. So were a little younger than both of these guys and we are a digital publisher and a digital reading service. So we publish original fiction and non-fiction thats written to be read in two hours or less, a space thats known as e-short, essentially. And then we also make the writers that we work with, we make their catalog stories available through a system. So it does a lot of the things that weve all been talking about. It helps you discover emerging writers. It helps you discover similar writers whether its similar based on a regionalism or on what they're writing about, things like that. William Hearst:And does Byliners sort of adapt stories for a Byliner or do you sort of commission? Do your authors kind of author for the Byliner platform? John Tayman:They author for our originals, yes. So we commission original work and it tends to fall between 5-30,000 words. William Hearst:If I see a familiar by-lines on the Byliner list of authors-- John Tayman:Yes, and we work with authors that we aren't commissioning original material through. Were trying to find larger audiences for their existing work. We also work with publishers and publications as well. William Hearst:And were youhow multiplatform are you? Are youdo you do Apple books? Do you do mobile? Do youtell us how that landscape looks. John Tayman:Sure. The titles that we sell retail, we put them in every digital retailer, Apple, Amazon, Kobo, Google Play, all the rest. We also make them available through Byliner itself and you can access Byliner on any device with internet connection whether its your iPhone through a browser or through a native iOS app, on your desktop-- William Hearst:What do you see there? What are peoplehow are people accessing literature as you see them come across the transient Byliner? Where is the flow heavy? John Tayman:The flow? Well, discovery tends to happen on the desktop and then consumption tends to happen in what people call Lean back mode, whether its on a tablet or on their phone. You were talking earlier about some of the exciting things that are going on. One of the things that were thrilled about and that weve seen happen and everybody in this room has seen happened is essentially everybody has a book with them all the time. William Hearst:Yeah, or 20 books if you have a Kindle-- John Tayman:Or a library. William Hearst:Yeah, really. John Tayman:And so the volume of reading thats going on is never been higher and thats a wonderful thing for everybody. William Hearst:Lets jump in to their curation topics since its come up sort of organically, but maybe well go down the panel and talk about, you know, how important do you think that is? Whatis the future going to be sort of all self-publishing and this kind of fire hose of originally or is it going to be much more gate camped? Do you have a sense of that? Elaine Katzenberger:I think that there are many kinds of readers. So I think that for different readers, different kinds of curation and gatekeeping if you want to use those words are going to function differently. People who are very excited about publishing something that might be, what I would say, you know, from an editors perspective, not the most accomplished writing, these are just like, sort of hobby-writers. Lets say somebody whos really interested and has a story to tell. Now they have a way to tell it and they have a way to potentially share it with other people, that is exciting, you know. And thats exciting for a lot of people who are in that position and a lot of people who want to read other works by people in that position. I dont exactly know how they filter through all of that because there is a lot of it. So I think that for the next tier of readers who want to read a little more critically maybe, that some sort of filtering system is necessary still. You know, I think that that has been traditionally the function of critiques and magazines and bookstores and publishers and various people who kind of we know things in order to present then this array and then since you have various people doing that, you know, Oscar has his own editorial sensibility, John has his, I have mine, you know, the number of people who I know are also writers and editors all would be adding that. So its still a huge volume of very varied material that gets put out there. William Hearst:Curating is an interesting word because it sort of bridges two interpretations. Theres sort of gatekeeping interpretation where you're the goalie and you're trying to keep the hockey puck of bad writing out of the net and then there's sort of the coaching implication where you're taking something that you think has promised but the person reallymaybe the piece has structured improperly or there's something that you think you could help. How much of those kinds of editingwhich fits your mode better? Elaine Katzenberger:I mean, both always happen, you know. But the interesting part is the letter, because you know, the choice of what to publish I mean, of course there's always a choice, you cant publish everything especially a publisher the size of City Lights. But even the biggest publishers dont publish everything that they have the, you know, the chance to publish. So the choice there, but the choice there isnt made always, you know, oh this writing isnt up to snuff there for now. The choice is about what Oscar was saying I would second, its like this catches my interest for some reason. This person is doing something that makes me excited and I read a lot and so if there's something in there that catches my interest and makes me feel like its either the content or the style or the way in which both of those things come inside and line up, then already something has happened that I feel thats the curation and thats the gatekeeping and you know, its because I do sit in this sort of catbird seat where I also work at City Lights Bookstore. So I see a bookstore full of the newest things that are coming out all the time. My colleagues are, you know, always curating and passionately involved in promoting what it is that they find interesting. So its an understanding too that whatever it is that I might contribute as part of that general conversation and is it adding something new? Is it too much like something else, you know, those kinds of questions come in. So I feel like the role of publishers and editors and curators and gatekeepers is you know, thats what it is, its sort of moderating the conversation from people. William Hearst:John, same question you curationed, how much, how involved do you get in that? John Tayman:Quite a bit. I mean, thats in many ways, thats our business model. We charge for stories. We do that so that we can make the writers money, but so that we could also deliver value to our readers and-- William Hearst:And you pay your writers on like a rev share basis or do you-- John Tayman:We do. William Hearst:Okay John Tayman:Yeah, we pay a straight revenue share and you know, and weve had very successful writers making six figures from a single story. William Hearst:Wow. John Tayman:But what we try and ensure is that every experience was something that they're reading from or on Byliner satisfying and thatsits satisfying because our editorial team has helped crafted with the writer or its satisfying because our editors have decided this is something that should be in the body of work that were presenting to readers or its satisfying because the way that were opening up discovery has that technology allows work so that were putting the perfect story in front of that person at the perfect moment in their life. And we do that no only-- William Hearst:And do you do that? Is that sort of an individual? Does [???][0:13:40.3] see a different Byliner that-- John Tayman:It does and it works its slice as it cross all sorts of different ways and some of it has done algorithmically and with a very technological bit. Some of it is actual human taste making including from the writers that we work with so that you can go on and get directly from a John Crack or Amy Tan or James Elroy a recommendation on what to read next within the Byliner system. William Hearst:So its not all algorithmic? It isnt algorithmic curation? John Tayman:No, I dont, you know-- William Hearst:Human taste involved. John Tayman:Yeah exactly. I think there always has to be the human element on that-- William Hearst:Do you need tons of market research? Do you sort of molecularly know what people are reading and liking? John Tayman:Well, certainly within out system we do. We keep track of everything, what's been read through to completion, which writers are being followed, which writers are being liked the most. But it also started out doing things very early on sort of trying to decode a writer genome so that out own recommendations made more sense and some of that was very obvious, you know, what publications does this writer write for what areas, what themes, what topics. But also, you know, what form are they writing, where did they grow up, where do they live now. William Hearst:How much non-fiction do you do? I mean, if we describe a Byliner as all non-fiction, it would sound like a magazine to me. John Tayman:Yeah, no, its not, we publish-- William Hearst:A time or news week. John Tayman:We publish an equal amount fiction as non-fiction. So we think in terms of-- William Hearst:Do you have stories contributors as well as-- John Tayman:Yes, we have journalists, we have novelists, we have everything else. We want somebody to be able to come in tointo Byliner and if they're in the mood for a medical thriller, they may be as likely to settle in with a [???][0:15:24.7] story as an [???][0:15:26.0] story. William Hearst:Okay. John Tayman:It is thatits that real language kind of what kind of story am I in the mood for and our goal is to deliver the precise one. William Hearst:Everybody seems very upbeat. So lets see if we can extract some negativity here. I mean, lets start, well go this way. What are you most worried about in the future of literature? Oscar Villalon:Worried. Well, you know, I mean, justso I had this conversation a while ago with a couple of people, actually with someone from City Lights and a local author talking about reading in general and so I think the numbers came out last week. I think it showseven the board people are reading, fewer people are reading literature, I mean, this sort of thing. William Hearst:What are they reading instead? Oscar Villalon:I dont know, you know, who knows-- Oscar Villalon:Other. Interviewee:Yeah, others. But one of the things to consider is that, you know, reading takes time and there's two things that you need for reading. You need a certain level of education, you need leisure, two, both things which seemed to be diminishing in American society in general. So what worries me is that as people work more and more, as they have less time to do much of anything that one of the things is going to get sacrificed is reading, which is on a passive experience, you know, you have to invest in it to get something out of the endeavor, and then education, you know, the poorer the schools do, you know, the less reading is going to be a part of an educational experience for children or I mean they know how to emphasize as much or for whatever reason not emphasize as much. You combine those two things, you know, thats bad for everybody. You know, I really, really do and what I hear people say, People dont read, people dont I think probably the reason people dont read is because they just dont have time and its really hard to compete with that and then of course TV and everything else thats out there, you know. When you talk about competitors, were all competing against basically television and whatever is on Youtube, you know. I mean, that's really what were competing against, you know. Thats, you know, taking-- William Hearst:You're competing for attention. Oscar Villalon:Absolutely, absolutely. So for me, thats really what worries me and thats, you know, to a large extent out of our hands is the publishers, etc. but its certainly something that I think is going affect us. William Hearst:John, what about you? What's on your radar? John Tayman:I'm not pessimistic about many things. I'm mostly optimistic about everything. Obviously though--