Episode 366 – My Back Pages with Richard Charkin

Richard CharkinPublishing as an industry has more than its fair share of extraordinary people, but there are few to rival Richard Charkin. Over his 50-year career he’s worked in almost every area of publishing from children’s book to scientific journals, and has not just witnessed but been instrumental in steering the industry from its gentleman’s club background to the hi-tech, diverse, commercially competitive sector it is today. 

But after decades of senior leadership in major publishing houses, he’s just taken on his greatest challenges: launching a start-up publishing company and writing a book himself. I asked him how that’s going, and why he decided against an index… 



My Back Pages: https://www.marblehillpublishers.co.uk/page/my-back-pages

Mensch Publishing: https://menschpublishing.com/

Alison on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/alison-jones-9b09893/

Power Up Your Writing workshop at Gladstone’s Library: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/power-up-your-writing-workshop-tickets-600773689277

WriteBrained: A 28-day exploratory writing adventure: https://pi-q.learnworlds.com/course?courseid=writebrainedcourse

The Extraordinary Business Book Club on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1447064765612358/

Alison Jones: I’d like to introduce you today to the force of nature that is Richard Charkin, who is a former president of the IPA, the International Publishers Association, and the UK Publishers Association, and for 11 years was Executive Director of Bloomsbury Publishing plc. He’s held many senior posts at major publishing houses, including Macmillan, Oxford University Press, Current Science Group, and Reed Elsevier. There are many others.

He’s recently founded his own business, Mensch Publishing. And his biography, My Back Pages: An undeniably personal history of publishing 1972-2022, has just been published by Marble Hill Publishers.

So first of all, welcome to the show, Richard, it is terrific to have you here.

Richard Charkin: Well, it’s lovely to be here. Lovely to see you, Alison. We worked together many years ago. Well, not that many years ago.

Alison Jones: It feels like yesterday, doesn’t it? It is actually quite, quite a number of years ago now, but yes.

Richard Charkin: You may notice I’m wearing a Macmillan shirt. One of my great challenges in my post 70 year old life is to use up all previous promotional t-shirts.

Alison Jones: Do you know, I worked for Macmillan for 14 years, I never got a promotional t-shirt, so I’m starting to wonder, you know, I wasn’t in the right circles and that is, honestly, I think that’s the story of our relationship: is while you were leading these companies, I was sort of being a minion down, down below, but bumping into you in the canteen every now and again and at book fairs and so on.

So, yes, both of us worked I think concurrently at Oxford University Press and overlapped at Macmillan and yes, lots and lots, but that’s publishing for you, isn’t it?

Richard Charkin: It is, it is. One of the things about this book I’ve written, which we’ll get into, but just a sort of observation, is that when I set off, I decided I didn’t want to write anything horrid about a living person.

Alison Jones: Which must have been quite tempting, let’s face it.

Richard Charkin: Well, there were some temptations, but when I got to the end, I realized I didn’t really want to be horrid because actually it’s a very welcoming industry and nearly everyone is a friend.

There were one or two exceptions, but really, really only one or two. And overall it’s a very decent industry.

Alison Jones: I think that’s really true. I think it’s one of the reasons that people stay there despite the terrible salaries, and there are very many, many reasons to do other things in life, is there is something magical about being involved in producing books and the people who do it, as you say, on the whole, tend to be really interesting, creative, good people.

Richard Charkin: Yes, absolutely. I mean, I’m sure that’s true in other industries, but anyway, this is the industry I know, and you know, and certainly it applies here.

Alison Jones: And that industry, I mean, reading your book and I obviously, I remember so many of the, you know, I was early in the stages of digital publishing and so on, so, so much of this was very familiar to me. It’s very interesting to hear your perspective on it.

Of course you can’t condense the book in like 15 seconds, but what do you think, as you did that work of looking back on the industry, what would you think were the big changes that you noticed and articulated over that career, over the extraordinary career of yours?

Richard Charkin: Okay. Big changes. Women.

By far the biggest change socially and in the industry, has been women. When I started, there were very, very few women in senior positions, and now, I don’t know what the percentages are, but extraordinarily high number of women in, and making good decisions and doing it and being publishers and being whatever they want to be.

So that I would say is the single biggest change.

Alison Jones: And it’s really interesting and I remember this at Oxford University Press as well, although of course by the time I was there in the nineties, there were quite a lot of women and Kim Scott Walwyn had really pioneered and nobody could ever say that women couldn’t do commissioning after she had led the humanities list at Oxford.

But there was a little cartoon somebody had up outside their door that said, a strong hierarchy needs a solid foundation of women at the bottom. And it did feel a bit like that.

Richard Charkin: That’s very good. That’s, I’m looking here, yes, so in the book, there’s that picture, was the board of Oxford University Press when I joined…

Alison Jones: describe it for those listening rather than watching.

Richard Charkin: Okay. It’s 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11. White men…

Alison Jones: …of an age…

Richard Charkin: …aged from 50 to 65. And yes, they were the people running the business.

Alison Jones: They were well-off blokes, mostly graduated from Oxbridge.

Richard Charkin: Well, I don’t know whether they were well off. I don’t think they made lots of money, but they were certainly from privileged backgrounds. I think all bar one went to a private school and I think probably all of them went to Oxbridge.

Alison Jones: And it very much was a gentleman’s occupation, wasn’t it? With the emphasis on the gentleman and the man. So what do you think was the driver behind the change? Was it a societal thing generally, or was it something specific about publishing?

Richard Charkin: Well, clearly a societal element in that but I think in publishing, well, unlike coal mining, it was quite feasible for a woman to lead the business. It’s quite hard to be the lead coal miner down a mine. I mean, that would be problematic. Also that we’re in an industry where the raw materials, in other words, authors, are frequently women and indeed the buyers, the market, is pretty female, so it’s not surprising that once we got over the hangup that only men could run things, that women emerged and flourished and basically control most of the businesses now.

So I think it’s partly societal and partly the industry itself.

Alison Jones: Yes, so you are right, it’s a mix isn’t it, of the two things. But it’s so interesting how so many of the leaders in the publishing world today are women and it’s great to see. We’re still, I think working on the other aspects of diversity, but we’re getting there. And at least it’s being sort of measured now, isn’t it?

Another element of the change in the industry over those 50 years, that you speak about in the book a lot is digitization and you really were there back right in the early years of the Oxford English Dictionary being digitized and so on, weren’t you? Just tell us a little bit about that.

Richard Charkin: Well, actually it predates that, there was a meeting at the Publisher’s Association to set up a new company, which would represent every publisher’s information, it was called Publisher’s Database Limited. We were all going to pour our stuff into this thing and sell it and that never happened. And I was on that and I voted against it and it didn’t happen.

And then the next one was OUP, frequently in its history, I don’t think they’d mind my saying this, suffered from a lack of money. It’s not so much nowadays, they seem to have got their act together, but certainly in my time they frequently didn’t have any money.

And so part of my job was to try to find money and out of nowhere, part of publishing job is to find money out of nowhere. And I managed to strike a deal with an American electronic publisher called Dictronics who paid us $600,000 to create floppy disc versions of three of our reference books and we banked the money.

It was a joy. We didn’t have to do anything. So that was my first introduction to digital publishing.

Alison Jones: There’s cash here.

Richard Charkin: There’s cash here, yes, exactly. And then I was put in charge of all the dictionaries at Oxford, including the OED, the Oxford English Dictionary. And it was very clear that the future of the OED was more likely to be in digital form. Indeed in print form, the original OED was going to run out of copyright.

Alison Jones: Oh, I didn’t know that. That’s really interesting.

Richard Charkin: So, because it was…

Alison Jones: …you needed to do another edition…

Richard Charkin: and at the time copyright ran at 50 years…

Alison Jones: …it’s 75 now, isn’t it? That’s so interesting.

Richard Charkin: Yes, so part of my…

Alison Jones: and there was the fact that it was all stored in an un-fireproof house, on slips of paper, that was another issue, wasn’t it?

Richard Charkin: Well, and on bits of hot metal plates, which I have one somewhere, which I could show you.

Alison Jones: Oh, wow.

Richard Charkin: Which were being boiled down. I found some in a skip around the back of the business. They had thrown them in a skip to melt them and sell the copper or lead or whatever it was. For various reasons it seemed appropriate that we did this thing.

There was a certain pushback from one of the professors of English who wanted us to start from scratch, rather than take the original and add the new stuff. Because some of the original stuff was not quite as good as it might have been. And the argument against that was, well, in which case we’ll never do it.

Alison Jones: Quite.

Richard Charkin: Rather like the French Trésor de la langue française, which has never been finished. And one of the things about publishing is good enough, is good enough. And …

Alison Jones: Done is better than perfect. That’s our mantra.

Richard Charkin: Yes, and we did a bloody good job actually of making it as good as it could be. So it involved, we had to, the scanning technology was not up to snuff at the time, so we had to re-typeset all, I think at the time it was like 20 odd volumes, with lots of funny type faces and fonts and…

Alison Jones: …special characters…

Richard Charkin: …special characters and all that sort of thing.

We did it twice. Did a purge, a merge and purge, that cost a lot of money. And then we had to write parsing software to take the new stuff and find the old and bring the two together. And then we had to have a team of lexicographers overseeing it and, and software writers. It was a whole new world to everyone.

Alison Jones: I mean, it’s phenomenal. It really is one of the landmark digitization projects in the world, isn’t it?

Richard Charkin: It was, but some things didn’t change like proofreading. Everything had to be proofread. Well, we discovered actually if you merge and purge, you only need one round of proofs, not two. Now, that doesn’t sound a lot. It was, if I remember rightly, the difference was 300,000 pounds.

So it was quite a lot. And then things like we had an advisory council, we didn’t quite know why.

Alison Jones: Lends some lustre, doesn’t it?

Richard Charkin: Lustre, and I remember so well, we asked, everyone we asked said yes, and that included Philip Larkin, Umberto Eco, the CEO, President of IBM Worldwide and I don’t know who, but it was a very, I don’t think we ever met, but it was just a typical publishing thing to give it the oomph and they were all thrilled to be involved and we sent them each a tie in the colors.

Alison Jones: There we are, we’re back with the merch.

Richard Charkin: Yes, absolutely. Except for there was one woman and we sent her a cravat or something like that in the colors. Anyway, and then we got it out on time. We started in 1982 and I think it was published in 1988 or 9, by which time I’d left OUP but I was invited back to the party of course.

And, can you see, I don’t know whether you can, behind me there is a set of the OED.

Alison Jones: There’s the OED. There’s not many people have the full set on their bookshelves. Impressive.

Richard Charkin: Reckon I was owed that, I wish I’d pulled out this thing, but anyway, yes.

Alison Jones: What’s fascinating as well is that you, you’re now, so your career is not over, in your subtitle, you say, you know, career to 2022 which is a nice 50 year finish point, but it’s a lie, isn’t it, Richard? Because here you are running Mensch, so you’ve been involved in some of the biggest projects, done by some of the biggest publishing houses in the world. You’ve led most of them.

And now here you are, a scrappy, startup founder. What’s that like?

Richard Charkin: Nightmare. It’s very challenging in the interstices of the business.

Alison Jones: Tell us more.

Richard Charkin: It’s, well, it’s not the big things like: do you publish something or do you not I actually find a relatively simple thing. It’s important, but it’s simple. But finding a high res photo of myself proves to be very, very difficult because I’m not very good at filing. And, you know, the production process, I mean, there is only me, I do the royalty statements myself, manually, because I’m the only one who knows where all the revenue is.

Alison Jones: I am laughing because this is sort of exactly how Practical Inspiration started.

Richard Charkin: So I have no staff, I have no one to turn to.

Alison Jones: I do remember meeting you, I think it was the Frankfurt Book Fair and you just set up and you were, you sort of said, Alison, I’ve got to sort my own ISBNs out.

Richard Charkin: Yes.

Alison Jones: Just laughing.

Richard Charkin: I have a very sophisticated, this is my ISBN list.

Alison Jones: Very good. It’s, for anybody not watching. It’s basically, it’s a printed sheet with lots of handwritten scrawling on it.

Richard Charkin: Exactly. And I notice that some of the scrawling is fading.

Alison Jones: Do your own digitization project.

Richard Charkin: Yes, absolutely.

Yes, but it’s enormous fun and the only thing I have to offer, so for starters, authors are at the center of it. The only thing I have to offer the author, because I don’t have a sophisticated marketing department or a social media thing, or a super production thing, or reps in far corners of the world.

All I have is the relationship with the author. And that’s very pleasurable, not least because I only publish authors who want to be published by me and whom I want to publish. So it’s a much closer relationship than you can have. I have no budgets, so I don’t have to publish anything. I don’t feel obliged to.

In fact, I’m rather overcommitted rather than under committed. I’ve got too many books. So, I don’t know what I do about that, but so, you know, I suppose the thing is the author can ring the owner of the company. They don’t get the sales director or the editor or anything, they get the owner and they don’t even get the managing director. They get the owner.

It’s a big deal and they can ring me anytime and they do, I do work every day. Christmas Day included. And I respond, I mean, a few little things, I pay royalties quarterly. I pay them the same day that I receive money from the distributors. I produce a royalty statement and send it.

I respond to all submissions actually from authors, existing authors or none existing authors within 24 hours. Actually normally within two hours.

Alison Jones: Did you sort of consciously set out to, when you set up your own company and you had the freedom to run it exactly as you pleased, were there sort of things that you thought, this is where publishing is falling down and this is what I will do differently? You know, when you have kids and you’re like, I’m not going to do this, I’m going to do this with my kids.

Was it like that?

Richard Charkin: Yes and part of the reason for setting it up, but actually in conversation with people at Bloomsbury was to see what lessons I would learn and share with them, which I do. I mean, when I say some of them very trivial, like for instance, most general book publishers still print prices on the books themselves.

Alison Jones: We’ve We had this conversation so many times.

Richard Charkin: It’s nonsense. It’s complete nonsense. Not least 60 to 70% of the books you print are bought in countries where sterling is not the currency. So they don’t know what it means anyway. It’s absurd. It adds to the cost because if you want to increase the price, you have to take it out of the warehouse and sticker. So it’s things like that.

Another thing is jackets for books. Why? Printing on printed paper case, it’s absolutely fine. Saves paper, saves hassle.

Alison Jones: This is the big sustainability issue with books as well, isn’t it? So we’re really rethinking the whole supply chain. The price on books thing, by the way, just to sort of come back on that a little bit, one of the reasons that people do keep prices on books is if we expect them be sold in bookshops, because a punter going into bookshop wants to know what the price of book is.

They won’t take it to the till to find out.

Richard Charkin: Well, Alison, I fundamentally disagree with you because…

Alison Jones: why?

Richard Charkin: No one’s ever bought a book because they thought it was good value. They bought a book because they wanted it.

Alison Jones: Yes, and I’ve put books back myself because there wasn’t a price on it and I couldn’t be bothered to go and find it out. And I didn’t want to go with a blank cheque to the checkout. So experientially…

Everyone thinks books are expensive.

They are so cheap.

Richard Charkin: They look at it, it says 25 quid. They put it back. They don’t buy it. If it doesn’t have a price, they don’t know, they assume what they get, they get to the till and it’s too late. It’s embarrassing to say it’s too expensive.

Alison Jones: So what we should do is price our books really high and not put the price on. Right. Okay. We’ll try.

Richard Charkin: Absolutely, absolutely. And you know, look, with my own book, I’m pretty sure if I took this to a marketing department at Bloomsbury or Penguin Random House, they would say well, it’s 150 page, 160 pages, or maximum paperback, £12.99. We’ve done it at 20 pounds and not one person has complained and it’s selling pretty well.

Alison Jones: Books are so underpriced, aren’t they? That is, sort of culturally, they’re undervalued.

Richard Charkin: Yes.

Alison Jones: It’s a different…

Richard Charkin: …yes, yes and indeed the £12.99, which is a load of nonsense. Why not £13 or £15 or £20? 99p, that was invented in the days of three farthings by Marks and Spencers. It was, the argument that it was psychologically low is complete nonsense. It was to stop the cashiers putting the money in their pocket.

Alison Jones: I did not know that.

Richard Charkin: Yes, they had to ring it up and give you the farthing back. So it was because the retailers didn’t trust their staff

Alison Jones: Wow.

Richard Charkin: And then they couldn’t say, they don’t trust their staff, so they say, oh, well it’s psychologically…

Alison Jones: I’m trying to haul us back on track here. Mirroring that change from big publishing company to startup publishing company. You’ve gone from the person who made the decisions in the publishing process, or you know, who oversaw the management of it, to being an author. Now, weirdly, I started my career as an author and then went into publishing.

But this is your first time round, right? How was it?

Richard Charkin: Well, it’s been terrifically rewarding. It was a lot more work than I’d anticipated, even though I…

Alison Jones: You have a new empathy for authors.

Richard Charkin: No, I definitely do. But I think the most, the most significant thing is concern, will people like it.

Alison Jones: Yes. The emotional, the vulnerability of it.

Richard Charkin: Absolutely. And I was really, really quite worried. And it’s been okay. But that, because you know, you as a publisher, you worry, you want the books to be liked, you want the books to sell all that, but it’s not nearly as visceral as it is for the author.

Alison Jones: Oh, I hear you.

Richard Charkin: Yes, that’s been my big discovery and thus enhances my, I hope, my empathy for authors.

Alison Jones: Yes. It’s a good discipline I think for a publisher to have been in that position.

Richard Charkin: Yes.

Alison Jones: And you worked with Tom Campbell, didn’t you? As a sort of co-writer, ghost, I don’t know.

Richard Charkin: Well, it’s, yes, it all came about very strangely because I was asked to write the book several, not asked, various people asked me at various times, why don’t I sort of record some of these stories? And I said, no, who needs another book from another bloody self-satisfied, smug publisher? And any way, my brain’s gone soggy. I can’t remember most of the stories and it’s very boring and I don’t have the time.

And then actually, my daughter suggested Tom, Tom Campbell’s, I’ve known him since he was very small, he’s the son of a very good friend of mine called Bob Campbell, who used to run Blackwell Science Publishing. And his kids and my kids grew up together. And my daughter, who knows Tom very well, suggested to Tom that he might be interested in doing it, he’s written a couple of novels. He writes well and he said yes.

So we went to the cafe in Newington Green, and I just told a few stories. He made a few notes. And then wrote them up and I played around with it. And we did this like once a week for about six months, two hours, sometimes in the Mildmay Working Men’s Club, sometimes in the cafe. And there was a manuscript. And before doing anything else, I asked Tom if he’d mind if I sent it out to be refereed.

Because I just wanted to make sure I wasn’t making a complete fool of myself. And I think we went to about eight or nine people who participated in one aspect or other of the book, and they all came back criticizing the bits they knew about, but saying how much they enjoyed the bits that they don’t know about.

Alison Jones: And you figured, well, the readers won’t know any of it, so it’s fine.

Richard Charkin: And then one of them said, tell you what, I think it’s so good. I’ll publish it.

Alison Jones: Yay. That was Francis.

Richard Charkin: Yes, we’d never thought about publishing. Well, we thought about it, but we had no really strong ideas. The one thing that I didn’t want to do was to give it to a publisher who would, well, first of all, they would say no. Most of the big publishers would say, we’re not interested, it’s not going to sell a million copies. Obviously.

But if they did say yes, they’d say yes, well, the first slot is April, 2025. And that will be for the UK and of course the US will follow in two months later, in Australia, three months later. This is just nonsense. So the idea of doing it with a small publisher, and we were aiming for Frankfurt this year, October, and I think we only handed it over in March.

Alison Jones: Wow.

Richard Charkin: And then I stupidly said, well, it’s not possible to do it for the London Book Fair, is it, in April? And Francis, the publisher, said, oh, I don’t see why not?

So we went for it.

Alison Jones: Amazing.

Richard Charkin: And it was very quick. And that’s how it came about. And I’m not ashamed of it, which is the most important.

Alison Jones: Wouldn’t that be great to put on the back? Yes. ‘Not ashamed of this book’, brilliant endorsement. I love that.

So Richard, I’m going to ask you for your best tip. I normally ask authors for their best tip as authors. I’m going to be slightly off piste here, and I’m going to ask you, as a publisher and as somebody who has a real instinct for what works in a market, what would you tell authors who are putting together their first business book particularly?

Richard Charkin: I think, I was thinking about this question because it was in my mind when I set out, who was I writing this book for? And it is a business book. It’s a book about a business. And I realized there were like half a dozen potential purchasers, readers, students on MA courses in publishing, new recruits to the publishing industry, leaders of the industry, historians of the book, I mean various.

But I decided that you can’t write for more than one audience. There may be more than one audience, but you have to decide which one you are going for. And I decided, because it started with people on these courses. I sometimes do a talk to students in publishing courses and several of the lecturers, proper lecturers, not me, would say, why don’t you write it down?

I thought, well, that’s it. I’m writing this for students at publishing courses, and so the advice is, don’t think of everyone who might buy it. Think of one, it’s a little like, you know, if you give a talk, one of the tricks is to look at one person. Imagine you are just having a conversation with them like we are doing now.

And I would say the same. And if they do that, to hit one audience absolutely fair and square, the rest will follow, one hopes.

Alison Jones: Yes, yes, such good advice. And I always rein authors back when they’re like, oh, and it’s the general reader. No, no, no, no, no. Who is it really for? And I always thing of it like a sort of bullseye on a target. Of course there’s lots more that you will hit, but who are you really aiming it for?

And as you say, the side effect of that is you feel like you really know that person and you care about them, presumably because that’s why you’re writing. So it makes the tone warmer and more personal and more engaging.

So yes, terrific advice.

 And if I were to ask you, which I am of course, so this is not hypothetical at all, what’s one book that you think that anybody listening should read that you would like the opportunity to share with the world apart from your own My Back Pages, what would you want everybody to read?

Richard Charkin: Well, nobody needs to read the book I’m going to recommend, nobody needs to.

Alison Jones: It’s not the Dromedary one, is it?

Richard Charkin: No, nobody needs to read this book, but I think everyone who does read it, will be pleased to have read it. It’s a book that came to me from an author called William Boyd, who’s a novelist who sent…

Alison Jones: Brazzaville Beach

Richard Charkin: …who sent me an email.

I’ve known him forever since my Oxford days. Sent me an email saying, terribly sorry to do this to you, Richard, but my best friend has written a memoir during lockdown, and would you mind reading it because I, William, think it’s the funniest book I’ve ever read.

Alison Jones: Wow.

Richard Charkin: So I read it, that afternoon and I rang Will back and said, well, look, I think if you send that round most of British publishers, they will say no because it’s written by a 72-year-old, privileged old Etonian and it’s a book about his business and his life. But he’s so privileged and so rich and so not right for the contemporary market that they will say no. And I’ll probably say no, but I’d like to meet him. And we met that evening and I signed it up and he’s set up an upmarket jewelry design business, designs very expensive jewelry for the rich and famous.

And his book is all about every disaster he’s managed to create by himself. And it’s a business book, because it’s not about what to do, but it’s really about what not to do. The author is called Theo Fennell. The title is, I Fear For This Boy. He was forced to leave Eton slightly earlier than anticipated and his final report, this is from his house master, ‘I fear for this boy’, was all they could think to say about him and indeed it’s proved to be and the back shows him with Vinnie Jones being disreputable. It’s a wonderfully funny book about business, about business and how easy it is to go wrong.

And as Will said, he thinks it’s as good as Three Men in a Boat and will be around with us for 50 years. And indeed, certainly the reviews and the sales have supported such a notion. So that’s what I would recommend.

Alison Jones: I love it. I am so going to read that. It’s always nice, misery loves company, doesn’t it, in entrepreneurship?

Richard Charkin: Yes, exactly.

Alison Jones: And Richard, if people want to find out more about you, more about My Back Pages, where should they go?

Richard Charkin: Well, I don’t know what to say. You can go to more or less any bookshop or you can order it and I would. But apparently I should just say this, that everyone who’s written, who I know, who’ve actually read the whole book, they’ve said, you can read, I read it, it only took me two hours or three hours or something.

In other words, it’s not a big stretch. It’s not like, like trying to read the OED for instance.

Alison Jones: But at least OED explains each word as it goes along, Richard

Richard Charkin: It’s true. It’s true. No index in this one.

Alison Jones: I love the reason for that. Give me the reason why there’s no index.

Richard Charkin: Oh, because people are most interested in whether they’re in it and what I have to say about them. And if they find the index and they’re not in it, they won’t buy the book. If they find the index and they are in it, they’ll look at the one sentence, say, ahh, and not buy the book.

So, we don’t have an index also…

Alison Jones: So you have to buy the book.

Richard Charkin: You have to buy the book.

But also, I think, this is another thing about what you learn, in the 21st century most books, I mean, one thing we did, we had a very detailed contents at the beginning, so people can just glance through to see the bit they’re interested in.

And if you are really interested in a bit, you can buy the e-book and you can do a…

Alison Jones: …you can search.

Richard Charkin: And there you go. Most people hardly ever actually use the index, whatever they may think.

Alison Jones: It’s still a big thing for librarians for some reason, but yes, you’re dead right. And actually, even if you’ve got print book, you can always search it up on Google Books and then there you are, there’s the hit and you can find the page.

Richard Charkin: Yes, exactly, if you’re that interested.

 And of course doing an index slows the production process that little bit because you can’t do it till you’ve got the final page number.

Alison Jones: Yes, and when you’ve got a six-week turnaround, that matters, right?

Richard Charkin: Absolutely. So where to buy it? You can buy it from the publisher direct, Marble Hill Publishing, but you know, it’s available in ebook and print. I wish it was available in audiobook, but no one seems to want it. So if anyone here knows someone who would like to do the audiobook of it, I’m sure my publisher would do a deal.

And incidentally, we’ve had three requests for different language translations.

Alison Jones: Really? Isn’t that brilliant.

Richard Charkin: Which is remarkable. It probably won’t come to anything, but the fact they asked for it is something.

Alison Jones: I mean, if you are interested in, as you say, the history of the book at all, it is such a, you have really spanned such an extraordinary range of transformation within the industry and been at the epicenter of all of it.

So, yes, no, I found it absolutely fascinating. I’m gutted to see my name wasn’t in there, no, actually quite relieved, but a lot of people that I have worked with over the years were in there. So it was quite nice to sort of, get a sort of a different view on the industry from one that I had myself.

So, yes, I loved it.

Richard Charkin: Good. Well, I hope you enjoyed it. How long did it take you to read it?

Alison Jones: Oh, I don’t know, I didn’t time myself, but I was reading it on the train on the way down to London Book Fair actually.

Richard Charkin: One hour.

Alison Jones: Yes, it was probably about three hours, probably about three hours.

Richard Charkin: If you think of the value of a book is not just what you pay for it but what it costs you to read it. And if, I don’t know, minimum wage is 16 pounds an hour. So, it only costs you 48 pounds plus the cost of the book. That’s not bad and many books cost you a lot more than that to read.

Alison Jones: It’s true. I’ve often thought, you know, the value of the book is make it less rather than more because my time is my most valuable asset.

Richard Charkin: Exactly.

Alison Jones: Yes, brilliant.

Right, genuinely could talk to you all day, Richard, but I’m going to wrap it up there. Thank you so much for your time and it’s great to talk to you.

Richard Charkin: My pleasure. My pleasure, Alison. Thank you.

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