Publishing Trendsetter is a production of Market Partners International and Publishing Trends.

MERCHANTS OF CULTURE: What to Read if You’re Even Vaguely Interested in Book Business

We’ve started monthly book reviews over at, and while all have something to offer to book professionals no matter where they are in their careers, it would verge on criminal not to give this month’s book a special shout-out here.

Merchants of Culture: The Publishing Business in the 21st Century is out in its first US edition from Plume Books (a Penguin nonfiction imprint) this spring. Its author, John B. Thompson, is a sociologist at the University of Cambridge, and has made book business on both sides of the pond his object of study for more than ten years.

The sociological terms like “Bourdieu” and “Cultural Field” may give you (like me) chills and thrills, or they may cause you to break out in hives. But whatever the case, Thompson’s outsider-yet-insider view of trade publishing in this book is so measured, so thorough, so sane, and so crystal-clear (no academese in sight) that to willfully pass this up as an aspiring book professional would be, from our editorial staff’s point of view, just foolish. We gave a copy of Merchants of Culture  to Sarah, our outgoing intern, as a going-away present and might just make it habit for future interns. Thirty years of knowledge has never been quite so portable or accessible. A must-read, Trendsetters. 


  1. Carmen says:

    What’s crazy about this is … there is no Kindle edition.

    • Ah, but there is! Funny, though, how hard it is to find on Amazon–I had to put “Plume” in, because the edition that most readily popped up was the original UK version (which is also a good bit more expensive than the new US edition).

  2. Carmen says:

    Hah, I just came back to say I ran across the Kindle edition — Amazon had a section of “here, look at these while you’re at it” books below something I was looking at and MERCHANTS OF CULTURE was pictured twice, both right next to each other. So I clicked the one it identified as “paperback” and there was the Kindle edition, too. The world makes sense again!

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