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An Education: Looking at the New CUNY Publishing Institute

CPI-logo-setups-6-3While there are a several programs already in existence to aid both publishing hopefuls and industry vets in expanding their horizons, the City University of New York (CUNY) hopes to throw its own hat in the ring with the CUNY Publishing Institute, a week-long program planning its pilot session in June. Helmed by Institute Director and Co-founder of OR Books, John Oakes, this program will aim to educate by combining a varied roster of industry professionals from startups to goliaths like Amazon and Random House to present an important “cross-section of views.”

For Oakes, the reason for starting this new program came from the fact that, “looking at other programs, the value expected didn’t add up with value provided.” In particular, he saw the need to fill a gap in resources with a publishing course that took new businesses into account. The question, Oakes points out, is that the “industry has to change—but how?” Using CUNY as the place to develop the Publishing Institute also seemed like a natural fit, as Jeff Jarvis’s apprenticeship program for CUNY’s Graduate School of Journalism had a similar aim to combine new developments with older methods.

Oakes’ approach in building a publishing paradigm is to focus on the rapid rate of evolution and to learn from it collaboratively. CUNY’s program will offer an intense overview of the book business today, while also being open to the audience and allowing everyone to speak to/learn from their colleagues. In the pantheon of existing programs, from NYU and Columbia’s intensives for novices to Yale’s program for already-established professionals working in the industry, the CUNY institute wants to reach a broader audience that ranges from curious newcomers to self-starting employees.

The focus on innovative spirit seems to be the strongest draw for interested students. As program participant Dawn Barber of NY Tech Meetup says, CUNY’s new program will aim to “make entrepreneurs out of 21st century publishing” by looking at old and new business models and then discussing how to implement students’ own ideas. An uncertain future is all the more reason to seek out participants with mixed perspectives. “I’m really impressed by the lineup that John’s recruited to speak at this,” says Ron Hogan, a book reviewer and writer who will be presenting on social media during the program. “From eminences like Jane Friedman and Larry Kirshbaum who have refused to rest on their pre-digital laurels to a new wave like Richard Nash and Rachel Fershleiser who are finding fun ways to use the new tools that have become available to us.”

So how will CUNY Publishing Institute’s inaugural session enlighten curious minds? While there are no concrete answers, there is certainly an entrepreneurial spirit in the program’s attempts to do something new itself.

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