Thompson: Merchants of Culture

A frank, insightful and accessible in-depth investigation into the realities of how publishers work and why the industry operates as it does.

From the book:

“The staff of every publishing house are constantly looking over their shoulders to see what their competitors are doing. The constantly scrutinize the bestseller lists and study their competitors’ more successful books to see whether they can pick up clues about how they might develop their own publishing programmes. This kind of inter-organizational rivalry tends to produce a degree of homogeneity or ‘me-too’ publishing among the firms who publish in the same areas – one successful chick-lit book will spawn a dozen look-alikes…”

Merchants of Culture: The Publishing Business in the Twenty-first Century
Second Edition, Polity Press
Hardback, paperback, ebook, 2012/2013
John B. Thompson is Professor of Sociology, University of Cambridge.


1 The Growth of the Retail Chains
2 The Rise of Literary Agents
3 The Emergence of Publishing Corporations
4 The Polarization of the Field
5 Big Books
6 Extreme Publishing
7 Shrinking Windows
8 The Wild West
9 The Digital Revolution
10 Trouble in the Trade
Conclusion: Facing an Uncertain Future
Appendix 1 Selected imprints of the main publishing corporations
Appendix 2 Note on research methods

Watch John Thompson introducing his book:

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