Friedman Pops the Hood on Open Road

By Neal Comment


Yesterday afternoon, former HarperCollins CEO Jane Friedman came to the Center for Publishing, a division of NYU’s School for Continuing and Professional Studies, to talk about her new company, Open Road Integrated Media, which aims to publish electronic editions of backlisted titles by big-name authors like William Styron, Pat Conroy, and Iris Murdoch along with, in separate branding tracks, original fiction and non-fiction by other writers, quite possibly including some with no prior publishing history. Friedman also introduced the audience to Open Road president Jeffrey Sharp, who previously ran a film development division at HarperCollins and will be engaged in similar efforts in his new position—but high-profile action items like a movie version of Styron’s Lie Down in Darkness appear to be of less day-to-day importance than the development of a steady stream of marketing videos to promote the Open Road titles. Friedman was adamant, however, that such videos would not be integrated into the books themselves to create “vook” hybrids. “We do not want to disrupt the purity of the read,” she declared. “We want the marketing to drive the reader to the book.”

The audience at the lunchtime talk was a mix of NYU students and publishing execs—we spotted Russell Perreault, Robert Miller, Matthew Baldacci, and Peter Workman, among others—and came loaded with questions; while Friedman did deflect a few topics (DRM, piracy, and the Google Books Settlement), she spoke at length about her company’s willingness to collaborate with the “legacy publishers” who held print rights to Open Road backlist titles and possibly even to license rights to paper editions of Open Road originals. She also offered her thoughts on e-book pricing, which she’s initially aiming to keep at levels comparable to trade paperbacks: “The value of an e-book is the same value for the person reading it as any other format of the book,” she offered, rejecting the notion that digital editions had to be “cheap.”

(photo courtesy of NYU; full disclosure: senior editor Ron Hogan is an adjunct faculty member at the Center for Publishing)