Speaking With Alexander M. Dake on Cosimo Books, Supporting Independent Publishing, and The Current Digital Landscape.

Cosimo Books carries a vast array of authors and covers many subject area’s. Can you tell us more about your process in choosing authors and books?
Well, we look at the quality of content and the authors’ potential for promoting their books effectively. Content-wise, we look for subjects containing valuable and innovative ideas for society, such as personal development (at the individual level of society),  socially responsible business (at the micro level) and economics and public affairs (at the macro level.) Being dedicated to niche subjects we have also published works covering for example UFOs and cryptozoology (i.e. the science of animals whose existence has not been proven, such as Bigfoot and sea snakes, but mind you the okapi and the komodo dragon were once also believed not to exist.)Most of our authors are well-regarded in their fields, may have been published previously by traditional publishers, but generally are experts, speakers, and journalists with an active network and ability to present their work to various audiences.

Many of our customers are big fans of independent media. What advice would you give them to help support the industry to keep independent publishers such as yourself thriving and growing?
One of the core strengths of independent media is that they present authors, musicians or filmmakers and their ideas even if they are not popular or accepted by the mainstream. That is a crucial requirement for a diverse society. My advice to your customers would be to visit sites such as reKiosk, but also independent bookstores, and support these venues, the publishers and the creators by buying their creations and let your fellow readers know if you like something. Word of mouth is still important.

What are some of the biggest road blocks independent publishers are facing today? What can be done to avoid them or even better remove them all together?
That could be very different from one to the other publisher, as there are so many differences in size and range of subjects. From my perspective, I’d mention the ever changing technology for eBooks, and also the changing retail environment (a few years ago, everyone thought that Barnes & Noble was the big threat to books and publishing, but now they are under siege and Borders is gone.) I think a diverse environment to find and buy books would  be a great step forward, rather than being dependent on one or two big booksellers. Again, I think initiatives such as reKiosk can play an important role in this regard.

CosimoAs an independent publisher are you concerned with piracy? Has this had a major effect on your business?
With English-language books there is always a risk of piracy in places without a strong tradition of respect for copyright and where they are able to read English. But obviously this risk is much larger for bestselling books such as Harry Potter or the autobiography of Hillary Clinton. As our books are niche-oriented, I don’t expect this to be a major issue for us.

How has the digital world shaped the publishing landscape today? Do you think your grandchildren will only see printed books in a museum? 
Cosimo could not have achieved the variety in our catalog without digital technology, first via on-demand availability and online distribution and now also through eBooks. Clearly, online bookstores have become a large part of the booksellers’ market in the U.S.: last year was the first time ever that more books in the U.S. were purchased online than in brick & mortar stores, although the demise of Borders played a large role here.  Also, eBook sales in the U.S.  have reached now almost 30% of the consumer book market. So, yes the digital world is shaping the reading and publishing landscape. But I don’t believe that printed books will disappear: people have different preferences at different moments in time. Sometimes they prefer eBooks and at other times printed books. Case in point is that a different format such as audio books are booming with over $1 billion in revenues.

As a publisher what advice would you give young aspiring writers? 
Even though there is a big difference between fiction and non-fiction writers, my first advice is just to start writing, and gain experience and feedback. You can do that online and also through various eBook and self-publishing tools. In the longer run, I believe that there is an added value to getting published by a publisher with a discerning eye for quality and all the other benefits of having the publisher take care of the publishing logistics.

Cosimo Books was named after Cosimo de’ Medici. Can you tell us more about the significance of this and what lesson’s we can learn from this historical figure in our day and age?
Cosimo de’ Medici was the inspiration for Cosimo in two ways: one,  de’ Medici’s support for the arts shows that a society, such as Florence during the Renaissance, needs arts and the beauty of its paintings, sculptures and buildings to be a thriving and civilized society. Secondly, de’ Medici was also famous for his dedication to learning and for the establishment of what would be the first public library in Europe filled with Latin translations of classic Greek works (translations which had been commissioned by Cosimo de’ Medici.) At Cosimo, we would like our catalog to reflect this appreciation of valuable ideas for a thriving society.

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