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OR Books is the inaugural interview for O’Reilly’s TOC Evolvers Series

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

ToC:What does OR Books do? When were you established? How many employees do you have?

John Oakes: OR Books is driven by two concepts. Well, three. One: the current system of distribution and production, returns and discounts, in publishing doesn’t work for stores, authors, or publishers. Two: we will publish politically progressive and culturally adventurous work. Three: the classic rules of publishing still hold true: you need good editing, design, and marketing.

To address the first concept, we decided to scratch the Byzantine rules that surround the distribution and production of books: we sell straight to consumers, do intensive marketing, and then license the book to “traditional publishers.” We generally do not sell to wholesalers or booksellers, be they independent, Amazon, or Barnes & Noble. We are “platform agnostic,” offering consumers their books as ebooks or in physical, printed form. They choose.

We started operations in the fall of 2009, and had a riproaring debut with GOING ROUGE: Sarah Palin, an American Nightmare. Since then, we’ve signed up a number of really exciting authors, including Norman Finkelstein, Doug Rushkoff, Chris Lehmann, Eileen Myles, Bill McKibben, Laura Flanders, Sue Coe and others.

We’re a total of four people, plus one intern.


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