Industry Notes: Jon Fine Leaving Open Road; Baker & Taylor’s Devasar Leads Publishers

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After a year with Open Road, former Amazon executive Jon Fine is heading to American Media. And in India, Baker & Taylor’s Nitasha Devasar helms the publishers association’s executive committee.

Image – iStockphoto: IJEab

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Philip Rappaport Made Open Road Publisher

In an internal staff memo obtained by Publishing Perspectives late today (November 6), Open Road Integrated Media CEO Paul Slavin has announced that Jon Fine will be leaving the company as senior vice president and publisher, effective November 15. Slavin says he’ll be taking up a post as deputy counsel to American Media.

Fine, a First Amendment attorney by background—and best known in the industry for his nine-year stint in author and publisher relations with Amazon during the formative years of the Kindle system—began his work at Open Road just over a year ago, in late October 2017.

In his memo, Slavin tells the staff that Philip Rappaport, vice president and editorial director, will step into the role Fine is vacating.

Jon Fine

Rappaport, Slavin writes, has been a member of the Open Road team for six years. “He knows our company and the industry backward and forward,” Slavin writes in his staff memo. “He has the requisite relationships with publishers, the respect of and for our authors, but most important he has a deep and abiding love of books.  Our catalog will be enhanced, enlarged and cared for by his efforts.”

Nicole Passage, who is vice president and executive managing editor, will report to Rappaport, Slavin says.

Paul Slavin

In describing Fine’s departure, Slavin tells the staff that on the American Media legal team, “He will put his formidable skills and well known intensity toward defending the First Amendment. I will miss his intelligence, energy, and skills, but can honestly say that our loss is journalism’s gain.”

Fine has a background in publishing as legal affairs director with Knopf as well as Saturday Night Liveand Dateline at NBC television. In the interim between his work with Amazon and the Open Road appointment, he consulted with OptiQly, the assets of which were bought by Ingram last November. Fine has also been a key member of the steering committee of the new Independent Publishers Caucus.

Laura Ferguson

In a separate communication today, Slavin has announced that Laura Ferguson is becoming the company’s senior vice president of business development, tasked with oversight of the company’s Ignition business–the targeted email-newsletter marketing program developed by Slavin on the basis of the depth of Open Road’s deep vault of highly significant digital book rights.

Ferguson formerly managed new business development at Time Inc. (now Meredith) and has an extensive background, Slavin says in his release, “in publishing and deal-making. “She has also worked at Simon & Schuster and Abrams Books.

In his media messaging on the Ferguson appointment, Slavin says, “Laura brings her drive and ambition to our rapidly growing company. She understands where we have been but more important where we want to go. Laura will boost our growth significantly and is excited to be working on the cutting edge of publishing, marketing and ecommerce.”

Open Road Ignition, the company reports, has generated an average 2.71 times (171 percent) increase in year-over-year revenue for thousands of partner titles currently enrolled. The marketing services program uses curated title listings in its newsletters (Early Bird Books, The Lineup, The Portalist, Murder & Mayhem, The Archive, and A Love So True). This direct-to-consumer approach carries reader outreach to client/partners and has proved fundamentally important to Open Road’s evolving model.


Devasar Heads Indian Publishers’ Executive Committee

In New Delhi, Taylor & Francis manager Nitasha Devasar has been named president of the executive committee of the Association of Publishers in India.

Nitasha Devasar

Devasar, as Publishing Perspectives readers will remember, is the editor of Publishers on Publishing: Inside India’s Book Business (All About Book Publishing, April).

In a prepared statement on the announcement of her new role, Devasar is quoted, saying, “Building on the momentum created so far, we hope to build a broader consensus around our shared purpose as an industry.

“The value proposition of Indian publishing, which is among the largest in the world, for quality education, employability and a growing nation, needs to be highlighted.”

The executive committee she leads includes representatives of some of the major multinational houses operating in the Indian market—Scholastic, Pearson, DK, and Cambridge University Press, among them. The goal of the committee’s efforts is described as being focused around “continuing to put Indian publishing on the international map.”

In her late-September interview with us, Devasar pointed to translations as being particularly well-positioned in the Indian market, saying, “The separation between local, regional-language publishers and the pan-Indian and multinational English-language publishers is blurring rapidly.

“There are many more tie-ups and collaborations between English and Indian-language (IL) publishers. Several multinational publishers have started IL publishing in select languages, like Hindi and Bangla. This is true for both academic publishers and trade publishers.

“The reason is easy to understand: India has the third-largest Internet user base in the world and according to the 2017 KPMG-Google study, the Indian language Internet user base exceeded the English user base in 2016 and will continue to grow at a CAGR of 18 percent, reaching 536 million by 2021. That’s compared to a 3-percent growth of the English user base, expected to reach 199 million.”

In her role at the head of the publishers association’s executive committee, Devasar will focus, we’re told, on communicating India’s industry opportunities and concerns to interested parties in other parts of the world.

In a prepared statement, Devasar is quoted, saying, “Building on the momentum created so far, we hope to build a broader consensus around our shared purpose as an industry.

“The value proposition of Indian publishing, which is among the largest in the world, for quality education, employability and a growing nation, needs to be highlighted.”


More from Publishing Perspectives on Open Road Integrated Media is here, and more on Jon Fine is here. More on the market in India is here, and more of our Industry Notes series is here

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He is also co-owner and editor with Jane Friedman of The Hot Sheet, the newsletter for trade and indie authors. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook, at London's The Bookseller. Anderson has also worked with CNN International, CNN.com, CNN USA, the Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and other media.

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