Saturday, May 29, 2010

NYC’s Flatiron Building is just one more piece of Macmillan’s outdated business model

A couple of days before The New York Times published Garrison Keillor’s hilarious op-ed piece “The End of an Era in Publishing” lamenting the decline of New York City’s literary elite, it published a nostalgic article about the city’s historic Flatiron Building titled “A Quirky Building That Has Charmed Its Tenants.” Perhaps not surprisingly, nearly all of the building’s office space is occupied by Macmillan, one of several old line publishing houses that are having great difficulty adjusting to technology, business and life in the 21st century. Here are my favorite lines from the article:

“Everyone will be dragged kicking and screaming from here,” said Airie Stuart, publisher of Palgrave, an imprint of Macmillan Publishers.

“I came in to find the window on the floor and a 1,200-page manuscript all over the place,” said Mr. Janssen, director for academic and library marketing at Macmillan.

“I have an incredible view,” said Charles Bozian, Macmillan’s vice president for finance and administration. “But not unless I stand up.”

“And the bathrooms are not very nice, either,” said Alison Lazarus, the president of Macmillan’s sales division. When important guests visit, she has them use the spacious bathroom on the 18th floor, by far the building’s best, offering a view all the way to New Jersey.

• The elevators were so slow that one executive claims you could read an entire manuscript while waiting for one and then riding it up. Mr. Murphy lived in a high-rise right across the street from the Flatiron for 15 years. “My commute,” he said, “was a half hour.”

“I think they were surprised by the response of people wanting to stay in this building, even with its foibles,” Mr. Shear said. “You see these strange little offices. There’s nothing cookie-cutter here. I mean, did you see the 21st floor?” he asked, laughing. “It’s like a place you’d put your mad aunt.”

Although Macmillan’s lease runs through the year 2018, the beautiful landmark Flatiron Building is just one more piece of Macmillan’s outdated business model.

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