Schiffrin is the son of Jacques Schiffrin, a Russian Jew who emigrated to France and briefly enjoyed success there as publisher of the Bibliothèque de la Pléiade, which he founded, and which was bought by Gallimard, until he was dismissed on account of the anti-Jewish laws enforced by the Vichy regime. Jacques Schiffrin and his family had to flee and eventually found refuge in the United States. As the younger Schiffrin recalls in his autobiography, A Political Education: Coming of Age in Paris and New York (2007), he thus experienced life in two countries as a child of a European Jewish intellectual family.
As an anti-Communist socialist Schiffrin opposed both the Soviet invasion of Hungary and the U.S. war in Vietnam. He was one of the founders of the organization that became Students for a Democratic Society. In 1968, he signed the “Writers and Editors War Tax Protest” pledge, vowing to refuse tax payments in protest against the Vietnam War.
For nearly 30 years Schiffrin was director of publishing at Pantheon Books, where he was partially responsible for introducing the works of Pasternak, Foucault and others to America. Schiffrin quit Pantheon in 1990 and established the nonprofit The New Press, explaining that he did so because of economic trends that prevented him from publishing the serious books he thought should be published. Schiffrin discusses what he regards as the crisis in western publishing in his book The Business of Books: How the International Conglomerates Took Over Publishing and Changed the Way We Read (2000).
- L'édition sans éditeurs (1999) ISBN 2-913372-02-3
- The Business of Books: How the International Conglomerates Took Over Publishing and Changed the Way We Read (2000) ISBN 1-85984-362-X (Hardback ISBN 1-85984-763-3)
- Le contrôle de la parole (2005) ISBN 2-913372-35-X
- A Political Education: Coming of Age in Paris and New York (Melville House Publishing, 2007) ISBN 1-933633-15-8
- L'argent et les mots (2010) ISBN 2-35872-006-9
- Words and Money (Verso Books, 2010) ISBN 978-1-84467-680-4
Although there exist no English versions of L'édition sans éditeurs or Le contrôle de la parole, there is some overlap of content between The Business of Books and the former.
 See also
- “Writers and Editors War Tax Protest” January 30, 1968 New York Post
- The New Press
- Melville House
- Appearances on C-SPAN
- March 28, 2007 interview with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now discussing "A Political Education"
- Interview with David Barsamian September 2003
- "André Schiffrin in conversation with Williams Cole and Theodore Hamm" The Brooklyn Rail (March 2007)
- RealAudio interview WILL-AM Media Matters, March 18, 2007
- André Schiffrin discusses French and American politics on French radio, aired 19 April 2007 (RealAudio)
- Appearance on French radio to promote A Political Education, aired 1 May 2007 (RealAudio)
- French radio interview with Arnaud Laporte, aired 8 May 2007 (RealAudio)
- French radio interview with Frédéric Bonnaud, aired 8 May 2007 (RealAudio)
- Second appearance on French radio to promote A Political Education, aired 13 May 2007 (RealAudio)