Jason Epstein

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Epstein announcing the 2010 National Book Critics Circle's Ivan Sandrof award for lifetime achievement; Epstein won the award in 2001.

Jason Wolkow Epstein (born August 25, 1928) is an American editor and publisher.

Born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Epstein attended public schools in Milton, Massachusetts. He graduated from Columbia College of Columbia University in 1949 and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. He received a Master of Arts degree from Columbia the following year and joined Doubleday and Company as an editorial trainee.

At Doubleday, he saw the need for inexpensive, well made paperbacks of the kinds of books that his classmates, many of them veterans studying on the GI Bill, were reading but couldn't afford to own in their hardcover editions. With the support of Ken McCormick, Doubleday's chief editor, he launched Anchor Books, the first so-called Quality Paperbacks, which quickly became the dominant paperback format. In 1954 Anchor Books won the Carey-Thomas Award.[1]

In 1958 he left Doubleday to join Random House where he served as editorial director until his retirement in 1999. At Random House he edited such writers as Jane Jacobs, Norman Mailer, Philip Roth, Gore Vidal, Vladimir Nabokov, E. L. Doctorow, Michael Korda and Peter Matthiessen. During the New York newspaper strike of 1963 Epstein, his wife Barbara and their friends Robert Lowell and Elizabeth Hardwick created The New York Review of Books and turned to their friend Robert Silvers to be its editor along with Epstein's wife Barbara.

In 1979 with the critic Edmund Wilson he conceived the Library of America, well-made, reliable editions of important American writers. With the support of the Ford Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities, the first volumes were published in 1982.[2] He later published The Reader's Catalogue of 40,000 titles available by mail order, an analog precursor of online book selling.[3] In 2004, he co-founded On Demand Books, marketer of the Espresso Book Machine, which reproduces a paperback book from a digital file in a few minutes. Epstein has predicted that the Espresso Book Machine will supplant the 500-year-old Gutenberg technology.[4][5]


Epstein has received The National Book Award for Distinguished Service to American Letters, The Curtis Benjamin Award of the Association of American publishers for creative publishing, the lifetime achievement award of the National Book Critic’s Circle,[6] and the Philolexian Award for Distinguished Literary Achievement.


His essays and reviews have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The New York Review of Books, and Condé Nast Traveler, among other publications. He is the author of the following books:

Book Business: Publishing Past, Present and Future. W. W. Norton & Company (January 2001) ISBN 978-0393049848 [1]

Eating: A Memoir. A. A. Knopf (October 19, 2010) ISBN 978-1400078257 [2]

East Hampton: A History and Guide. (with Elizabeth Barlow) Random House (May 12, 1985) ISBN 978-0394727363 [3]

The Great Conspiracy Trial. Random House (1970) ISBN 978-0394419060 [4]

Personal life[edit]

In 1953 Jason Epstein married Barbara Zimmerman with whom he had two children, Jacob and Helen. The couple divorced in 1990 and in 1993 he married Judith Miller, a reporter for The New York Times.


  1. ^ Satterfield, Jay. "The World's Best Books". 
  2. ^ "History and Mission". The Library of America. 
  3. ^ Lehmann-Haupt, Christopher (October 2, 1989). "Books of the Times; A Catalogue as Reference and Revolution". The New York Times. 
  4. ^ Epstein, Jason (January 2001). Book Business. W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 978-0393049848. 
  5. ^ Smith, Dinitia (January 31, 2001). "A Vision for Books That Exults in Happenstance". The New York Times. 
  6. ^ "National Book Critics Circle Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award". 

External links[edit]