Imprint's end may harm L.A. book scene

The end of Judith Regan‘s imprint at HarperCollins on March 1 and the closing of its Century City offices is the latest chapter in a weeks-long drama that has compromised Rupert Murdoch and seen O.J. Simpson pilloried anew.

But is the city of Los Angeles itself, a quietly robust book market yet a notoriously infertile publishing industry town, also a victim?

Few in the Gotham-centric book biz seem to think so. Regan’s decision to relocate her outfit from Gotham to L.A., announced with fanfare and a front-page New York Times treatment in 2005, was touted by some as a paradigm shift. By geographically aligning herself with Hollywood, the publisher of “How to Make Love Like a Porn Star” aimed to better bridge the worlds of print and screen.

The experiment was over practically before it began. It took Regan many months to make the actual move. And her pronouncements about how much cheaper the L.A. cost of living would be — especially for the underlings in her office — elicited only chuckles.

“There wasn’t any sense of a shift,” shrugs a publicist at a Gotham-based firm. Adds an editor at a major house: “Had she not heard of the Internet?”

Some in L.A. genuinely lament the loss. In a curious op-ed piece published Dec. 24 in the Los Angeles Times, the paper’s books editor, David L. Ulin, argued that Reganomics helped the city.

“It was never about the quality of what she was producing … but about the fact that she would produce it here,” he wrote. L.A. “stood to benefit from Regan’s presence, no matter how superficial or profane.”

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