Richard Nash: Founder, Cursor

Utne Reader visionary

| November-December 2009

  • Richard Nash

    image of Richard Nash

  • Richard Nash

“In the full glare of publicity.” That’s how Richard Nash describes preparing to launch his publishing start-up Cursor. Rapt attention is unavoidable when one of the independent book world’s most storied publishers announces he’s going to blow up the traditional way of doing business (author-to-agent-to-publisher-to-printer-to-warehouse-to-wholesaler-to-retailer-to-reader). Especially when it looks like the plan might just resuscitate an industry on the brink of extinction.

Cursor, scheduled to launch in early 2010, is Nash’s vision for making social networking and crowd sourcing integral to book publishing. Online platforms will support social publishing communities for readers and writers; Red Lemonade, for example, will harbor the pop-lit-alt-cult inclined, while charmQuark will cater to science-fiction lovers. Among other things, members of these communities can give feedback on each other’s work, participate in writing groups, and access editing tools. Each group will also have its own imprint and the potential to earn money from digital downloads, print editions, and artisanal runs.

Traditional publishers have gotten too much in the mode of thinking of themselves as cultural gatekeepers, Nash explains, when it’s the people who read, write, and submit manuscripts that define an imprint.

“Every time in human history there’s been some technological change that has resulted in an increased number of people accessing information and culture, the gatekeepers have freaked out,” Nash says. “We really are at a moment where the quality of culture that’s going to be created over the next 20 years is going to blow our minds.”


Nash goes deep for Publisher’s Weekly , describing the genesis of his Cursor concept, lessons culled from his Soft Skull years, and the unique cultural moment—the opportunity—in which he’s building “a more robust, dynamic, creative, democratic version of the reader-writer relationship than what I once called publishing.” You can also grab a glimpse of Nash in action at the 2009 Book Expo America. You’ll spot him at the 18 second, 1:25, and 1:57 marks in this best-of-presentation video recap.

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